Not too many people choose to remember the way Jason Kidd arrived as head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks. The Bucks had a coach by the name of Larry Drew when they traded with the Brooklyn Nets for Kidd. It was one of the most underhanded moves of all time, and nobody in Milwaukee seemed to care because the Bucks were coming off an atrocious season.

Yet here we are, a team hovering around .500 so far this season and a coach that is being talked about as the early favorite for coach of the year. The young, inexperienced Bucks squad is overachieving and it is hard to point to any acquisition other than Kidd. Yes, while Jabari Parker was playing he was considered the favorite for rookie of the year, but that ended when he tore his ACL. Frankly, Parker was playing fine for a rookie but he wasn’t exactly lighting it up at both ends of the court. Giannis Antetokounmpo has certainly continued his upward trend after a promising rookie campaign last year, while journeymen Chris Dudley and Zaza Pachulia perform solidly whether starting or coming off the bench. Still, you look at the Bucks’ roster and notice a serious lack of star-power. Could you consider Brandon Knight a star? No. What about O.J. Mayo? Definitely not. So what is making this team click?

One can’t help but wonder if Kidd is intentionally razzing his team by saying that their goal every game is simply to get better. Has Kidd finally unlocked the secret to getting a team to play as an actual team rather than a conglomerate of players? The notion is odd because Kidd never played on a team that was lacking an identity. In his early years he led the (at the time) New Jersey Nets to the finals along with Richard Jefferson and Kenyon Martin. He then teamed with Dirk Nowitzki in Dallas later in his career. Kidd coached one year at Brooklyn prior to being traded, and he led a team leaden with aging superstars to a largely disappointing playoff exit.

Basketball is not like football or baseball where head coaches and managers hardly matter as much as everybody thinks they do, not when Phil Jackson, Pat Riley, and Gregg Popovich have as many rings as they do. For years the city of Milwaukee was burdened with assistant coaches masquerading as head coaches. From Terry Porter to Terry Stotts to Larry Krystkowiak, the Bucks franchise simply did not have the coaches to hang with the rest of the league. Players would openly disrespect coaches who they knew had no business running a team. The atmosphere that this created could hardly be described as a winning one.

Jason Kidd’s history as a star player demands respect, but it does not earn him respect. How many times have we seen players choose a coaching role as their profession, only to fizzle out when they realize that teaching is far more difficult than performing. Yet we do not see players ignoring Kidd, we see players listening to him. The overweight O.J. Mayo from last year is gone and in his place has stepped a serviceable role player. Antentokounmpo is no longer running around the court in a frenzied swirl, but instead playing with controlled chaos. Brandon Knight is not throwing up quite as many ill-advised 20-foot two-pointers, even though that number is still a tad high.

Gone are the days when Brandon Jennings and Stephen Jackson would stand in the locker room, clearly viewing the game differently than the rest of the team. There is no guy like Jennings rushing to see the box score because he wants to see what kind of numbers he put up. Still fighting for the Bucks are the guys like Ersan Ilyasova, who sits in his locker with ice packs around both knees after every game, speaking little and saying even less, not caring one lick what the box score reads.

Now it is time to prove their staying power. If the Bucks keep at their current pace they will be a playoff team. While nobody expects this team to go into Cleveland and dump Lebron on his backside, wouldn’t that be fun to watch? That will only be possible if Kidd keeps this team heading in the right direction. If he does that, he will win the coach of the year award.