Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 12/27/12
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- When Avery Johnson was hired by the New Jersey Nets as head coach on June 15, 2010, he thought he would be given some time to see the franchise get through a tough transitional period. "Under the circumstances, I knew that for the first two years we were going to get beat up pretty bad, then it would take some time to build a championship team," Johnson said. However, Johnson will not be given the opportunity to watch the new-look Brooklyn Nets blossom into a playoff contender. He was fired Thursday by the Nets' ownership, taking the fall for the team's struggles. They posted an 11-4 record in November (earning Johnson NBA Eastern Conference Coach of the Month honors) but became a floundering group that has won three of 13 games in December. "It's part of the job," said Johnson, who guided the Nets to a 60-116 record in his two-plus seasons as head coach. "Maybe ownership thought we'd go 11-4 every month, but that just didn't happen. This came from the top. I know (general manager) Billy (King) tried to fight for me. I guess it was something that had to happen." King told the media that he received word from Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov on Thursday morning that Johnson was to be relieved of his coaching duties, after the Nets returned home from a loss in Milwaukee on Wednesday. Johnson was in the final year of the three-year, $12 million contract he originally signed with the Nets, but was not offered an extension at any time. Prohkorov issued a one-sentence statement: "The Nets' ownership would like to express thanks to Avery for his efforts and to wish him every success in the future." As for Johnson's successor, ESPN reported that the Nets are gauging Phil Jackson's interest in the job, one month after he was spurned by the Los Angeles Lakers. Other candidates could be veteran coaches Mike Dunleavy, Nate McMillian, Flip Saunders, Jerry Sloan, Jeff Van Gundy and Stan Van Gundy. "It was a tough decision for me, because I've worked with Avery for the last 2 1/2 years and consider him to be a good friend," said King, who elevated assistant coach P.J. Carlesimo to interim head coach in the process. "It's never easy when you have to do this. "But the way we've been playing lately hasn't been acceptable. I didn't see the same fire that we had when we were 11-4. I tried to talk to Avery about it and we just couldn't figure it out. We lost to the Knicks, the Celtics and Milwaukee and the same pattern kept happening. The decision was made this morning. I had a sense that he just wasn't reaching our players anymore. It happens sometimes." The coaching change comes a little more than a week after All-Star point guard Deron Williams, still mired in a deep shooting slump, told members of the media that he operated better in a "system" like he had in Utah. "The system we had in Utah was a great system for my style of play," Williams said Dec. 19 before the Nets lost to his former team, the Utah Jazz. "I'm a system player. I loved Coach (Jerry) Sloan's system. I loved the offense there. We could have been a really good team there. We weren't that good defensively. It's more isos (isolation sets) here. I'm used to more movement. I'm still trying to adjust. It's been an adjustment for me.'' Both King and Johnson denied that Williams had anything to do with the coaching change. "To pinpoint all of this on Deron is just unfair. Deron has to play better and I think he knows that, whoever the coach is," King said. "The ownership just didn't like the way we were going. I think we can be a better ball club that we have been lately. But with the direction we were going, we felt we had to make a change. This was a decision that was made as a group. The coach has to get the team to play cohesive as a unit." Johnson added: "From Day One, I always had a really good relationship with him. I don't think it's fair for anyone to hang this on Deron. We were just going through a bad streak, a bad spell. It's not time for me to be down on one player. That would be the easy way." King said the players were surprised by the move. "We had about four or five players in getting treatment this morning and alerted them that we were making the change" King said. ”Some were shocked. I think anytime someone loses their job, there's emotion. But this was a change that was made without talking to any players. "We haven't had our guys playing at their peak. Right now, for whatever reason, it's just not clicking. Avery wasn't able to get them to play. He put things in and somehow it wasn't translating with the people on the floor." Johnson addressed the media about four hours after receiving word he was dismissed. "It's a really disappointing day for me and my family," Johnson said. "It's my wife's birthday. It's not a great birthday gift. I didn't see this coming. But this is ownership's decision. It's part of the business. Fair or unfair, it's time for a new voice and hopefully they'll get back on track. I thought we made some bold moves in the offseason. I thought we were trying to keep it moving in the right direction. I just thought I would get a little more time." "You don't always get a fair shake as a coach. I'm not the owner. If I were the owner, I wouldn't have fired myself today. But life is not always necessary fair. It's a business and in this business, the coach always gets blamed." The 63-year-old Carlesimo will be on the Nets' bench Friday night when they face Charlotte at the Barclays Center. Carlesimo led Seton Hall to the 1989 NCAA title game and has head coaching experience with Portland, Golden State and Seattle/Oklahoma City. He owns a career coaching mark of 204-296.
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