A record-setting and capacity-reaching 8,000 fans packed Pier 2 at Brooklyn Bridge Park for the Nets’ fifth annual Practice in the Park on Sunday.
And of those fans, around a quarter of them booed head coach Steve Nash when he was introduced to the crowd.
Nash was the final introduction after fans cheered the 2022-23 Nets team, including a rousing ovation for New Jersey native Kyrie Irving, a collective exhale/sigh of relief for Kevin Durant, and a lukewarm welcome for recovering star Ben Simmons. Fan favorites Joe Harris, Patty Mills and Nic Claxton also received noticeable ovations from the audience, but when the attention shifted to Nash — who had his infant daughter by his side — a sizable contingent of the crowd let him have it.
Those fans booed because of two underwhelming Nets seasons full of championship aspirations and declarations with Nash at the helm, culminating with Durant’s reported ultimatum that franchise governor Joe Tsai either trade the superstar forward elsewhere or dismiss both Nash and GM Sean Marks this past offseason.
Tsai did neither, instead tweeting support for both his front office and coaching staff after reports of the ultimatum surfaced. Durant had a clearing-of-the-air talk with all parties before returning to camp, and the Nets entered the new season with Nash remaining at the helm.
It’s one thing, however, for news outlets to call into question Nash’s job security. It’s another for fans, at a Nets community event, to publicly express their dismay toward the head coach.
Shane Calliste, a 22-year-old social media content coordinator who was at Sunday’s Practice in the Park, said “it sounded like 70 percent” of the fans at the park booed Nash.
Calliste said he didn’t boo Nash because he’s given the organization “a fair chance” to have a successful season after retaining Durant this off-season, but he also agrees with fans who did boo the coach on Sunday.
“Ultimately, I believe the booing is coming out of a place of love,” said Calliste. “The fans want the team to succeed, and while many fans may disagree about if Nash is ultimately holding the team back, the consensus among the fan base is that he definitely isn’t elevating the (team) either.”
One Nets fan who was at the event tweeted “I was one them (who booed Nash). Nash needs to show and prove, that is why his a— got booed.”
The booing underscored an otherwise successful Nets’ event, which included a performance by Brooklyn’s own hip-hop artist Joey Bada$$. Nets players played a game of knockout — where players line up and attempt a jump shot, and if they miss, the next player has a chance to eliminate them.
Simmons, who coincidentally only took three shots against the Miami Heat and said he has to be more aggressive scoring, won the game.
Not all fans booed Nash, of course. Omar Moussa, a 30-year-old physician from Brooklyn, didn’t boo his hometown team’s head coach because “it’s a new year, and we’re all in this together.”
Moussa said the fan base is still reeling with disappointment after the Boston Celtics swept the Nets out of the first round of the playoffs last season.
“I know the last couple of playoff runs have been disappointing, and the offseason was tumultuous at times, but this is a chance for a fresh start,” Moussa said. “Coach Nash doesn’t have a successful track record yet, but we have a chance at something special this year. Hopefully those boos will turn to cheers soon!”