Mark Cuban cried on television. It was 2018, and he was being interviewed by ESPN’s Rachel Nichols on the Mavericks’ rampant sexual harassment charges and apparent toxic work environment that his team’s business side had created for women.
“I have no excuse,” he whimpered as his bottom lip quivered for the camera.
This was all coming at the height of the #MeToo movement, and the man-child billionaire — who had forged a reputation as a trailblazing squeaky wheel determined to shake the NBA out of its stodgy complacency — was in the crosshairs of a media frenzy that was ending careers.
He pledged to do better, and, to his credit, he hired Cynthia Marshall to be the team’s new CEO. In her opening press conference, the former AT&T executive told the world that she would remake the culture of the business side of Cube’s operation. As far as we know, she has.
Three years later, Cuban has hired noted wife-beater and notorious bad person Jason Kidd to be the coach of his team. The incident that netted Kidd his first mugshot may have occurred 20 years ago, but he’s built a solid track record of rubbing people the wrong way ever since.
It’s worth noting, Cuban hired Kidd before settling on a general manager — former Nike executive Nico Harrison reportedly signed off on the move before accepting the position — despite the fact the owner had promised to allow to the new GM to play a role in that search. The newly anointed coach landed the gig on the suggestion of special advisor Dirk Nowitzki and VP of basketball operations Michael Finley. Putting aside that meaningful turn — Dirk is perfect in every way — Kidd’s hiring feels like a betrayal of those tearful promises made under glaring scrutiny.
ESPN Brooklyn pieced together a list of the many times Jason Kidd was a piece of human garbage. The domestic abuse case is by far the worst item on his ledger, but there’s plenty of grist for the shit-mill. Below are some of the highlights.
- As a freshman at Cal, Kidd led a mutiny that ended head coach Lou Campanelli’s tenure there.
- In the mid-1990s, Kidd forced his way out of Dallas because he couldn’t get along with, well, anyone.
- In 2004, playing for the Nets, Kidd chased off Byron Scott after screaming at the head coach during a locker room tantrum.
- In December 2007, Kidd suffered a mysterious migraine and missed a game against the Knicks. Media referred to the incident as “Kidd going on strike.” He asked out of the Garden State and was traded back to the Mavs.
- Just after agreeing to a contract and then spurning the Mavs, Kidd joined the Knicks. A week after switching teams yet again, he wrapped his SUV around a utility pole and was arrested for driving while intoxicated. He was later suspended for his first two regular season games as a head coach.
Only a couple of his offenses rise to the level of “crime,” but there’s a discernable pattern of him morphing into a douche nozzle every time he doesn’t get his way. He also shows all the loyalty of a back-alley gigolo. Given the owner’s penchant for his own petulant tantrums, the working relationship between Kidd and the very-hands-on Cuban already appears to be a powder keg before Game 1.
As the ’90s Cowboys taught us, winning masks a lot of off-the-field issues. So surely Kidd’s on-the-court success must be sterling to carry around this long of a rap sheet, right? His overall record as a coach is a few points below .500. You could argue that he took the helm of two floundering teams (the Nets and Bucks, respectively) and led them to the playoffs. I would point out that he accomplished that feat in the Eastern Conference, where a team can still make the playoffs from a buried casket.
As an Xs and Os guy, there’s not much we can glean from tape. He’s a players’ coach who doesn’t meddle or micromanage in the style that made former head man Rick Carlisle notorious. Kidd is most known for his creativity on offense (with the Bucks, he famously made 7-footer Giannis Antetokounmpo point guard) and developing players in the film room. In the (most of) two games I watched, his teams looked for mismatches on offense and switched everything on defense. He’s hardly a mad scientist, but he’s certainly not a liability in the mold of Avery Johnson.
So what’s the appeal? A documented crap bag with a meh record as a head coach? Players love him. During his recent stint as an assistant with the Lakers, noted narcissist and receding hairline enthusiast LeBron James conceded that Kidd was his “basketball IQ equal.”
After Kidd was dismissed from the Bucks, his star player Antetokounmpo was willing to fight for Kidd’s job.
“He’s a big part of my success in the league,” Antetokounmpo told NBA.com. “I’m loyal to the people I work with. I love him as a person. I care about him as a person.”
The hiring of both Kidd and Harrison points to one factor: Luka. Carlisle could not connect with the young superstar, and — despite the fact the Slovenian phenom is set to sign a five-year extension with the team — Cuban is already panicked over imagining life without him. Kidd’s ability to connect with egomaniac superstars (takes one to know one, amirite?) is Reason 1-10 Cubes pulled the trigger on bringing in his former championship point guard.
Reason No. 11? A Kidd-Harrison welcoming committee will almost certainly do a better job luring big-name free agents to Dallas — one of the biggest failures of the prior administration. As we’ve seen after two years of first-round playoff exits, not even Luka can win by himself. The team’s roster is in shambles and needs new blood.
While those two factors are enormous and potentially game-changing, the hiring of Kidd wreaks of a ploy by an owner looking for the polar-opposite personality of his past relationship. Kidd is the tatted-out bad boy whom Cuban sought out after suffering years of relative stability with a man so strait-laced he once considered a game of ping-pong a little too edgy.
It’s fair to ask, could the Mavs have found the same qualities in another coach who doesn’t have the rap sheet of Jason Kidd? Probably. But to Cuban, the optics of hiring a convicted abuser and frequent POS doesn’t matter as much as keeping his product relevant and profitable. Just remember that the next time you’re tempted to take your wife or daughter to a Mavs game.