Posted December 27, 2012

Nets fire Johnson after 14-14 start

Avery Johnson, Ben Golliver, Billy King, Brooklyn Nets, Deron Williams, Mikhail Prokhorov
avery-johnson-nets

After a strong start to the season, Avery Johnson’s Nets have struggled in December. (Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

By Ben Golliver

The Nets fired coach Avery Johnson on Thursday after a 14-14 start with a payroll of more than $80 million in the franchise’s much-anticipated first season in Brooklyn.

Johnson, hired in June 2010, was in the final year of a three-year, $12 million contract. The firing was first reported by Yahoo! Sports, which also reported that Nets assistant coach P.J. Carlesimo will step in as interim coach.

Nets GM Billy King told reporters in a Thursday press conference that the final call to fire Johnson was made by ownership. King also stated that he felt the Nets were not playing with the “same fire” that they showed earlier in the season and that Johnson wasn’t connecting with the players in his locker room.

“I just got a sense, as I told Avery this morning, that he just wasn’t reaching them any more,” King said. “It happens in sports, especially at the professional level.”

King confirmed that Carlesimo will serve as interim coach and didn’t set a firm timeline on his coaching search.

“P.J. will be the interim coach at this time,” he said. “Will we look other places? We may, but at this time P.J. is our interim head coach. He’ll be coaching [Friday against the Bobcats]. The remaining staff will stay with him.”

[Potential replacements for Avery Johnson]

Johnson becomes the second NBA coach fired this season. The Lakers fired Mike Brown in November just five games into the season.

The coaching change comes just days after struggling All-Star point guard Deron Williams criticized Johnson’s offensive system, yearning for the good old days of the “flex” under former Jazz coach Jerry Sloan.

“That system was a great system for my style of play,” Williams said of the “flex” offense run by Utah Coach Jerry Sloan. “I’m a system player. I love Coach Sloan’s system. I loved the offense there.”

Williams did nothing to discourage that interpretation when he was asked to compare the offense used by the Nets with the one he ran in Utah. “Is it as good as there? No,” he said. “There’s just more one-on-one and isos” in Johnson’s offense.

Williams, of course, was seen as one of the primary reasons Sloan abruptly resigned in 2011, as player and coach reportedly had a locker-room disagreement shortly before Sloan stepped away from the game.

King defended Williams from accusations that he was responsible for Johnson’s firing.

“To pinpoint this on Deron, it’s not fair,” King said during his press conference. “He was not the deciding [person] in this decision. In talking with ownership we felt like we didn’t like the direction that we were going.”

In addition to Williams’ comments, other cracks were starting to show. The Nets fell to .500 after blowout losses to the Celtics at home on Christmas and to the Bucks on Wednesday in Milwaukee. Brooklyn is just 3-10 in December after an 11-4 start that earned Johnson Coach of the Month honors for October/November.

Nets forward Gerald Wallace vented after the loss to Milwaukee, the New York Post reported.

“We’re a way better team than what our record is,” Gerald Wallace said. “I’m [bleeping ticked] off about us losing, and especially the way we’re losing.”

“It’s mind-boggling that we’re in the situation we’re in,” Wallace said. “As good of a team as we are, as good as started off … you saw the potential we had as a team, and the talent we have as a team. And yet, still, instead of team, it’s more of ‘I.’ ”

The disappointment was apparently shared in the locker room and at the executive levels. Nets CEO Brett Yormark, for example, expressed frustration on Twitter after the Christmas loss to the Celtics.

“Nets fans deserved better today,” Yormark tweeted. “The entire organization needs to work harder to find the solution. We will get there.”

The New York Daily News reported that Yormark didn’t intend for his comments to be read as a shot at Johnson.

Yormark had the Nets PR department clarify that the comments were directed at the organization across the board, from in-arena issues to on-court issues. The CEO also reached out to head coach Avery Johnson to make it clear it was not a shot at him. Before Wednesday night’s game in Milwaukee, Johnson said it’s not a surprise.

