Luhm: Stockton's ex-roommate takes reins in Sacramento
In his second go-around as a young player trying to stick with the Utah Jazz, Kenny Natt found himself rooming with the team's No. 1 draft pick.
Twenty-four years later, Natt laughs at the memory of John Stockton nervously questioning his chances of making a team already quarterbacked by All-Star Rickey Green.
"John, he didn't think he'd stick in the league," Natt said. "But I told him, 'Don't worry. It's just a matter of time before you take over for Rickey.' John didn't think so -- not then. But I could tell. He was such a special talent."
Natt was right.
Stockton spent 19 seasons with the Jazz and, next year, will likely become a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
Natt's career wasn't quite as accomplished.
He played 26 games with the Jazz during parts of two seasons, scoring a total of 91 points and handing out 28 assists -- only 15,778 fewer than Stockton.
After his retirement, however, Natt remained in basketball as a scout, assistant coach and -- since Monday -- a head coach.
When Reggie Theus was fired after the Sacramento Kings' 6-18 start, management turned to Natt, the low-key assistant who also spent nine years on Jerry Sloan's staff in Utah.
"Obviously, they weren't happy with the progress and growth of the team," Natt said. "We're going to try to develop the young guys and, at the same time, win some games. That's a tough task. But that's what we'll try to do."
Natt gets little satisfaction out of replacing Theus, but he relishes the opportunity to captain his own ship after more than a decade as an NBA assistant.
"Hey, Reggie brought me here," Natt said. "But I'm like a lot of assistants. This has been a long time in coming."
Natt doesn't have any grand illusions. He was named the Kings' interim head coach. As such, he could be in charge for another day, another month, the rest of the season or another 10 years.
No matter how long his tenure lasts, however, Natt plans to do things his way.
"My main interest is teaching the young guys - - --- developing them as basketball players and responsible people," he said. "You know where I'm from. I'm from the school of discipline.
"Reggie let guys freelance a little bit and those are bad habits, especially for young guys. It just wasn't good. But now it's in my hands and we're going to do some things differently."
If Kings start looking a little like the Jazz, it won't be a coincidence.
"In Utah, I learned it was important how you tie your shoestrings and that you're expected to be on time for meetings," Natt said. "That's what we want from our young players. It's like what you want with your own kids. You want them to be good, responsible people.
"In the long run, that approach will pay dividends. Whether I end up coaching here the rest of the year or beyond, I don't know. But I'm not focused on that. I'm focused on making our players better and trying to win some games."
Sloan was in Boston when he heard Natt had been promoted in Sacramento.
He called his former assistant.
"You know Jerry," Natt said. "He didn't say much. Just, 'Kenny, I don't know what to tell you, except be yourself.' And I said, 'Yeah, coach. You're right. That's all I can be.' I am who I am."
For now, Kenny Natt is a head coach in the NBA.
Stockton is probably smiling.