NEW YORK -- The message on the giant video screen at the Barclays Center said it all: "Hello Coach! J. Kidd Back Where He Belongs."
Jason Kidd elevated the Nets franchise to new heights as a player in New Jersey. Now they're hoping the future Hall of Fame point guard can elevate the franchise to those same heights as its head coach in Brooklyn.
On Thursday, the Nets introduced Kidd as the 18th coach in the franchise's NBA history in front of a massive media contingent.
"I'm a rookie," said Kidd, officially hired on Wednesday night. "I go from being one of the oldest players in the league to now a rookie coach. I'm very excited about the challenge. I think being here in Brooklyn we have a special opportunity to achieve that status as to being a championship-type-caliber team, and I'm looking forward to being part of that, helping with the structure and sharing things I [brought to the table] as a player such as being unselfish, communicating and being tough, and hopefully I can get that across to the guys."
Kidd, 40, is just 10 days removed from announcing his retirement as a player. According to a league source, he signed a three-year contract with a team option for a fourth year.
Nets general manager Billy King said the team didn't "start out looking for Jason" during the preliminary stages of its coaching search. But Kidd's agent, Jeff Schwartz had spoken with the former Nets star about life after his playing career at a Georgia wedding the weekend before he announced his retirement on June 3. Schwartz knew his client wanted to pursue coaching, so he gave King a call.
All Schwartz wanted was a meeting. He got one, and on Monday, Kidd did the rest, wowing King with his basketball acumen and future Hall of Fame stature. Kidd also talked about wanting the team to play a more up-tempo style and push the ball.
King began looking at the likes of Phil Jackson and Doc Rivers to fill the vacancy, only to be rejected by Jackson and rebuffed by the Boston Celtics for permission to talk to Rivers, who still has three years left on his contract. In the end, he chose Kidd.
"I think really what stood out for me was his leadership," King said. "I've seen that before, and you see it up close when you talk to him, just his knowledge of the game as we talked, and he was talking about different teams and their sets and how we would work with our team and how we would use our personnel in different ways. And to me, the ceiling for him is very high because he has a great work ethic and knowledge, and I think working together we can build something that can last a long time."
Still, the move is considered a risk, given that Kidd never has coached. But King isn't concerned.
"I think any time you make a hire, I think it's a risk," King said. "But one thing about Jason, people have counted him out a lot of times, and he's proven them wrong. I've known him for a long time, and with his work ethic, I believe he'll be good. I don't worry about the risk."
Kidd is extremely close with Nets point guard Deron Williams, who sat in the first row during Kidd's news conference.
"I have no problem taking direction from him," Williams said when asked about their relationship. "He's one of the smartest players to ever play this game."
"Yes, I have a lot to learn about coaching," Kidd added. "But when I played the game, I felt like I was an extension of the coach. Now I look at Deron to be that guy."
Kidd wouldn't get into specifics about what type of veteran assistants he'll bring on his staff but did say Lawrence Frank "would be a great candidate."
Kidd said that Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban reached out to him about possibly getting into the business side of basketball before he pursued the Nets job.
There is a team that Kidd would like the Nets to emulate: the San Antonio Spurs.
"We wanna be a team that wins 50 games on a regular basis," he said.
King said he talked with Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski -- who coached both King and Kidd -- about Kidd becoming his team's coach, and Krzyzewski loved the idea.
Kidd said he began keeping a diary in 2010 about how coaches handled different situations and noted how he'd do things differently.
As for his message to his players, Kidd said, "You have to play hard, you have have to play defense and you've got to play together."
Kidd believes he'll be able to relate to all types of players because he's had both successes and failures in his career.
"My jump shot was definitely a weakness, but I didn't come into the league as a shooter, and I guess I left as a non-shooter," Kidd joked. "For me, it's just a matter of working hard."
Kidd credits Mark Jackson's success as a first-year head coach as a reason he was able to get hired.
"When we played Mark in New York, I went up to him before the game and said, 'Thank you,'" Kidd said. "Because he did give guys the opportunity, kind of cracked the door open for guys to be able to go into coaching because of the success that he's had. When you look at some other guys that have done it, Larry Bird, so there are guys out there that have done it, and hopefully I can carry that torch and have that same kind of success."
Ultimately, Kidd said, his vision "is to win." He believes the Nets have a strong roster in place with Williams, Brook Lopez, Joe Johnson and Gerald Wallace making up the team's core, but they need to get better at scoring.
"My experience against Brooklyn was once they got to 88-90 points, they kind of came unplugged, so I want this team to get up and down, but you can't forget about Lopez."
Kidd plans to use players at different positions and not rely on Williams to bring the ball up the floor all the time.
As for the Nets-New York Knicks rivalry, Kidd said, "I think it's a great rivalry. I think it's great for the city, for the people that live here, and hopefully Brooklyn has the upper hand at the end of the day."
Kidd is widely regarded as the best player in the NBA history of the Nets franchise. In 2001, he joined a New Jersey Nets team that had won just 26 games the previous season. Kidd led the Nets to the NBA Finals in his first two seasons with the franchise, losing to the Lakers and then the Spurs in the championship series.
Kidd played 19 seasons in the NBA for the Nets, Mavericks, Phoenix Suns and Knicks. He won a championship with Dallas in 2011 and Olympic gold medals with the U.S. team in 2000 and 2008.
The Nets finished their first season in Brooklyn with a 49-33 record. Interim coach P.J. Carlesimo, who took over for Avery Johnson in late December, was dismissed after the Nets lost to a short-handed Chicago Bulls team in the first round.