Lakers success spurred Jason Kidd’s coaching quest to win another title in Dallas

Dallas Mavericks coach Jason Kidd points during a game against the New Orleans Pelicans on Dec. 1.
Dallas Mavericks coach Jason Kidd points during a game against the New Orleans Pelicans on Dec. 1. After helping the Lakers win the NBA title in 2020, Kidd is hoping to repeat the feat in Dallas.
(Matthew Hinton / Associated Press)
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As Jason Kidd eased his way through the swanky hotel Tuesday for a mid-morning brunch, he would hear “Welcome, Coach” and “Good to see you, Coach” and “Good luck, Coach.”

Kidd smiled and shook their hands or offered a fist pound, saying “Thank you.” He was “humbled” by the well-wishers and “humbled” by the opportunity to be the coach of the Dallas Mavericks.

In many ways, Kidd has come full circle with the Mavericks, his NBA playing career having started in Dallas as the No. 2 overall pick in the 1994 draft, winning co-rookie of the year in 1995 with Grant Hill.

Kidd was traded after two seasons with the Mavericks but returned to be a part of the 2011 championship Mavericks team with super-stud Dirk Nowitzki. Now Kidd is back for his third go-round, coaching Dallas’ new star sensation, Luka Doncic.

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The Lakers were without several players who are in COVID-19 protocols and lost another when Anthony Davis left injured in a 110-92 loss at Minnesota.

Kidd is working with Mavericks owner Mark Cuban again and with first-year president of basketball operations and general manager Nico Harrison, a longtime friend Kidd has known from Harrison’s days as a successful Nike executive.

“Winning a championship here, being drafted here, winning rookie of the year, there’s a lot of things that ties me into Dallas,” Kidd said over brunch. “And then to also work for the best owner in sports in Mark Cuban and then to get that call, to talk to him and then to have Nico on board — because I’ve known Nico for a long time — so a lot of things are very exciting because we all know each other.

“There’s not this uncertainty of not knowing or ‘Who is this person?’ So, all the players involved, we all know each other. So, that made it unique and also it makes it fun every day to come to work. So, yes, I am so humbled to be a head coach again.”

Kidd had been a coach with the Brooklyn Nets and Milwaukee Bucks, but after sitting out a year, he was unsure when he’d get back in the game or if he’d even get a third time to become the head man again.

But then he got the chance to become an assistant coach on Frank Vogel’s staff with the Lakers for two seasons. The Lakers won the 2020 NBA championship in the first year of that union, which opened the door for Kidd in the coaching circles.

Lakers star LeBron James, left, talks with Jason Kidd during a playoff game against the Portland Trail Blazers.
Lakers star LeBron James, left, talks with Jason Kidd during a playoff game against the Portland Trail Blazers in August 2020.
(Kevin C. Cox / Associated Press)

“He came in with a great deal of humility and helped us win a championship. He was a big part of it”

— Frank Vogel, Lakers head coach, on the contributions Jason Kidd made as an assistant coach

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“At the time, I wasn’t thinking about becoming a head coach,” Kidd said. “I was just excited about the opportunity to work with Frank and be part of the Lakers. I learned a lot from Frank. Frank is a great coach. Not just great coach, but a great person.”

Vogel recalled how “awesome” the two years he spent with Kidd were and how he learned that Kidd is “a good person” who was willing to listen and learn how to be an assistant coach. That role clearly is different from being the top man.

“He was a great teammate for us in our organization,” Vogel said. “Extremely supportive of me. … He came in into the Lakers job without assistant coaching experience with a mindset that he wanted to learn that part of it, knowing that he went from being a player right to being a head coach, and that there’s a lot of building blocks in terms of a coaching career that he hadn’t done and was really enthusiastic about doing those things — the scouts, running drills, doing all the prep work, doing the post-game cleanups in all the film sessions we would have.

“He was very enthusiastic with it. He came in with a great deal of humility and helped us win a championship. He was a big part of it.”

Kidd coached LeBron James on the Lakers and they were teammates on the 2008 U.S. Olympic team. Kidd coached a young Giannis Antetokounmpo with the Bucks. Kidd won an NBA title with Nowitzki and that gold medal in the Olympics with Kobe Bryant.

Those are some of the biggest names in the history of the sport, relationships that earned Kidd respect to coach this Mavericks team.

Now, he has a superstar in Doncic. Perhaps, Kidd was asked, his time around James, Antetokounmpo, Nowitzki and Bryant gives him cachet with Doncic.

Dallas Mavericks star Luka Doncic speaks with coach Jason Kidd during a game against the Sacramento Kings in October.
(Tom Pennington / Getty Images)
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“That’s a great question. You might have to ask Luka that,” Kidd said, smiling. “Hopefully those names have helped me to where Luka will listen. But Luka is so, so gifted. I’m here to help him to hopefully get to that next step and that’s to win a championship.”

The Mavericks had defeated Charlotte by 24 points on Monday night in a back-to-back game, but there still was more work to be done for Kidd. So, he stepped back into the office to watch more film after his media obligations and to prepare for the Lakers on Wednesday night.

Kidd has learned that the job is never complete because he’s always “analyzing” and looking for ways to “improve” the Mavericks, even if it takes him into the wee hours of the night when everyone else has gone home.

“It seems like when you win you don’t stay as long and when you lose you are there until you look up and it’s two o’clock in the morning,” Kidd said. “But I think you got to find that balance. But you’re always trying to find the answers to the test of what can we do better, wins or losses. So, yeah, I stay after, and I try to think about what we could have done better to put the guys in a better position to be successful.”

It took Anthony Davis a while to figure out the Dallas Mavericks, but when he finally did, he proved valuable in the Lakers’ win Wednesday.

His “young team” is built around the brilliance of Doncic, but he’s been out the last three games with a left ankle injury. The Mavericks won two of those three games, but they are 14-14 in the uber-competitive Western Conference and they miss Doncic’s team-leading 25.6 points and 8.5 assists per game.

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“We’re a young team and I know there is high expectations because we have a young star,” Kidd said. “But it’s fun to see the guys get better and they are getting better when people aren’t seeing it. ... They see the product on game day, but not practice. I’ve done a lot of talking and I’m not a talker. But it’s great that the guys are responding.”

As he munched on his breakfast burrito, Kidd took off his glasses and placed them on the table. When he first arrived in Dallas in 1994, he didn’t need glasses and he wasn’t bald as he is now.

He was wearing a Mavericks sweat top and a Texas Rangers baseball cap, his way of “immersing myself all the way into Dallas.”

But one thing still hasn’t changed in Dallas.

“I’ve been here in ’94-95 and it was Cowboys,” Kidd said, laughing. “I came back again, and it was still Cowboys and I come back as a coach and it’s still Cowboys. Nothing has changed. But people do love their Mavs, so that’s a good thing.”