On December 26th the Brooklyn Nets head coach Avery Johnson was named Eastern Conference Coach of November. Then the very next day the Nets General Manager Billy King had a press conference to announce the decision to fire Avery Johnson. King said “the search for a new head coach will begin immediately.” In the meantime assistant coach P.J. Carlisemo has stepped up as interim head coach.
At the end of November the Nets were 11-4, which is the best start in their franchise history. Then in December the Nets only won 3 of their 13 games. King said, “I just got a sense, as I told Avery this morning (Thursday morning), that he just wasn’t reaching them anymore.” Then the principle owner Mikhail Prokhorov added, “The Nets ownership would like to express thanks to Avery for his efforts and to wish him every success in the future.”
Coach Johnson was in the last year of his three-year, $12 million contract and was not expecting to be fired. Johnson said, “You never think when you’re a .500 team and then you’re going into two more home games at home that something like this would happen. But this is ownership’s decision, and this is what we sign up for. This is part of our business. Fair or unfair, it doesn’t matter. But again, it’s time for a new voice, and hopefully they’ll get back on track.”
I don’t feel this was a fair decision at all but that is life and sometimes ownership feels they need to make big changes when their team goes through a slump. I feel they should have given it just a little more time and I bet they would have seen a turn around. If the team was doing good in the first month of the season and not so great the second month you would think ownership would wait maybe a couple more weeks or another month and see how things go. But truth is I am sure there is more to the story that others will not know.
Over the summer the Nets re-signed their top player Deron Williams. This season Williams has not been playing to the best of his ability with a shooting percentage of only 39.8. ESPN.com Mike Mazzeo stated that Williams “criticized Johnson’s isolation-heavy offensive system, saying he felt uncomfortable.” Could this have something to do with why Johnson was fired? The organization claims that is unfair and not true. King said, “To pinpoint this all on Deron is not fair. He was not the deciding factor in this decision. It was something in talking with ownership we didn’t like the direction we were going.” Even Johnson disagreed with the assumption that Williams had anything to do with the decision. Johnson said, “I don’t think it’s fair for anybody to hang this on Deron. He’s one player. We have 15 players, and it’s up to the coach to really maximize the team. But at the end of the day, ownership, they’re the ones that own the team. We just went through a bad stretch, a bad spell, we couldn’t make a shot. But I always thought we were gonna get it turned around, knowing full well that we weren’t necessarily finished with (assembling) this roster.”
Knowing the blame was coming, Williams denied any bad conversations ever happened with Johnson.
“First of all, I have not had one conversation with (King) about not being happy with Avery, wanting him gone, etc. It’s not my fault. But as soon as I heard the news, I knew what was coming,” Williams said. “I knew folks would blame me, would assume that its history repeating itself because of what was said about coach Sloan and me after he resigned. The last thing I would want to do is get coach Johnson fired. Any coach, for that matter. Coach Johnson is a big reason why I came back to the Nets this summer, along with Billy. I enjoyed playing for him last year. We never had an argument or a fight. We never got into it, on or off the court. I don’t even know why people would assume that.”
This being the second time the blame of a coach leaving was placed on Williams really gets you thinking. Was Williams apart of this? Or was he just in the wrong place at the wrong time? Is Williams struggles a result of the new arena, Johnson’s coaching strategy, or something entirely different? Either way what is done is done. I don’t believe it was fair, but it was not up to me. I like Avery Johnson and believe he is a good coach. I wish Johnson the best and hope to see him back in a coaching position soon.