Apprehension and excitement.
Those two words adequately define where the Dallas Mavericks sit after hiring Nico Harrison as the new general manager and Jason Kidd as the new head coach.
The two replaced long-standing pillars for the organization in Donnie Nelson and Rick Carlisle. Those two served as the face and voice of the Mavericks for 24 and 13 years. But after a decade of first-round exits and increasingly questionable judgment calls, the 2021 offseason became the year for a front-office shakeup.
With fresh faces, a new coaching staff, and a generational superstar in Luka Doncic, Dallas sits ready, eager and waiting for the opportunity to vault into true NBA playoff contention.
How Nico Harrison changes things:
Harrison’s lack of front office experience may cause worry to some, and that’s fair. Being a general manager is a difficult job. GMs identify talent, manage relationships, make difficult decisions, construct the roster in their image, and if the team doesn’t win, everyone blames you for the lack of talent present. It’s one of those jobs people feel as though they can do until they have to. A good GM is the difference between a dynasty or a wasted opportunity. So the apprehension towards Harrison’s void of NBA executive experience is normal but somewhat ill-founded.
“Once again Mark Cuban is always thinking outside the box which is why he such a great businessman,” Magic Johnson said on Twitter. “Hiring Nike exec Nico Harrison as the GM & @RealJasonKidd as head coach is a game-changer. Both hires will make the Mavs championship contenders for many years to come!”
It’s not just about vision or a team-building philosophy in the NBA. It’s about relationships. Agents run the personnel game in the league, not just the players. Before joining the Mavericks, Harrison spent nearly two decades working as a Nike executive. He worked to identify talent and ensure premier players ended up in Nike apparel. In that process, he worked with NBA agents around the league. He gained players’ respect. He built a strong rapport.
Those relationships he formed over his two decades at Nike come into play now. Agents trust Harrison. Players trust Harrison. And overnight, his presence viably turns Dallas into a free agent and star destination. Something it hasn’t been during the Nelson and Carlisle tenure.
— Damian Lillard (@Dame_Lillard) June 25, 2021
Harrison speaks the modern language of the NBA. He knows what makes stars tick, and he also knows what draws them in. He’s a fresh face in the front office, but he opens the door to endless possibilities for the Mavericks. And in the NBA, all you need is one chance to get it right. Harrison gives the Mavericks that chance.
“He has proven to have a unique eye for talent on and off the court,” Mark Cuban said. “I’m looking forward to watching Nico lead the Mavs to new heights.”
How Jason Kidd changes things:
For what Harrison brings to the table in differences, Kidd brings familiarity.
Yes, he’s a different voice in the locker room compared to Carlisle. Yes, he has a different coaching philosophy and perspective on the game. But, as a member of the 2011 Mavericks championship team, Kidd remains a beacon of remembrance and hope for the organization ailing in its return to glory.
Carlisle’s time in Dallas had run its natural course. Through the years, he learned to adapt based on the talent available to him. He’ll be the first to tell you that. However, it’s also no secret that Doncic tuned him out. The 22-year old star questioned his coach’s sovereignty over the team. And regardless of how much Carlisle adapted, he was losing his control over the locker room.
Kidd’s arrival alleviates tension and returns the coach and player relationships to equilibrium while also offsetting the change in the front office with familiarity and comfort.
“Dallas has meant so much to me,” Kidd said. “I am excited to get to work with this young, hungry and incredibly talented team.”
He’s a trademark players’ coach who excels in building trust with stars. His head coaching record may not stand out (183-190), but he’s never coached a player as talented as Doncic. He’s also never coached a team that has real championship aspirations.
While everyone is giving reasons why Kidd is a bad hire, they might be missing the point. He’s in Dallas to maximize Doncic and keep him happy. Meanwhile, Harrison is in Dallas to build a roster that has too much talent to fail. Kidd may turn the wheel, but Harrison will call the shots.
Results are paramount:
The NBA is a results-driven league. Coaches and executives are only as good as their last victory or defeat. That won’t change for Harrison and Kidd. And their first test – NBA draft and free agency – is only weeks away.
Bringing two new voices and one new face into the organization puts Dallas in a better position heading into year four of the Doncic experiment. Kidd brings a championship familiarity and a reminder of what is possible for the Mavericks moving forward. Harrison brings a vast web of connections that make Dallas alluring to the next disgruntled superstar.
Results are paramount. But to get the desired result, it first starts with putting yourself in a position to succeed. With Harrison and Kidd, Dallas seems to have finally done so. The apprehension to the new hires is expected, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a cause for excitement, as well.
“I’m grateful for this rare opportunity,” Harrison said. “And I want to thank Mark and the rest of the organization for putting their trust in me to move this team to the next level.”
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Featured image via Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports.