Former NBA champ Avery Johnson fired as head coach, people unhappy

avery-johnsonRecently, former player and NBA champion Avery Johnson was fired as head coach of the Brooklyn Nets.

PJ Carlesimo took over his duties, but many expressed their regret over the fact that Johnson was fired.

Among those, who were in particular unhappy about the issue were former NBA star Gary Payton and Johnson’s own son, Avery Johnson Jr.

“Firing Avery Johnson was a bad decision, unless they got someone like Phil Jackson waiting to take over, which I doubt,” Payton said via his Twitter.

The Nets cut the elder Johnson loose after the team struggled in December, despite the fact that he was named the league’s coach of the month in November.

Soon after the news broke on Twitter, Johnson Jr., a high school junior, tweeted and retweeted a series of messages blasting the team for firing his father. His posts gained thousands of retweets combined and quickly spread throughout the online sports media world.

“My dad is great coach, he just got coach of the month and they fire him,” Johnson’s son Tweeted. “The expectations were way to high for this team. We didn’t even have a losing record…. Didn’t even give my dad a full season.”

Many speculated that Nets star Deron Williams, who has a history of clashing with coaches and is shooting under 40% this season, was the driving force behind Johnson’s firing.

Johnson Jr. appeared to take a veiled shot at Williams and retweeted another posting blaming him directly for his father’s untimely exit:

“I’m sorry are best players couldn’t make open shots. Yeah that’s my dads fault totally…”

As a player, Avery Johnson won an NBA title with the San Antonio Spurs in 1999. During his playing career, he appeared in 1054 NBA Games (637 started), averaging 8.4 points, 5.5 assists and 25.3 minutes per game.

He averaged over 13 points per game for 2 straight seasons with the Spurs in 94-95, 95-96. He also averaged a career high 9.6 assists per game during the 95-96 season.

San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is Carlesimo’s former co-worker, as the current Nets interim coach was an assistant on Popovich’s staff for five seasons. Former Nets coach Avery Johnson, though, worked with Popovich as a player in both Golden State (where Coach Pop was an assistant) and San Antonio.

Popovich, for years, heard from all sorts of critics that Johnson wasn’t swift nor sizable nor shoot-y enough to lead his talented Spurs to a title. It was Avery, though, that put the Spurs over the top in Game 5 of the NBA Finals in 1999 by hitting a pair of baseline jumpers to seal the title.

“Of course, many of us were surprised to see what happened in Brooklyn. From my perspective, Avery’s not a good coach, he’s a very good coach. He’s a hell of a coach. He’s proven that. There aren’t too many of us out there who have ever won 67 games in a season. He’s taken a team to the Finals. If my memory serves me correct, he was Coach of the Month. It sort of shows what a fickle, volatile business we’re in. We all know that. Avery knows that, too,” Popovich said, Yahoo reported.

avery-johnson-spurs“Often times, situations like that have nothing to do with the ability of the coach. It has more to do with circumstances. We’ve seen it before. I can’t help but think sometimes a little patience could go a long way,” Popovich added.

Brooklyn Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov said Friday he decided to fire Avery Johnson last week but now wants patience with interim coach P.J. Carlesimo.

A day after dismissing Johnson after 28 games, Prokhorov said he won’t rush into a coaching search, insisting he wants Carlesimo to have a chance to lead the Nets out of their slump, AP reported.

The Russian billionaire cut short a vacation to British Columbia to travel to New York, where he plans to meet Saturday with Carlesimo. But even with big names such as Phil Jackson potentially available and Prokhorov vowing to spend whatever it takes to build a championship team, he said repeatedly that Carlesimo was the head coach.

Prokhorov did say that if the Nets do look for a new coach, he would be personally involved. He wouldn’t discuss anyone by name, even joking he had never heard of Jackson, the 11-time champion coach.

“Now P.J. is the head coach and if it becomes necessary, you know who the usual suspects are,” Prokhorov told news reporters at halftime of the Nets’ game Friday, which they won 97-81 against the Charlotte Bobcats.

Johnson led the Nets to an 11-4 start, winning Eastern Conference coach of the month honors for November. But they were 3-10 in December under Johnson, had been blown out of their last two games and, Prokhorov said, were lacking team spirit.

Still, deciding Johnson would be fired last week means Prokhorov had made up his mind even before the lackluster Christmas performance at home against Boston that preceded a rout Wednesday in Milwaukee.

“I think we have very talented players but they are capable of much more than what we have seen in the recent weeks,” Prokhorov said. “I respect Avery and really I wish him well, but sometimes chemistry just isn’t right. It happens.

“I think the main question is why we were unable to bounce back and to play like champions.”

Prokhorov added around $300 million in payroll this summer and has set the expectations high, saying he believes the Nets can reach the Eastern Conference finals. Though it’s believed he wouldn’t back away from paying top dollar for a coach, he left open the possibility that he may already have the guy he wants.

“P.J. is the head coach and just I think we have a lot of trust in him and really I want him to lead the team,” Prokhorov said.


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