It’s been only a week since Dallas Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle stepped down, longtime general manager Donnie Nelson was fired and a report from Tim Cato and Sam Amick of The Athletic detailed the messy dysfunction that existed within the front office. After all that reality-television quality drama, it appears as though the Mavericks are keen on making headlines yet again by reportedly signing Jason Kidd to a four-year deal as their next head coach.
Kidd has had strong support from team owner Mark Cuban and franchise legend Dirk Nowitzki, the latter of whom was just hired as a special adviser to the team. But for a franchise that’s entering an incredibly pivotal offseason after getting bounced from the first round for the second consecutive year after leading 2-0 and again 3-2 against the Los Angeles Clippers, the move to hire Kidd to turn this team into a championship contender certainly raises a lot of questions.
As a player, Kidd was brilliant over his 21-year Hall of Fame career, and his championship with these same Mavericks certainly gives him some additional cache in the league. He’s also got the seal of approval from LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard. But being a great NBA player doesn’t always translate to being a great coach, and Kidd certainly comes with some baggage.
After Kidd was fired from the Milwaukee Bucks following a 23-22 start to the season in 2018, Bleacher Report detailed his roller coaster relationships with players on the team, his “demanding style” and constant critique of his players both public and private. Players reportedly started to “tune Kidd out,” including Antetokounmpo, who despite having an otherwise solid relationship with him, reportedly “grew weary of Kidd’s relentless critiques.”
Then there’s this:
“Around the NBA, Kidd is universally respected for his basketball intellect, though people still have questions about his tactical instincts and his interpersonal skills. He has a reputation for burning bridges, going all the way back to his playing days.”
As we’ve seen with the Indiana Pacers, who fired Nate Bjorkgren after just one season with the team in part because of his inability to foster solid relationships with his players. Interpersonal skills are crucial as a head coach, and the Mavericks just lost Carlisle in part because there was “simmering tension” between him and Luka Doncic, the cornerstone of the franchise. Similar to Kidd during his playing days, Doncic has a fiery nature about him and isn’t afraid to show up a coach. We’ve seen this over the past three seasons when Carlisle would — or wouldn’t — call a timeout when Doncic didn’t feel it was necessary. If Doncic had no problem questioning a heavily-respected coach in Carlisle, who led Dallas to its only championship with Kidd as the point guard, you can believe that if Kidd takes to criticizing Doncic or other Mavericks players the way he did in Milwaukee, it will create issues.
In Kidd’s lone season coaching the Brooklyn Nets, his antics often overshadowed his coaching ability. He was fined $50,000 for asking his own player to bump into him at the end of a game so that it would look like he accidentally spilled his cup of soda and grant Brooklyn a timeout after not having any left. The video — because of course it was caught on camera — showed how obviously blatant the collision was, which gave the league no other choice but to slap him with a fine.
At the end of that season in which he led the Nets to a first-round playoff win over the Toronto Raptors, Kidd then tried to orchestrate a coup to gain control of the franchise’s basketball operations from then-general manager Billy King. That plan failed and Brooklyn traded him to the Bucks for two second-round picks.
From a basketball standpoint, hiring Kidd doesn’t make a ton of sense. He’s had middling success in his short coaching career, and although he’s made the postseason three out of the five years he’s been a head coach, he’s advanced past the first round just once. That’s one more series win than Dallas alone over the last decade, so not much better. The problem isn’t getting to the postseason for the Mavericks, it’s winning once they’re there, and Kidd hasn’t shown an ability to consistently do that.
Coming off a playoff appearance in 2017 with the Bucks and a sixth-place finish in the East, there were higher expectations for Milwaukee heading into what Kidd’s would-be final season. Kidd even said at media day that the Bucks could win close to 50 games. But after an abysmal loss to the Chicago Bulls, Kidd pointed at the Bucks’ youth as an explanation for the losses and dealing with “expectations that are a little bit too high.” Largely the same group of Bucks players went on to win 60 games after Kidd left and made the Eastern Conference finals. Not taking more responsibility in the team’s failures is part of why players on the Atlanta Hawks grew tired of former head coach Lloyd Pierce, who was ultimately fired midway through this season.
Pierce has yet to be considered for one of the several open coaching positions around the league, and it may be awhile before Bjorkgren is given the reins again. Some of the reasons those two coaches were fired are things that have been attached to Kidd’s name in the past. So why is he still getting job offers, especially considering the history of off-court issues he brings?
Aside from the basketball questions Kidd raises, from an optics standpoint for the Mavericks it’s even more concerning. It was just three years ago that Dallas was the centerpiece of an report detailing a toxic company culture rife with sexual harassment claims and domestic assault charges. The Mavericks also traded for Kristaps Porzingis in 2018 despite being aware of rape allegations against him prior to the transactions. The report about the company culture led to an overhaul within Dallas’ organization, and a tearful nationally televised apology from Cuban, who said he did not know about the alarming events. But Cuban can’t claim to be unaware of the 2001 domestic violence charge in which Kidd pled guilty to hitting his now-ex-wife, or the lawsuit filed against him during their divorce that detailed “perpetual physical and emotional abuse.”
The Mavericks had the opportunity to swing for the fences in this next head coaching hire, as the allure of leading Doncic alone would be reason enough to make this position one of the most attractive openings in the league. They could’ve gone with current assistant Jamahl Mosely, who had the support of Doncic over the years, or any of the other dozens of well-respected coaches around the league who don’t come with a ton of toxic baggage. Hiring Kidd, who has a murky resume, raises more questions than it answers the existing issues that Dallas has dealt with from both a basketball and an ethical standpoint in the last several years.