DALLAS — The Dallas Mavericks hired Hall of Fame point guard Jason Kidd as head coach in large part because they believe he’s uniquely suited to guide Luka Doncic as the 22-year-old two-time All-NBA selection pursues his championship aspirations.
In a news conference Thursday to introduce Kidd and new general manager Nico Harrison, Kidd made it clear that he’s convinced that the Mavs have a legitimate co-star already on the roster in center/power forward Kristaps Porzingis. That has been considered a major question mark due to Porzingis’ underwhelming production, history of knee problems and awkward chemistry with Doncic.
“I think he’s excited, he’s ready to work, and I think you’re going to see a different KP,” Kidd said. “This is a positive summer for him. He’s healthy. I think he’s really excited about this opportunity. I think he’s a perfect fit for Luka. He has a skill set that a lot of people don’t have in this league. As a coach, I’m very excited to be able to work with him.”
Kidd has been in communication with Doncic since being hired by Dallas on June 28 but respects that Doncic’s primary focus this summer is on the Slovenian national team, which qualified for the Olympics for the first time.
“Luka’s special,” Kidd said. “He’s been a pro for a while, but you can always get better. I think his appetite is big.”
Kidd, who has a 183-190 career record as a head coach after stints with the Brooklyn Nets and Milwaukee Bucks, said he will “have to wait until I can look under the hood” before figuring out specifics regarding how he can help Doncic.
“It’s tough to nitpick with an All-NBA player,” said Harrison, a longtime Nike executive before being hired by the Mavs simultaneously with Kidd. “The best thing you can do is surround him with a Hall of Fame coach that played his position and let those two vibe off of each other. I think that’s going to help [Doncic] tremendously.”
Kidd was hired a week after the resignation of Rick Carlisle, whose 13-year tenure in Dallas was highlighted by the 2010-11 championship team on which Kidd starred. Dallas did not interview any coaching candidates other than Kidd, who was strongly recommended by an advisory committee assembled by owner Mark Cuban that included franchise legend Dirk Nowitzki, Kidd’s former teammate.
Mavs CEO Cynt Marshall approved Kidd’s hire after they discussed his domestic violence case in 2001, when Kidd pleaded guilty to spousal abuse after being arrested for hitting his now-ex-wife. Marshall was hired by the Mavs in 2018 after the franchise was embroiled in a scandal following a Sports Illustrated report on the Mavs’ misogynistic culture, including rampant sexual harassment by a previous CEO and domestic violence allegations against a team-employed reporter.
“We talked about his past,” Marshall said. “We talked about some of the history. He walked me through his journey, which I will call a journey. He walked me through that. At the end of the process, I very much felt like we were doing the right thing. It didn’t feel like we were undermining our zero tolerance policy or our values or our code of conduct at all. I believe that we have brought in two leaders who have values.”
Kidd, who attended court-ordered anger management classes in 2001, said he learned the importance of focusing on mental health.
“The journey that I’ve been on has not always been perfect, but we learn from our mistakes, understanding God is great and giving the opportunity to prove yourself, to learn from your mistakes,” Kidd said. “You have the opportunity to talk about it. When you talk about the Mavs and the tools that they have here, they have [psychologist] Don Kalkstein. Mental health is a big thing, not just here with the Mavs, but throughout our country and throughout our world. To have a Don Kalkstein here to be able to talk to, to help, those are the tools that I learned in ’01.”