For Avery, Results Finally Outweigh Effort
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.—After two-plus seasons with the now-Brooklyn Nets, Avery Johnson was relieved of head coaching duties on Thursday.
It was his wife's birthday.
"I'm trying to figure out what am I going to tell her," Johnson said. "We had a dinner plan. So I've gotta figure out what's gonna happen with her when I get home. It’s not a great gift."
The business of basketball, of pro sports, of entertainment, is unsparing.
Results matter. And in this "microwave Twitter age" you can go from Eastern Conference Coach of the Month to out of a job before the next flip of the calendar.
The 11-4 peak preceded a 3-10 valley and a slew of "I don't know" answers. Lineup changes couldn't cure ills. Adding actions to the offense? Offered nothing new.
Johnson led the Nets across two rivers, into new uniforms and a new arena, but couldn't locate the right voice to speak to a team expected to compete at a higher level. It is – as Johnson said Thursday – "not necessarily fair," catching him off guard with so much of the season to go, but that is the bargain made at this level, the same one afflicting General Manager Billy King.
"It's never easy when you have to do this," King said. "Especially to someone I've gotten to know and become good friends of. It's not something that you look forward to doing, but it's part of the job, part of the title. This is the responsibility that comes with it."
The team turns now to lead assistant P.J. Carlesimo, taking his fourth turn atop an NBA coaching staff. With the support of General Manager Billy King, Carlesimo is expected to "coach it like (he's) going to be here 10 years."
Johnson didn't get through the third, and was hoping for a fourth, even as the extension he sought never came. Throughout, Johnson handled himself with dignity and class. He is the kind of coach who addresses beat writers by name, the kind of person quick to offer a smile and the kind of father sending family Christmas cards to each chimney on his contact list.
On a rough day, Johnson stuck around and stepped up to meet the media one last time in front of a Brooklyn banner. Buried amidst the instant analysis and explanations, Johnson's optimism and drive twinned in an anecdote:
"One of my friends from Texas called me to say there are a lot of great coaches in this league that are on their third and fourth coaching jobs."
After fielding the final question, Johnson thanked everyone for attending, citing several individuals and apologizing to those he forgot to mention. Johnson hoped everyone got more than they needed.
For 2 ½ years, Johnson tried his best on behalf of the Nets. By Thursday morning, that effort was no longer enough.
Read Nets News for more on the coaching change.