Jordi Fernandez well prepared for his Nets coaching moment: ex-mentors, current players

Jordi Fernandez’s former mentors have long insisted he’s been ready to be an NBA head coach.

His current players said the same Tuesday.

The Sacramento assistant is going to get the chance to prove it, set to be named the new head coach of the Brooklyn Nets.

Fernandez won out after an exhaustive month-long search that saw Nets owner Joe Tsai and general manager Sean Marks interview roughly a dozen candidates.

Sources said the only one they offered the job to was Fernandez, the associate head coach in Sacramento who helped the Kings build a winner.

“I mean, you guys see him. In the game, he’s just as much up there with coach [Mike Brown]. So he’s definitely ready,” Kings star Domantas Sabonis told reporters at Tuesday’s shootaround before Sacramento’s play-in game versus Golden State. “He’s comfortable in his skin.”

He’d almost have to be.

Fernandez, a native of Barcelona, Spain, has had a journey to this point that would make Odysseus dizzy.

He actually started coaching at 15 back home, as a youth coach and eventually athletic trainer.

Fernandez got a degree in sports sciences, and is just one completed academic article shy of his Ph.D in sports psychology.

But his love was in coaching.

He moved to Las Vegas to join the staff at Impact Basketball, which is where he met Brown, then coaching Cleveland.

Within a year, Fernandez had earned his job as a Cavs player development coach. The rest has been building the foundation of an NBA career, brick by brick.

From the Cavs to working under Michael Malone in Denver to becoming the de facto defensive coordinator of Browns’ Kings.

“You see Jordi be up just like Mike on the sideline, teaching us, telling us what to do on the defensive end. Some offensive stuff, too,” Malik Monk said Tuesday. “So he’s been a big, big part of everything, man. Like I said he’s the defensive coordinator, coach for us. So he teaches us all our coverages and everything like that. So Jordi’s a big part of what we’ve been doing here.”

Now the Nets expect him to be a big part of whatever they do in Brooklyn.

After Fernandez interviewed in Milwaukee and was a finalist in Toronto and Phoenix last summer, he finally got his break in Brooklyn.

“Jordi is a fantastic human being, he’s a fantastic coach. He will be a head coach in this league someday. He’s ready for it right now,” Brown had said a year ago while Fernandez was being courted.

Fernandez — voted the best assistant in the league this year by the annual NBA GM survey — got his opportunity now by beating out an impressive list that included former NBA Coach of the Year and 2021 champion Mike Budenholzer, as well as Suns assistant Kevin Young.

“It’s a great thing. It’s a testament to how hard he’s worked, the opportunity,” Harrison Barnes said Tuesday. “The past couple of years since he started his coaching career and the opportunity for him to be a head coach is amazing. And I wish him all the luck in the world.”

Malone had told ESPN, “He’s going to be a head coach in the NBA. He’s a people person who knows the game and has a great ability to communicate as well as build relationships with players.”

Now he’ll get his shot to build them in Brooklyn.

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