Nets coach Jordi Fernandez eyes early success in Brooklyn

NEWS

The Nets believe the 41-year-old coach can shape the team’s youthful roster into a contender.

Nets coach Jordi Fernandez is the first coach from Spain in NBA history.

NEW YORK (AP) — Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden weren’t the only ones who didn’t stick around long in Brooklyn.

The Nets have gone through coaches almost as quickly as superstar players in recent years, even while the team had been good enough to make five straight playoff appearances from 2019-23.

Maybe Jordi Fernandez will be the coach to having lasting success.

The first head coach from Spain in NBA history said Wednesday he expects the Nets to improve quickly after finishing 32-50 last season.

“We will see results right away because like I said before, this industry is about getting results and getting better,” Fernandez said.

The coach of Canada’s men’s national team spent the past two seasons as the associate head coach of the Sacramento Kings and stood out during a search that began almost immediately after the Nets fired Jacque Vaughn at the All-Star break.

“I think something that separates Jordi from a lot of the candidates, we found that he could look at a developmental roster, he could do various different pathways,” general manager Sean Marks said. “I mean, he’s coached stars before, he’s been the head, director of development before. So as I said, he’s worn many hats and I think with our roster that he’s going to be able to get the respect of those guys.”

The Nets have to decide what kind of roster that will be. They were building gradually early in Marks’ tenure under Kenny Atkinson before he was replaced during the 2019-20 season. Then they tried the superstar route under Steve Nash, signing Durant and Irving and then acquiring Harden in a blockbuster trade.

With those players all traded, the Nets were back to a younger squad last season, which they finished under interim coach Kevin Ollie, and Fernandez said he likes having that kind of roster.

“The youth is always great, right, because it allows you to have a team for a long run,” Fernandez said.

If he gets a long run, that is.

“You never want to have to let people go from positions, whether that’s coaching or staff members and so forth,” Marks said. “I think what we’re in is, we’re in professional sports and there’s turnover. I mean, we’re all very, very lucky and very fortunate to have the jobs that we have and hold on to them for as long as we can.

“You hope you do it the right way and you do it with the right people and you continue to build. As I said before, hopefully with Jordi this is a long-term fit, he can continue to grow and develop just the same as we all have.”

The 41-year-old Fernandez, who is from Badalona, Spain, began coaching in his teens. He was an assistant on his national team’s staff when it won the bronze medal at the 2017 EuroBasket and for Nigeria in the Olympics in 2021. Last year he led the Canadians to their first medal in the Basketball World Cup when they beat the U.S. for bronze.

Marks said he received positive feedback from people who had worked with and played under Fernandez, who was also an assistant coach in Denver from 2016-22.

Fernandez said he couldn’t fully answer why things haven’t worked long for recent coaches in Brooklyn, but he sees the possibilities for himself. He thinks the Nets’ youth will allow them to play fast and thinks they can build a top-10 offense and defense, adding that he believes center Nic Claxton can win the Defensive Player of the Year award.

Fernandez said he’s already spoken to the team’s players. He will begin working with them and setting up his staff before leaving for six weeks to rejoin his Canada squad, then returning to the Nets in August.

“It’s going to take time, it’s going to take direction and structure,” Fernandez said, “but I believe with the team we have and the partnership that we have right now, no doubt in my mind that we’ll start the right way.”

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