If I were a Nets fan, I’m not sure I’d be too thrilled about the firing of head coach Avery Johnson. Brooklyn made NBA history by becoming the first team to fire its coach just a month after the guy won “Coach of the Month” honors.
Despite Deron Williams’ recent comments that he preferred playing in Jerry Sloan’s system in Utah, he still never came out to say he disliked playing for Johnson, necessarily. Though the Nets have struggled and hobbled through the final month of 2012, it’s hard to believe The Little General had completely lost control of his team.
Of course, players like to often save face in times of crucial public comment like this, but the tweets of praise for Johnson from the likes of Reggie Evans, Andray Blatche, and Anthony Morrow following the coach’s ousting appeared to be legitimate and sincere. Some expressed surprise while saying they managed to learn a lot from the coach. Opposing players like LeBron James and Kendall Marshall also took to Twitter to express their shock over the decision to let Johnson go as well.
Able to only lead the Nets to a 3-10 record thus far this month, it was clear Johnson and his team were in a complete state of free fall following the initial strong start. Brooklyn’s campaign, of course, has been clouded by an array of injuries to key players and an immense amount of pressure to succeed with a high payroll during their first Big Apple season.
Perhaps more time to help the team at full health gel on the court would have been enough for Johnson to get the Nets to turn around. Unfortunately, he won’t get that chance. General Manager Billy King asserted that the organization believed the coach was unable to properly get the players on his side anymore.
The question at hand now becomes not only will the Nets succeed without Johnson, but who will be the coach that gets the chance to help them bounce back?
For now, it’s P.J. Carlesimo, who was named interim head coach in wake of Johnson’s dismissal. Will keeping the former coach’s entire staff to move on without him be the best move? The group is sure to have Johnson’s strategies and teachings imbedded within. If a change in culture is truly desired, the new voice needs to be someone different than simply Johnson’s former second in command.
With determined ownership and management, that’s exactly what the Nets should aim to do: bring in somebody completely new. The fact of the matter is, Johnson is an extremely highly-regarded basketball mind, and a former “Coach of the Year.” By cutting his rope and removing him from office completely, Brooklyn undoubtedly has to have higher standards when it comes to reeling in whoever they deem worthy enough to take over.
The Pistons made similar headlines when in 2003, when they fired Rick Carlisle following back to back fifty win seasons and a “Coach of the Year” award to call his own. What else could a franchise want from its coach? What more could he possibly do?
Lead his team to a championship, apparently. The Pistons famously hired Larry Brown, who did indeed, coach Detroit to the 2004 NBA title. The initial decision to let Carlisle go paid off.
With that example in mind, it’s clear the Nets need to make a lot of noise with their next hire. The likes of Phil Jackson, Larry Brown, and Jerry Sloan need to be front and center in Brooklyn’s search to fill the new vacancy.
Such big names shouldn’t be highlighted because the Nets’ roster warrants such attention. In fact, it may be difficult to believe these same notable coaches are interested in taking on such a challenge. Instead, making each of them a potential target is especially essential, simply because of nothing more than the need to snag someone better than the man he will be replacing.
In order to justify dismissing a coach like Johnson, a championship caliber new head coach will need to be ushered in to Brooklyn next.