Avery's All-Access Networking Yields Carlesimo, Elie
December 7, 2011
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.—Tuesday at the PNY Center, NETS coach Avery Johnson announced P.J. Carlesimo and Mario Elie would be joining his bench as assistants. The pair spoke with media about how they came to the NETS, and their outlook for the upcoming season.
While Avery Johnson’s official title is “Head Coach,” he should be awarded an honorary one as “Master Networker.” With openings on the Nets' staff following the departures of assistants
“Sometimes it’s about compatability and coachability,” Johnson explained. “It’s about chemistry amongst the coaching staff, as well as chemistry amongst the players, and with us coming here last year, we had to evaluate everything – not just talent on the floor, but we had to evaluate every department.”
Johnson hopes that this staff will provide continuity moving forward, and both assistants have strong ties to Johnson. Carlesimo coached against Johnson the player, and worked as an assistant under Gregg Popovich (2002-07), who coached Johnson when the “Little General” was playing for the Warriors and Spurs. Elie, who won two championships playing with the Rockets (1994-95), picked up a third alongside Johnson and under Popovich on the Spurs in 1999.
Three-time head coach Carlesimo offers vast NBA experience, having coached there since leaving Seton Hall in 1994 to assume the top spot in Portland (‘94-97). Moving from there to Golden State (‘97-00),
“I think what Avery’s asked me to do is sit in the chair next to him and watch a game the same way you would watch it when you were the coach and tell him what you see,” Carlesimo said. “Having sat in both seats now, for a long time, I think that’s a plus. Even going back to when I was at the Hall, I liked to have assistants who had been head coaches, because it’s a little bit different. Sometimes it’s easy to just rattle off suggestions: ‘Why don’t we do this? Why don’t we do that?’ if you’ve sat in the other chair, there’s a lot of implications to suggestions, and there’s a timing – you can overload it.”
Elie’s role will involve focusing on the guards and handling the scouts, helping to prepare the game plan. The New York City native, drafted No. 160 overall in 1985, didn’t make it to the NBA until 1990, when he kicked off an 11-year career in which he averaged 8.6 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.6 assists in 732 regular season games with Golden State, Philadelphia, Portland, Houston, San Antonio and Phoenix.
After a few years away from the game, Elie joined the Spurs staff in 2003, staying a season before spending two with the Warriors (’04-06), the Mavericks (‘07-09) and the Kings (’09-11). He credits Popovich,
“I wasn’t a guy who really was the most talented guy on the team but I always guarded the best guy every night whatever team I was on,” Elie said. “I really had to prepare, watch film and I always knew when I was going to go in the game I was going to guard a certain player.”
Both assistants cited their relationships and coversations with Johnson as catalysts for their move to the Nets, adding that the roster, its potential for improvement and the team’s pending move to Brooklyn all helped to seal the deal. Carlesimo feels most familiar with center Brook Lopez, whom he said the Thunder strongly considered during the 2008 NBA Draft, Carlesimo’s last as head coach. Elie said that with Lopez and point guard Deron Williams, the Nets are set at the two positions you’d want to build a franchise around.
Yet with all the attention focused on the future, Carlesimo’s past is tied to the area. Despite a lengthy career on the West Coast, he still considers New Jersey – where much of his family remains – to be “home.” He joked that Johnson has assigned him restaurant recommendation duty, all built off a networking opportunity.
“We had a conversation a couple of years ago,” Carlesimo said. “‘If the opportunity was ever there, would I be interested?’ Of course, I said, ‘Yes.’ At that time, I never dreamt it would be here. I think that was significant. My like or respect for the Nets goes way, way back – to Teaneck, the Island Garden, the Nassau Coliseum, the Meadowlands and the whole spectrum. For me, it was a home run. I get a chance to work with Avery, I like Billy (King) a whole lot and respect him. Getting to work here is a big plus.”
VIDEO – Mario Elie Interview