Avery Johnson was fired by the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday after being named Eastern Conference Coach of the Month for November and starting the season with an 11-4 record. The Nets have named P.J. Carlesimo as interim head coach.
Nets ownership became disappointed in the team’s play in December. The Nets have gone 3-10, which landed the team in eighth place in the Eastern Conference.
“I just got a sense, as I told Avery this morning, that he just wasn’t reaching them anymore,” general manager Billy King said at a news conference Thursday. King made it clear that ownership made the final decision to let Johnson go.
Johnson was in the last year of a three-year, $12 million contract.
“You never think when you’re a .500 team and then you’re going into two more home games at home that something like this would happen,” Johnson said at the news conference. “But this is ownership’s decision, and this is what we sign up for. This is part of our business. Fair or unfair, it doesn’t matter. But again, it’s time for a new voice, and hopefully they’ll get back on track.”
Friday, the Nets host the struggling Charlotte Bobcats, who are on a 16-game losing streak. Their last win was on Nov. 24 against the Washington Wizards.
The Nets will start their coaching search after the first of the year, but according to ESPN.com the Nets will make a phone call to Phil Jackson to measure his interest in the opening. But Jackson’s agent told NBA.com that he is not interested in coaching the Nets.
Stan Van Gundy, Nate McMillan, Mike Brown and Jeff Van Gundy are a few of the top available coaches to fill the vacancy. Stan Van Gundy, according to reports, has “no interest” in the job.
Carlesimo, one-time head coach of Golden State and Portland with a 204-296 career record, has been instructed by King to coach the Nets like he is going to be coaching them for the next decade.
Carlesimo’s focus could be to change the offense to better suit point guard Deron Williams, who criticized Johnson’s isolation offensive system more than a week ago. Williams, the all-star guard who chose the Nets over the Dallas Mavericks when he signed as a free agent last summer, said that he was uncomfortable in Johnson’s offense.
But King and Johnson denied the idea that Williams’ discontent had any role in the decision. King said that the players were not consulted in the move.
“To pinpoint this all on Deron is not fair. He was not the deciding factor in this decision,” King said. “It was something in talking with ownership we didn’t like the direction we were going.”
Johnson told reporters that he thought his relationship with Williams was really good.
“I thought from Day 1 (Deron and I) had a really good relationship,” Johnson said. “I don’t think it’s fair for anybody to hang this on Deron. He’s one player.”
Williams said that he knew the blame would pointed to him for Johnson’s departure, after being blamed for the resignation of former Utah head coach Jerry Sloan a few years ago when Williams played for the Jazz.
“First of all, I have not had one conversation with (King) about not being happy with Avery, wanting him gone, etc.,” Williams said. “It’s not my fault. But as soon as I heard the new, . . .I knew folks would blame me, would assume that it’s history repeating itself because of what was said about coach Sloan and me after he resigned. The last thing I would want to do is get coach Johnson fired. Any coach, for that matter.”
Williams went on to add that Johnson was the reason that he came to the Nets and signed his extension during the offseason.
“The Nets’ ownership would like to express thanks to Avery for his efforts and to wish him every success in the future,” principal owner Mikhail Prokhorov said in a statement.