“It’s the same thing I’ve been saying all along: we all have to get better, we have to improve. It’s gonna be a dogfight all year, nothing’s going to be easy. We’ve got to take the good with the bad. Now is not the time to really analyze what’s happened for us this year, because we haven’t even gotten to the halfway point and we haven’t played a full season with this roster,” Johnson said. “But I think I agree: we all have to get better. Billy and I talk about it all the time; we’re not where we want to be, but I don’t think we are where we’re going, either. I think we still have great potential, but once we get everyone back in the fold, and figure out what’s the next step, I think we’ll be in good shape.”

Indeed, the Nets’ move from New Jersey to Brooklyn this season, not to mention significant capital investments in the roster, brought increased expectations. The New York Daily News reported the mood in early November.

This is his first year where we’ve had the right amount of talent where if we don’t make the playoffs, it could be a problem,” Deron Williams said. “I think [Johnson has] done a great job. We’re not where we need to be. And that’s not one person’s blame, it’s not his blame. It’s everybody’s blame. We’re all still trying to get better. I’m sure the contract situation will work itself out. If we start winning, everything will be just fine.”

“I said it at the beginning of the season we have a team on paper that should be good,” Williams said. Expectations are high being in Brooklyn now. Things are at an all-time high. So if we’re not winning or we’re struggling it’s going to be a big deal.”

Prokhorov, meanwhile, told Newsday in November that he expected a deep playoff run this season and more success to come quickly after that.

“With good planets’ [alignment], maybe conference finals,” the Nets’ owner and Russian billionaire said before Saturday night’s season opener against the Raptors at Barclays Center.

He has made it clear that he expects the Nets to win an NBA title within the next three seasons, keeping the same timetable that he offered up two years ago when he first made the championship goal known.

Ownership issued only a brief statement on Thursday.

“The Nets ownership would like to express thanks to Avery for his efforts and to wish him every success in the future,” Prokhorov’s statement read.

Johnson, 47, leaves the Nets with a 60-116 (.341) record in two-plus seasons. The Nets did not advance to the playoffs during his tenure. Johnson also coached the Mavericks from 2004-2008; his career coaching record stands at 254-186 (.577). Johnson also played 16 NBA seasons split among the SuperSonics, Nuggets, Spurs, Rockets, Warriors and Mavericks. He was a member of the Spurs; 1999 title team.

Carlesimo, 63, has been a head coach on three occasions: Portland (1994-1997), Golden State (1997-1999) and Seattle/Oklahoma City (2007-2009). He’s perhaps best known for his run-in with former player Latrell Sprewell, who was suspended for choking him in 1997. His career record is 204-296 (.408).

27 comments
Cool
Cool

"Star player" struggles and when asked about it he talks about it being the fault of the coach or system.  It is never about him not working harder in practice, it isn't that he lacks the fire to play at the level he has the potential to, no it is always the coach.  I would think owners would be smart enough to see that they overpaid someone who feels they dont have anything to prove anymore.

antje
antje

Hey Avery...I remember you way back at rookie tryouts for the Sonics in LA back in about 1988...you have come a long way baby - and always kept your dignity.  a. wortman

gloryrevolution
gloryrevolution

Deron Williams and Joe Johnson will never work out together. J.J. game thrived in the west-coast offense but in the east you have to play defense and J.J. cannot play both ends of the floor and be the scorer he once was under D'Antoni's system in Phoenix. Just look at what happened in Atlanta. As far as D'Will is concerned his best days are most likely behind him... Aside from being slow and too fat he's out of shape and a coach killer. Just go back to the Olympics and if you can recall, he played terrible every game. He was a non-factor on the Olympic team and I hope he is not picked for 2016 Olympic games. Go Knicks!

TheBallerGuru
TheBallerGuru

Shaking my head at all the comments about how Joe Johnson's contract is the problem here. The Nets have one of the most balanced and complimentary rosters in the NBA and that includes Johnson. There is a legitimate scoring threat at all 5 positions and 3 players with game changing scoring ability in Williams, Lopez, and Johnson. The Nets can play big or small without sacrificing scoring or defense and all of the players are unselfish and not "ball stoppers". Each one's strengths balance the others weaknesses. Johnson's contract has not limited the team in any way. They have a capable backup at all positions and can keep up with rebounding and 3 point scoring from the 2nd unit. The problem with the Nets was the offensive system and lack of teammate familiarity. Chemistry takes time to develop. Ask the Heat who everyone thought would be 74-8 in the first year of the big three. After a "feeling out period" where Johnson and D-Will had to figure out how to play together, Johnson's scoring and level of play has picked up greatly. Avery is a good coach but thought he could take advantage of each players 1-on-1 talent when this team desperately needed an offensive system with good ball movement to play in. D-Will is deservedly criticized for airing the problems in public but he was spot on correct about the lack of an offensive system that hinders the team.

