A First For The D-League
With all the focus media and fans place on stars, it's sometimes hard to remember that a player can have a long, well-paying NBA career based on more workmanlike skills like rebounding, playing defense, and generally acting as the connective tissue between the guys who get a lot more publicity. Over 12 seasons with six teams (plus a second stint with the Dallas Mavericks), forward Eduardo Najera played that role very well and marked himself out as a dependable member of any team, whether as a tough reserve or a valued member of the locker room.
Najera retired on Wednesday, but he did so with a new job already lined up. As announced by Donnie Nelson, owner of the D-League's Texas Legends and Mavericks general manager, Najera will become the head coach and a minority owner of the Legends, as well as hold a front-office position with the Mavs. In doing so, he'll also make NBA history. From HOOPSWORLD:
The Texas Legends have named Eduardo Najera the first Mexican-born head coach under the NBA umbrella, pending NBA approval. Najera becomes the third head coach in Legends history, following former NBA Coach of the Year Del Harris, and basketball Hall-of-Famer Nancy Lieberman.
Subject to NBA approval, Najera will also be a minority owner of the Legends, as well as hold a front office position with the Mavericks. Najera's NBA career began with the Mavericks in 2000, after he became the first Mexican-born player to be drafted in NBA history.
"I have the utmost respect for Eddie," commented Legends Owner Donnie Nelson. "The work ethic he exhibited as a player, and his knowledge of the NBA game will serve him well in his role as Head Coach of the Legends. Whether coaching a rookie, or an NBA veteran, Coach Najera will have valuable insight for all of our players. I am equally excited to begin working with Eddie in a front office capacity with the Mavericks as he learns the management side of the game. I am proud to be able to call Eddie an ownership partner with the Legends."
Najera deserves this job on the merits — he built a relationship with Dallas over time and has proven a strong understanding of the sport over his long career. But the importance of his background cannot go unmentioned. While soccer continues to be the most popular sport in Mexico by a wide margin, Najera is extremely popular and has consistently ranked among the NBA's top 10 endorsers worldwide. Having him at the helm of a team in Texas (and tied to the Mavericks) will be very good for business. He's the kind of asset a franchise would like to keep around long-term.
Of course, this isn't just a business issue. Najera was already a legitimate trailblazer — he was the first Mexican selected in the draft and has easily had the most successful career of the three Mexican-born players in NBA history. Now that he's a coach, he can create new paths for minorities in basketball.