He was the first Mexican-born player drafted into the NBA… And, now Eduardo Najera has achieved another milestone: becoming the first Mexican-born head coach in the NBA.
The 36-year-old Mexican-born former power forward has accepted an offer to serve as the head coach and part owner of the D-League Texas Legends.
In addition he’ll join Dallas Mavericks’ president of basketball operations and Legends co-owner Donnie Nelson as a key decision-maker in personnel matters.
“Eddie will be my right hand, and he’ll be assisting me in all major decisions with the Mavericks,” Nelson said Friday at Najera’s introductory news conference. “He’ll be in draft rooms and he’ll be not only selecting players with the Texas Legends, but he’ll get in involved with all the major decisions with the Dallas Mavericks as well.”
Najera spent the first four seasons of his 12-year career with Dallas as well as the 2009-10 season under coach Rick Carlisle. He finished his career with the Charlotte Bobcats under Larry Brown, who is also now in Dallas as head coach at Southern Methodist University.
Najera—who lives with his family in Frisco, where the Legends play—says it makes perfect sense to jump into a leadership role at the two organizations. And he plans for a more vocal and hands-on approach, at least initially, as Legends coach.
“Obviously it’s a great opportunity. Donnie has done a great job with the Mavericks, and to be close to him and learning about the business side is going to be an adventure,” said Najera. “I believe that it’s a great opportunity, and more so than having an opinion, I think I’m just going to be listening to everything that is going to be going on. I’m going to be a sponge and try to learn everything that he’s throwing out at me.”
The decision to join the Mavericks and Legends on multiple levels also comes with a lofty ulterior motive for Najera: to gain sufficient experience to one day help bring an NBA team to his home country.
“I truly believe that in the ’90s, Mexico was already prepared to have a pro team, and now that I’ve gotten to know important people, politicians, it just kind of clicked,” said Najera. “I don’t want to talk about this a whole lot, but the country kind of has that bad reputation right now, but I believe that with the new change (in Mexico’s presidency) coming up, it’s going to open up that door again to eventually have an NBA franchise, of course, in Mexico.
“I’m talking about five, 10, 20 years, but it will be something that I would like to support. That’s the reason this makes perfect sense being part-owner of the Legends, being the head coach, working closely with Donnie with the Mavericks. It’s sort of a great plan, and basically I can get the experience, and so when I go down to my friends, I can say, hey, this is the way you do things, and hopefully they can buy the idea and hopefully they can make it happen.”