FranklinGulley
FranklinGulley

my daughter lives in Brooklyn,,got me a t-shirt for xmas,,going to represent! and so will the fans,,they're going to be there,,

FranklinGulley
FranklinGulley

even up too par!!! i have no confidence in Lopez or Hump!

 

FranklinGulley
FranklinGulley

lets face up,,they don't have a center!!! The Lopez twins are a joke!! Avery can't play center!!!

Mark4
Mark4

DWill officially inherits the mantle of Coach Killa from JKidd

SukeMadiq
SukeMadiq

Signing Joe Johnson was a move that doomed this team to middle of the pack status.  He a decent player making the money of 3 or 4 decent players.  Amazing they could not learn from Atlanta's mistake.   No coach can make this team great, their big 3 just are not that 'big" except for their contracts!

Sam15
Sam15

Is PJ going to bring Latrell Sprewell out of retirement?

KrystalKimbrough
KrystalKimbrough

Avery you can't breathe life into a dead team.  You are a great coach that was given a sorry team.

map64
map64

The problem with the Nets is they got rid of the wrong Johnson. Why in the world did the Nets pick up Joe Johnson and his 120 million dollar contract. No one in the world can honestly say he is worth that much money. His contract reminds me alot of Allen Houston's with the Knicks...remember how that one turned out Knick fans :(  The signs are the same...one game 20 points, the next game 5 to 10 points. That's what you get for 120 million dollars ??!! The GM should be looking over his shoulders to see if he is next since the coach and players that we brought in we his decision!!

dinohealth
dinohealth

Williams' resume now includes victories over two of his coaches: Sloan and Johnson! What is sad is that as soon as Lopez and Humphries are up to par (one due to injury, the other, due to air space) the Nets will go on a run again. The Ruskie needs to realize that when building a contender, you will have ups and downs, no matter how much money you spend! That's NBA basketball. Shoo, it took Miami two seasons with All-World on the team, on paper! I hope Coach Johnson lands on his feet. He deserves better than what he got...ver two coaches:

mostknowing
mostknowing

johnson,you will do better when,you have better. Avery well done.see you soon.newark n.j needs a COACH.CALL SHACK.

EarlSmith
EarlSmith

Good riddings Mr. Johnson.....that slow  isolation  offense was offensive...please don't hire P.J!

 

david122
david122

A.J. is a good coach! I guess you have to blame someone! Anyhow... Go SPURS :o)

Anaximenes1
Anaximenes1

some other team will pick up this rettread with more of the same--millions in salary for bad coaching.  It never changes in the nba.

NedJohnson
NedJohnson

I agree Williams isn't to clutch.

Oh You Know!
Oh You Know!

Williams is the problem! Trying to blame the coaches always for his short comings while falling short on his own game. This player is a trouble maker and a finger pointer. Johnson never took a shot for him nor did they ever throw the ball away for him, "He did!!!" Nets do yourselves a favor and get rid of the cry baby so-called self proclaimed point guard!!!!!

RossOrion
RossOrion

it'd be funny if Phil Jackson went to the Nets.....and beat the Lakers in the finals next season

DERRICK1
DERRICK1

Johnson....go to the Lakers.....PLEEEAASSSEEE!!!!!

RobertJacke
RobertJacke

I guess its the players who still get a HC fired.........but never the players fault.........

Rickapolis
Rickapolis

Go to the Wizards. Lord knows what Washington fans would do for a 14-14 record.

SukeMadiq
SukeMadiq

 @TheBallerGuru 

Well besides Joes stupid contract, Williams is a bit of a slug, and their center does not rebound...

Anthony15
Anthony15

 @Oh You Know! You are right on the money.  Williams is an excellent player but like Boozer his running mate in Utah, they both disappear when it counts.  Great regular season players, though.

mostknowing
mostknowing

 @Rickapolis not to speak ell of derick but if he would notspeak and play some def my aplogy he is to qute to do that  the team had the best coach for that team check your team