We have only just passed the Christmas break and the Brooklyn Nets have decided to go in a different direction in the new year. After winning the Coach of the Month Award for November (and the first game of October) having led the new look franchise to an 11-4 start, things took a different turn throughout December. First there was the injury to Brook Lopez and the team went 2-5 in his absence, then he returned and the Nets went 2-5 again. It appears that the Nets are placing a LOT of importance on winning and competing with New York because Avery has a record this season of 14-14, not even a losing record, and it was still not enough to keep a head coaching job.
I think the writing on the wall not only started with the losing streak, I think that the silent coach killer Deron Williams may have really sealed the fate of Coach Avery when he was interviewed a week or so ago in the midst of a form slump. He made mention that he was not very used to or comfortable with such an isolation based offense. He noted that this may have contributed to the reason he is having his worst statistical season of his career and may not have been as successful as he should be when he left the pick and roll offense of Utah and Jerry Sloan. He did mention that it was a work in progress and that he would “learn to be effective” in the new offense but once I read those comments it did occur to me that he either may ask for a trade, or the franchise might shake things up. I thought things would have to be well below .500 for that to happen though – obviously not. Avery decided to scrap nearly half of his offense after those statements and that was a sign that he not only didn’t trust himself as much any more, but he may have lost the confidence of some players and management.
The message coming from the Nets is that their goal is conference finals and that the current losing streak wasn’t heading in that direction. Avery Johnson was in the last year of his 3 year contract but many thought the start to this season was quite good and that he would be up for renewal, not rejection. The decision was announced by GM Billy King who had said that himself and Avery had sat down and tried to work out why sub par performances kept happening and that they couldn’t put their finger on it. Ultimately though, the Russian owner Mikhail Prokhorov who started the year having faith in Johnson, decided that he no longer had the same faith and would let him go. 3-10 with a couple of really big blowouts against arch rivals New York and just recently against Milwaukee that had the Nets CEO on twitter expressing his disappointment was not what the Russian wanted to see after spending close to $330million in the off season.
In the interim, PJ Carlesimo will coach the Nets until a replacement is found. Having had a wealth of head coaching experience in his career, PJ might actually hold down the job if he can right the ship and get some big wins. They need to start not only winning games and looking competitive again, but they need to beat good teams, teams with winning records which is a feat they haven’t been able to manage recently. Billy King said that he wanted to see PJ around for the “next 10 years” and that “he is the coach until otherwise stated” but we all know how that works. Avery was the coach until yesterday and he had a contract! With so many coaches out there right now, it would be hard to see PJ keeping the head coaching job and removing the interim tag. Names include Mike Brown, Phil Jackson, Jerry Sloan (although I highly doubt a Sloan-DWill reunion!) and of course Brian Shaw who I think may be the pick of the bunch if they can lure him and make it work.
What are your thoughts on the firing of Avery Johnson? Can we land the blame squarely on him? Is a 14-14 record enough to get you fired for these days? Who do you think may take control of the new-look Nets? At what point are the players held accountable? They haven’t been playing well or shooting well and that can’t all be because of the offense…….