Slumping Brooklyn Nets fire coach,
‘We don’t have the same fire now,’ says GM
NEW YORK • Coach of the month in November, out of a job by New Year’s.
The Brooklyn Nets elevated expectations this season and a .500 record wasn’t good enough. Coach Avery Johnson was fired Thursday, his team having lost 10 of 13 games after a strong start to its first season in Brooklyn.
“We don’t have the same fire now than we did when we were 11-4,” Nets general manager Billy King said at a news conference in East Rutherford, N.J. “I tried to talk to Avery about it and we just can’t figure it out. The same pattern kept on happening.”
Assistant P. J. Carlesimo will coach the Nets on an interim basis, starting with Friday’s home game against Charlotte. King said the Nets may reach out to other candidates, but for now the job was Carlesimo’s. The GM wouldn’t comment on a report that the team planned to get in touch with former Lakers coach Phil Jackson.
King said the decision to dismiss Johnson was made by ownership after a phone discussion Thursday morning. Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov had expressed faith in Johnson before the season.
“With the direction we were going, we felt we had to make a change,” said King.
The Nets have fallen well behind the first-place New York Knicks, the team they so badly want to compete with in their new home. But after beating the Knicks in their first meeting Nov. 26, probably the high point of Johnson’s tenure, the Nets went 5-10 and frustrations have been mounting.
The Nets were embarrassed by Boston on national TV on Christmas, then were routed by Milwaukee 108-93 Wednesday night for their fifth loss in six games.
“For whatever reason we’re just not clicking,” said King.
Star guard Deron Williams recently complained about Johnson’s offence and Nets CEO Brett Yormark took to Twitter after the loss to Celtics to voice his displeasure with the performance.
Brooklyn started the season 11-4, winning five in a row to end November, when Johnson was Eastern Conference coach of the month. But he couldn’t do anything to stop this slump, one the Nets never anticipated after a $350 million summer spending spree they believed would take them toward the top of their conference.
Johnson has been the Nets’ coach for a little more than two seasons. He went 60-116 with the Nets, who moved from New Jersey to Brooklyn to start the 2012-13 season. Johnson coached the Dallas Mavericks to a spot in the NBA Finals in 2006.
Johnson didn’t have a contract beyond this season but seemed to have the confidence of Prokhorov, the Russian billionaire who before the season said he had faith in “the Avery defence system.”