Sources: Eduardo Najera retiring
Eduardo Najera is retiring from the NBA to become the head coach of the NBA D-League's Texas Legends, according to sources with knowledge of the decision.
Sources told ESPN.com that Najera, although he has no significant coaching experience, has accepted the offer from Dallas Mavericks president of basketball operations and Legends co-owner Donnie Nelson to take over from Del Harris as coach of the Mavs' D-League affiliate.
Najera also will have an ownership stake in the Legends, sources say, and likewise receive a to-be-determined title working under Nelson in the Mavericks' front office. Sources say Harris, who turned 75 in June, will return to his original role as Legends general manager and also mentor Najera as the 36-year-old makes the transition to coaching.
Najera was the first Mexican-born player to be drafted by an NBA team and will become the first Mexican-born coach in either the NBA or its developmental league.
Selected by the Houston Rockets on the Mavericks' behalf with the 38th pick in the 2000 NBA draft, Najera played 12 seasons in the NBA, most recently with the Charlotte Bobcats. Najera was the first Mexican-born player to be drafted by an NBA team and will become the first Mexican-born coach in either the NBA or its developmental league.
University of Texas-Arlington alumnus Kaleb Canales, born in Laredo, became the first Mexican-American to serve as an NBA head coach when he was named interim coach of the Portland Trail Blazers, going 8-15 last season. Najera came to the United States in 1994 to play two seasons of high school ball and learn English before starring at the University of Oklahoma.
Earlier this summer, Najera had been cleared to resume his playing career after an elbow he absorbed in April from Milwaukee's Jon Brockman resulted in a fractured frontal bone that required 12 screws and a mesh screen to be inserted into Najera's forehead. But sources say Najera, after a long career that made him just the second player from Mexico to make it into the NBA (after the undrafted Horacio Llamas) and which featured two stints with the Mavericks, has decided that he wants to start his coaching career in earnest.
Sources say Harris and Najera's soon-to-be-finalized coaching staff will be charged with helping him adapt on the fly to his new job. Legends assistant coach and longtime NBA guard David Wesley recently left the organization to join the New Orleans Hornets' broadcast team and fellow Legends assistant Scott Flemming was recently named head coach of India's national team.
Najera is poised to become the third head coach in as many seasons for the ever-innovative Nelson, after Hall of Famer and longtime Dallas resident Nancy Lieberman -- who was the first female to coach a men's team under the NBA's umbrella -- and former NBA Coach of the Year Harris.
Harris has spent the past two summers as a top assistant to John Calipari with the Dominican Republic's national team, which fell just short of qualifying for the Olympics in July, while also serving as a consultant to Mavericks owner Mark Cuban after a seven-year run in Dallas as an assistant to Mavs coaches Don Nelson and Avery Johnson.
Harris also has hoped to be considered for one more NBA head-coaching position after stints with the Rockets, Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers that delivered one trip to the NBA Finals (with Houston in 1981) and an average of 55 wins in four full seasons with L.A. For now, he'll rejoin Nelson, Spud Webb, Lieberman and Malcolm Farmer in the Legends' front office.
The Legends have posted records of 24-26 in both of their D-League seasons to date. Antonio Daniels, Dan Gadzuric, Alando Tucker and Sean Williams are among the former NBA first-round draft picks whose D-League rights are held by the Frisco-based franchise, which will hold open tryouts for local players on Sept. 8 and then open training camp under Najera in mid-November.
Sources say Najera is expecting to announce his plans Wednesday in his native Mexico at a press conference in Mexico City.
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