The first thing Jameer Nelson wanted to say, he appreciated that he was given the opportunity to make his case to be the next head coach at St. Joseph’s University.
“Because St. Joe’s holds a special place in my heart,’’ Nelson said over the phone on Thursday. “It’s bigger than basketball.”
He believes he was given a fair shot at getting the job, Nelson said, interviewing with university president Mark C. Reed and athletic director Jill Bodensteiner.
“I did have an honest interview, and a follow-up face-to-face last night,’’ Nelson said. “So I definitely was given the opportunity to interview. I was told that I did a good job. What it came down to, some of the other guys just had more coaching experience. I get it. I definitely get it.”
Sixers assistant Billy Lange got the job, formally announced by the school Thursday. By Friday, Nelson had confirmed his son, Jameer Nelson Jr., had decommited from dad’s alma mater.
Nelson, who had played in the NBA from 2004-18, made clear he thought his own experiences had prepared him for the head job.
“Guys obviously coach with uniforms on, and with suits on,’’ Nelson said. “I was one of the guys who coached while I was playing, at the highest level.”
The process at his alma mater, he said, was a good one, “a good learning experience. I know the community was behind this 1,000 percent. Whether it was AAU programs, people were behind me. That makes me feel good.”
Is there any chance he could end up on the Hawks’ coaching staff as an assistant?
“That question was asked of me,’’ Nelson said. “At this point, I’m not ready to answer that question, to be honest. I’m trying to take all the emotions out of it.”
That part, Nelson acknowledged, isn’t easy. He purposefully went radio silent until now after Phil Martelli was let go last week as Hawks coach.
“I had a lot of emotions going through my body,’’ Nelson said. “The love I have for Phil — it’s family. Just the things we have accomplished, and we’ve established, it’s bigger than basketball. No matter what happens, we can talk. He’s part of my family."
About the university’s decision to part ways with Martelli, “I also understand it’s a business. The university made a decision. You ultimately take the job as a coach knowing there’s a possibility you’re going to get fired. I’m a realist.”
But, he added, “I was emotional about it, even when the conversations started with me entertaining the idea of being the next coach. I was sensitive about my relationship with Phil.”
Thursday, Nelson posted a tweet for the first time in six days, putting up a photo of a screenshot with the words, “The best math you can learn is how to calculate the future cost of current decisions.”
“I mean, if you look at the tweet, it wasn’t an emotional tweet,’’ Nelson said. “It was the truth. It’s not necessarily about this job. It’s not this job. It’s life. If you look at my Twitter [feed], tweets and things I’ve retweeted … we can have conversations, but sometimes you just have to sum it up.”
Nelson immediately added about Lange: “I know Billy. I know his family well. No hard feelings there.”
“I’m not bitter or anything like that,’’ Nelson then said. “But because I wanted it, I am disappointed.”
Talking over the phone Thursday afternoon, Bodensteiner said she wasn’t going to discuss specifics about interviews with any candidate.
“I will say, I don’t do courtesy interviews with anybody," she said. "I will say, from the minute I took this position, it’s became clear, Jameer the man, the human being, exceeds even Jameer the basketball player. I can’t say enough about Jameer Nelson. What he’s done for St. Joe’s University — he is and should be part and parcel of what it means to be the St. Joseph’s University Hawks.”
Nelson obviously knows he has other potential coaching opportunities, including at the NBA level.
Also, there is the matter of Jameer Jr., a senior at the Haverford School. Asked Thursday if his son’s commitment to St. Joe’s would hold, Nelson said that was an open question, his son’s choice. By Friday, the question was answered.