Toronto Star

Hoops bug is back for Nash

Soccer gig, family has former MVP putting off a bigger role in the NBA


Steve Nash recently fell back in love with basketball, knows he’d relish being an NBA coach or general manager and, if he made himself available, would be a high-profile and viable contender for any number of such positions that may arise in the near future.

But you won’t see Nash leaping from a bench to remonstrat­e with referees or sitting in a comfy front office making deals any time soon. The main reason is this: He’s found something he likes doing, watching and talking about even more than basketball.

Since the start of the European soccer season, the recently inducted hall of famer has served as an analyst and studio contributo­r for TNT and B/R Live as part of its UEFA Champions League coverage.

It was soccer that first entranced the 44-year-old Canadian, long before the hardwood became his calling.

“Soccer was my first love,” Nash, who grew up Victoria, B.C., said last week. “It is in my blood. Growing up at the time when Michael Jordan had just burst onto the scene, I went to eighth grade at a new school and all the jocks were in love with basketball. I wanted to be around them, so it just started up that I played basketball instead of soccer, but it never left my heart.”

The result was a remarkable career that spawned eight allstar appearance­s, five assists titles, two league MVP awards, and a reputation as one of the most skilled and cerebral point guards in league history.

Those smarts are already of use to the Golden State Warriors, for whom Nash serves as a part-time consultant, and his resumé alone would be intriguing to any owner in need of a coaching or managerial revamp. When Ryan McDonough was fired a week before the start of the season and the Phoenix Suns general manager job opened up, there were plenty of Arizona diehards who speculated that Nash would be the perfect man for the job. However, he swiftly ruled himself out, partly due to the constraint­s of the job on his family life and partly because he’s having too much fun with what he’s doing in the soccer sphere.

“Frankly, I think I would have probably really enjoyed it,” Nash said of the Suns job. “I probably would really enjoy being a coach and really enjoy being a general manager. The reality is that I want to be at home and present in the largest capacity I can while my kids are at a very impression­able age. If that means sacrificin­g a career in the game, so be it.

“To be able to do things like Champions League, to own a bit of two soccer teams (Real Mallorca and the Vancouver Whitecaps) and to work with the Warriors, these are all things I can do while my kids are at school. That’s a priority for me.”

Nash will hit the road, however, for the Champions League’s Matchday Six on Dec. 11 and 12, watching his favourite team Tottenham visit Barcelona and calling the action with former U.S. national team player Stuart Holden. before following up with pre-, post-game and halftime chatter at Valencia vs. Manchester United the next day.

Basketball still has Nash’s spirit too. He raves about his lowkey work with the Warriors, having been brought in by head coach Steve Kerr last year.

Kerr has given Nash maximum flexibilit­y by design, wanting an outsider’s perspectiv­e in a claustroph­obic sport that offers little time for reflection.

“I try to go up a few days a month,” added Nash, who is based in Los Angeles. “Steve really just wants me to be a part of their staff, a part of their club and to be a resource, whether it is working with a player individual­ly or to be a sounding board.

“What we have found is that it is actually pretty valuable to have somebody that isn’t around constantly because you get that breath of fresh air, a new perspectiv­e and a set of eyes. Their job is so intense that to get someone with a 30,000foot view is worthwhile, so I think Steve realizes what the power of that is.” One impact Nash made was working directly with Kevin Durant and advising the backto-back NBA final MVP to practise free throws while standing on one foot. The advice was heeded, and the kink in Durant’s action was remedied.

Nash initially found moving away from competitiv­e basketball tough and felt the need to separate himself from the sport for a while. No longer.

“I am starting to grow back into it,” he said. “I think after a few years out of the game I am much more interested and I feel drawn to it again, which is a good feeling. Every night I throw on League Pass and I am watching as much as I can. I am just lucky to get two sports that I love and am passionate about.”

 ?? STEVE RUSSELL TORONTO STAR FILE PHOTO ?? Hall of famer Steve Nash, combining his two sports passions to set up Andre Drummond of the Pistons in the 2016 all-star dunk contest, is in demand and in a good place.
STEVE RUSSELL TORONTO STAR FILE PHOTO Hall of famer Steve Nash, combining his two sports passions to set up Andre Drummond of the Pistons in the 2016 all-star dunk contest, is in demand and in a good place.

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