Coach of the Year
Mavericks won 60 games, tying the franchise high set in 2002-03 ... Won 13 straight games from 1/14 - 2/9 ... Won seven straight games from 11/11-25 ... Ranked ninth in the NBA in scoring (99.14 ppg) and seventh in scoring defense (93.07) ... Ranked third in the league in rebounding differential (+3.86).
Everyone seems to be impressed with the Mavericks' 60-win season in which Dallas played with a defensive intensity that no one expected they could have, given their offensive-minded identity in years past. Yet seventh-ranked defense and all, Johnson seems unimpressed. And that's why you get the feeling that, even if it's not the Mavericks year this season to emerge out of the West, they eventually will. "The Little General" keeps pushing for perfection. In a Sporting News article, he recently "sneered" when point guard Jason Terry claimed they were ready for a title run. You've got to believe Johnson, who as a player experienced championship glory, and has first-hand knowledge of what it takes to win in the postseason. Johnson mentioned one of the elements the Mavericks may be missing, too: "I have been waiting 79 games to get some internal leadership. I haven't gotten it yet." Sounds like a coach who has a recipe for success.
-- Brad Friedman
From one of his players:
||He's not just won a championship, but been a big part of one. He knows what it takes to win. You just want to listen to the message.
-- Adrian Griffin, Dallas Morning News.
A fan's take:
AJ does not allow his team to settle for less or believe that they have accomplished anything. He does not allow his players or the media to make excuses about injuries or schedule. He has instilled confidence in his players until they believe that they are the best team in the NBA. Johnson is not afraid to sit players when they don't hustle. He is somehow squeezing improved defensive performance out of historically offensive players without bringing in a defensive ringer. It would have been easy for him to just coast and rest players for the playoffs (which fans complain about every year) but he gives off the feeling that he will not let up on his team until they win a championship. He has done it all while creatively and continually altering his starting roster and bench minutes to cope with injury throughout the year.
-- Karl - Fayetteville, Ark.
Coach of the Year - The Candidates:
Mike D'Antoni - Phoenix Suns
Mike Dunleavy Sr. - Los Angeles Clippers
Avery Johnson - Dallas Mavericks
Gregg Popovich - San Antonio Spurs
Flip Saunders - Detroit Pistons
Others worth consideration: Mike Brown, Rick Carlisle, Lawrence Frank, Mike Fratello, Pat Riley, Byron Scott
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