Hello Brooklyn! Goodbye Avery!: Reactionary Nets fire Johnson amidst disastrous December
The Eastern Conference’s Coach of the Month in November couldn’t stay employed until the new year.
Avery Johnson, who spent the summer relishing the pressure and expectations that accompanied the Nets’ $300-million-plus revamped roster, became the first casualty of Brooklyn basketball’s new “Do or Die!” attitude Thursday afternoon as the team announced he had been relieved of his duties.
The stunning move, doubtlessly spurred by the Nets’ brutal 3-10 performance in December after an 11-4 start that had many picking them as a legitimate Atlantic Division contender, comes a week after $100 million point guard Deron Williams cited his inability to function effectively in Johnson’s offense.
A reactionary tweet by CEO Brett Yormark after a humbling Christmas Day home loss to Boston certainly didn’t help matters any, nor did forward Gerald Wallace’s accusations that his teammates weren’t responding well to adversity during the December slide.
General manager Billy King, who re-signed Wallace, center Brook Lopez and Williams, as well as bringing in All-Star shooting guard Joe Johnson to form what he himself proclaimed “the best backcourt in the NBA”, is doubtlessly in the market for a new long-term coaching solution.
Jerry Sloane, anyone?
How about Phil Jackson?
Let the rumors begin!
Though he has yet to name a new coach, King has slapped the interim tag on assistant P.J. Carlesimo, who has a 204-296 regular-season record with Portland (1994-97), Golden State (1997-2000) and Oklahoma City (2007-09), respectively.
Perhaps best known for his infamous “choking” incident with former Warriors forward Latrell Sprewell in 1997, as well as guiding Seton Hall to the 1989 NCAA Final, the coaching sage is expected to be replaced himself once the Nets find a permanent coach.
Johnson, who compiled an ugly 60-116 mark during two-plus seasons with the Nets after a comparatively successful stint in Dallas that was highlighted by a 2006 NBA Finals appearance, was adamant that he wouldn’t blink under the bright lights of bringing a major pro sports franchise back to our fair borough.
“Expectations are a lot higher,” the raspy-voiced “Little General” proclaimed in the weeks leading up to the Nets’ historic season-opening win over Toronto on Nov. 3. “This is what we want. This is what we sign up for.”
The man who hit the NBA title-clinching shot for San Antonio in Game 5 of the 1999 NBA Finals at Madison Square Garden couldn’t have known he’d signed up for this.
The Nets’ fantastic start, followed by an unexpectedly deflating second month at the brand new Barclays Center, left Brooklyn with a 14-14 record. That’s only eight victories shy of their total from last year’s lockout-shortened campaign, but apparently not impressive enough to give Johnson the opportunity to right the ship against Eastern Conference bottom-feeders Charlotte and Cleveland this weekend on the corners of Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues.
“The Nets ownership would like to express thanks to Avery for his efforts and to wish him every success in the future,” said Prokhorov in a team press release.
With Johnson gone, the emphasis for Brooklyn to win now has grown even greater.
Williams, who sat out what turned out to be Johnson’s coaching swan song with the Nets — a 108-93 loss in Milwaukee Wednesday night — with a sprained wrist, is now on the hook to get his game going as well as precipitating a winning spirit and greater resliency from his struggling teammates.
If the Nets can’t recapture the winning form they displayed in November, it will be Williams and King, long thought of as the NBA’s Executive of the Year-in-waiting, who will have to answer to Prokhorov.
The Russian billionaire and former presidential candidate has apparently lost his patience with the franchise’s rebuilding effort, and wants results now rather than waiting for a newly designed roster to find its own groove during the 82-game grind of an NBA season.
In less than a month, we went from Hello Brooklyn! to Goodbye Avery!
Coach, we hardly knew ya.
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