Bob Cousy has already done what Jason Kidd is hoping to do: make the transition from superstar NBA point guard to head coach.
Cousy, 84, who retired in 1963 and began coaching at Boston College that same year, compiled a .750 winning percentage in six seasons there before leaving for the pros. The Celtics Hall of Famer went on to coach in the NBA for four-plus seasons, winning 40.3 percent of his games with Cincinnati and Kansas City-Omaha.
Cousy doesn't know Kidd personally -- and therefore couldn't really project how he’d fare as a head coach -- but has always admired the future Hall of Famer's game from afar.
"He seems like a pretty intense player, so I think that's a good thing," Cousy told ESPNNewYork.com Monday. "I was pretty damn intense myself, so it's a nice thing to bring to the table. When you become a leader, your personality usually translates to the people you're working with. If you're laid-back or you don't have any intensity, I suppose that could be a detriment."
I asked Cousy what it was like making the transition from point guard to coach.
"For whatever reason, as point guards we're supposed to be the extension of the coach on the floor, and therefore it makes sense that you're a natural to make that transition," he replied. "To some people, that's true, but I think it oversimplifies it.
"Perhaps it prepares you a little bit better, maybe as a point guard you're geared in terms of thinking about five people, as opposed to just worrying about yourself and your own responsibilities. But you also have to have the other qualities: being able to interact with other people, being able to teach in an unselfish way and requiring the feedback that you need as a leader in order to motivate them properly."
Cousy didn't have any ambitions of coaching when his playing career ended. But he needed to make a living. In 1963, he was the highest-paid player in the league -- making $35,000. So becoming a coach was practical.
"People ask me why I left the game prematurely," Cousy said. "If I had been earning what Michael Jordan earned in his last year [$33.1 million in 1997-98 with the Bulls before his Wizards comeback], I would've been playing until they carried me off on a stretcher. ... I was trying to leave the game as close to on top of it as I could, not waiting until people thought of me as over the hill or a loser. I quit on a championship team having a pretty good year."
When Cousy took over at Boston College, he stepped into the job without any preparation. In his first season at the helm, the Eagles went 10-11. But they turned it around from there, going 94-27 over the next five seasons.
"You're in a little better control of your destiny because even in those days, recruiting had a lot to do with it," Cousy said. "You had to be pretty bad as a coach not to do well. The first year was a disaster, but I enjoyed that experience because it was hands-on and I could control my own destiny. I enjoyed looking into the faces of really enthusiastic kids who seemed so anxious to learn and it was gratifying for me as their teacher. Every kid that I recruited in six years ended up graduating, and that's meaningful."
As for the pros, Cousy said, "You don't get that same sense of accomplishment because frankly your fate is determined by the so-called players you have. If you don't have competitive players, it doesn't matter how good a coach you are, you're not gonna do well. I didn't get the same enthusiasm from my players on the professional level and didn't get the same success."
During his NBA coaching career -- which included a brief 34-minute stint as a player-coach (at age 41) in 1969-70 as part of a promotional ploy in Cincinnati -- Cousy went 141-209, never finishing with a winning record. He took Kansas City-Omaha to the playoffs in 1972-73, but the team lost in the first round.
"I always wanted to win so badly," Cousy said. "I always hear announcers say 'Boy [that coach] really looks like he wants to win.' And I just sit back and say, 'Geez, which one of them doesn't want to win?'"
Cousy said he never had a problem getting through to his star players.
"We had Oscar [Robertson], but he was at the end of his career, and then we traded him, and then I had Nate 'Tiny' Archibald, who was our big coup and Tiny and I got along famously. We had similar backgrounds, were both 'ghetto kids' and we wanted to win very badly. He and I were always on the same page."
While Cousy's win-loss record may not indicate it, he feels he did the best he could given the rosters he had.
"We did about as well as we were expected to," Cousy said. "We didn't overachieve or underachieve. As a coach, you pretty much know if you've gotten as much out of your unit as you can. That's basically what it's about."