The Nets have brought two-time head coach Steve Clifford on as a consultant. But Clifford isn’t going to be an assistant, and he told The Post he’d be less of an adviser and more of an asset, used however the coaches or front office see fit.
The role is still being clarified, but in essence, it’ll be whatever Steve Nash or GM Sean Marks needs.
“Steve and I have had a few discussions about the best way for it to be structured. But basically I’ll be working for Steve and maybe in some instances for Sean on any area that they view I could be helpful with,” Clifford said. “On any staff, staff chemistry is just like team chemistry. Steve’s the head coach, he’s already proven to be terrific at that; they have a veteran staff, a talented roster.
“Everybody that’s added — like myself, which will be obviously a smaller role — the one thing I’ve learned over the years is staff chemistry is determined by everybody on the staff taking direction from the head coach, and doing as good a job as you can in the areas you’re given to concentrate on. That’s what I’m going to do.”
The defensive-minded Clifford was head coach in Charlotte for five years (fourth in Coach of the Year voting in his debut campaign) and in Orlando for three, before parting ways with the Magic in June. It left the 59-year-old as “the most sought-after assistant in the marketplace,” according to ESPN.
Now he’ll be working under Nash, whom he’s known since he was a Lakers assistant in 2012-13, when Nash was the point guard.
This offseason Nash lost offensive coordinator (and mentor) Mike D’Antoni and defensive coordinator Ime Udoka. He replaced them with Brian Keefe and David Vanterpool, but gladly added Clifford’s basketball mind to the mix — even if Cliford isn’t around every day, or taking a hands-on role as defensive coordinator.
“If there’s something defensively that I can help with, obviously for sure. What I want to do is be an asset. But I’ve had people ask me: ‘[Are you] going to be in charge of the defense? Absolutely not, nor is that what they need,” Clifford said.
“I wouldn’t see it as advisory as much as it’ll be more potentially a resource, someone who studies. … Maybe they play a game early in the year where Steve or Sean or somebody on the staff likes a defensive scheme that the other team is using, or something they’re doing out of one of their offensive sets that might be beneficial. Once the year gets going and everybody has their responsibilities, it’s hard to add work onto the group. So I’d see my role could be something like that.
“They call me [and say,] ‘Hey, watch this team, watch the last X number of games and give us a summary of what you see.’ I’d see it more that way than advisory. … So, finding ways that I can be helpful, locking into the things that Steve and/or Sean want me to do.”
With Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving back healthy, the Nets are favored to win the title, and Nash the second favorite to earn NBA Coach of the Year. Clifford insists learning from that quartet is a big reason he took the job.
“You learn so much from players of that caliber. So yeah, obviously it’s a big part of it, the talent level. And learning from Steve and the way he’s set such a foundation,” said Clifford, who’s been an assistant with the Knicks, Rockets and Magic.
“Just conversations with Steve, I had some communication with Sean, it’s a role that I’m incredibly excited about, to be able to spend time with a group like that under Steve’s leadership. You learn so much from the other coaches, but you also learn a ton from the players. And they have a roster that just being able to watch from time-to-time — practice, shootarounds, whatever film sessions — it’ll be a situation where I can grow as a coach. So there’s a lot to be excited about.”
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