Phoenix Suns legend, Steve Nash he almost quit basketball after having a tough time with his college coach at Santa Clara, Dick Davey.
From the All the Smoke podcast, where NBA icons Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson interviewed some guy called Steve Nash, we learned about the time he tried to recruit Kevin Garnett to the Phoenix Suns, and how it was Mark Cuban’s unwillingness to overpay him that brought him back to Phoenix for a second stint. However, also revealed on the podcast, was that all this almost never happened because he was driven to the brink of quitting basketball altogether at Santa Clara.
Nash only received one scholarship offer. Even though it was from a mid-major, the Canadian High-Schooler was happy to get it. It came from Santa Clara and new head coach Dick Davey.
Like many old-school coaches, Davey was tough on his players, especially the good ones, and Nash was no exception. It got to the point where Nash actually thought about quitting basketball. As he tells it:
“[Davey] was hard on me, especially when I first got there, and it was the greatest thing that ever happened to me. He had me thinking about quitting. And after going through that experience, it made everything after that…easy to overcome adversity. And so I thank him. He gave me a mental toughness.”
I’m sure that is somewhat hyperbole. As many tough times as Nash went through in his NBA career, I have a hard time believing he thought to himself, “Welp, this is a cakewalk compared to my tough coach at Santa Clara.”
Still, I take his point.
So what specifically happened? According to the LA Times and his Santa Clara teammate:
In 1992, his freshman season at Santa Clara, returning guard John Woolery tortured Nash in the backcourt, forcing him into turnover after turnover before the team could even set up the offense.
With everyone on the floor staring at the skinny point guard from Vancouver Island, coach Dick Davey escorted Nash down the court to the top of the opposing key, where the play was supposed to begin.
“Think you can do it from here?” he asked.
It was a low point — an embarrassing one that almost pushed Nash to leave Santa Clara.
“It was bad. He was upset. You could see it,” his friend and teammate, Phil Von Buchwaldt, remembered. “And most people would’ve quit. But he had that belief.”
In 2018, when Nash as inducted into the Hall of Fame, Davey said of Nash: “He was a tough-minded son of a gun. He wanted to be as good as he could possibly be. He was so deranged about the game.”
A lot of young guys, probably more so today, who have been somewhat coddled and praised throughout their High School and AAU tenure get under a college coach who tears them down several pegs, that has to be tough, especially for an 18-year-old.
Phoenix Suns fans are thankful for the Nash’s mental toughness. Not many guys can get shoulder checked through a table and have their nose broken umpteen times and still get back up and play at a Hall of Fame level.
Cheers to Nash.