EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- As Jason Kidd neared the first training camp of his new coaching career, the Brooklyn Nets coach traveled to Los Angeles for some last-minute schooling.
Over a two-day stretch earlier this month, Kidd tried to cram decades of priceless coaching experience from the best in the business. Phil Jackson, Pat Riley, Gregg Popovich, Doc Rivers, Tim Grgurich and Frank Vogel were among those to give Kidd some much-needed coaching assists.
"Just sharing information, not the secret sauce," Kidd said of what he learned. "So this has kind of been going back to school for me."
Kidd, though, already knows the main ingredient to a winning coaching recipe. Whether it was Jackson, Riley or Pop, every NBA coach knows Rule No. 1 in the NBA coaching handbook is to hitch his wagon to the superstars. Those coaches had to earn and keep the respect of their superstar players at the start of their careers.
That is why Kidd's first job starting next Tuesday when the Nets open camp at Duke is to get Deron Williams, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to buy in to him. Shaquille O'Neal would probably dub Kidd as "The Big Unknown." Kidd has to show his stars that he can coach and that he's the man who can direct them to a championship.
Kidd already has their respect as a player. But he must show that his brilliant basketball IQ and unparalleled floor vision will transfer to the bench and that he can coach and adjust in the heat of a playoff game winding down in the final seconds.
"There is always something to be proven ... that I know what I am doing, yes," Kidd admitted. "Will I make a mistake and maybe sit someone too long? I think every coach has done that. I can't eliminate myself from that. But it will be a learning experience. We have older guys and they tend to take it a little bit easier on you."
Kidd knows firsthand how a coach's voice can die in a locker room after a short time even if a team is winning conference titles. Byron Scott was fired midseason after back-to-back NBA Finals appearances once he lost Kidd and the Nets' locker room in 2003-04.
Kidd will have to figure out his own coaching voice and approach, but do it as quick as one of his signature fast breaks under the full-court pressure of championship expectations.
Jackson could've given Kidd a tip or two at the coaching clinic on how to manage star egos. One reason why every player in the league wanted to play alongside Kidd was his selfless ability to keep teammates happy.
Maybe Riley gave Kidd a pointer about how to quickly establish an identity that isn't "just vanilla," as Kidd described how the Nets were last season. Like Riles, a master of motivation, Kidd will have to find a way to keep his message fresh and his players motivated over the marathon of a season.
Pop might've advised Kidd on how to develop a young, unassuming big man like Lopez. And perhaps Doc gave Kidd suggestions on how to handle Garnett and Pierce and their minutes to keep them fresh.
Kidd is already learning how to manage Garnett after the two talked about his minutes.
"It wasn't very nice," Kidd joked of Garnett's response to potentially resting him in back-to-backs. "He was mean. I'm just kidding. He wanted to talk about it. So we're in the process of talking about it. He got his point across. So I'm gonna trust him with it and we're going to go from there."
Kidd will have to learn on his own how to go from being a great point guard to coaching one. For the first time in his life, he will have to trust another point guard with orchestrating his team and executing his vision. Williams' play this season will determine just how good the Nets will be.
Kidd began coaching Williams when he got the job. The two friends and golf partners have had conversations about Kidd's vision and plans for Williams and the team. Along the way, their bond will morph into a friendship/coach-player relationship if it hasn't already.
"It's not about being the boss," Kidd said when asked how he will handle his relationship with Williams. "It's about communicating and holding each other accountable. That's the way I look at Deron -- holding his coaches accountable, and for a coach to hold him accountable.
"That's one of the biggest things we're going to work on as a franchise: no excuses." Pierce and Garnett will not want to hear any excuses if the Nets fall short of the Finals this season. The two signed off on a deal to Brooklyn to win another championship together.
Kidd persuaded them to come. Next week, he takes the first steps toward proving to them and the Nets that he can coach and lead the franchise back to the Finals.