Avery Johnson was fired yesterday as coach of the Brooklyn Nets, with the team at .500 after starting the National Basketball Association season 11-4.
General Manager Billy King said a search for Johnson’s successor would begin immediately. P.J. Carlesimo will run the club on an interim basis, King said at a news conference.
The Nets tonight host the Charlotte Bobcats, who have lost 16 straight games. Brooklyn is coming off a loss to the Milwaukee Bucks 108-93 Dec. 26, their 10th loss in 13 games which dropped their season record to 14-14. The team hasn’t beaten an opponent with a winning record since Nov. 28. Johnson was 60-116 in two-plus seasons with the Nets.
“The direction we were going, we just felt we had to make a change,” King said. “Watching us, we just didn’t have the same fire we had when we were 11-4. I talked to Avery about it and we just couldn’t figure it out.”
The Nets moved this season to the $1 billion Barclays Center in Brooklyn from Newark, New Jersey, and started the campaign as one of the NBA’s hottest teams, setting a franchise record with 11 wins in their first 15 games.
They beat the New York Knicks in overtime in the first meeting of the new city rivals, and entertainer Jay-Z, one of their minority owners, proclaimed on Twitter: “The city is under new management.”
Johnson was named the NBA’s Eastern Conference coach of the month for games played in October and November, and the Nets’ record at the end of that stretch tied for the most victories in the conference. He came to the Nets with a 194-70 (.735) coaching record, the highest winning percentage in NBA history.
This time, the winning didn’t last, and cracks appeared on the court and in the locker room.
Center Brook Lopez missed time with a foot injury as the slump began. Then All-Star guard Deron Williams complained last week that the offensive system Johnson ran, which isolates players for shots, wasn’t working and should be replaced by one with more flexibility and motion.
“I just got a sense -- and I told Avery this this morning -- he just wasn’t reaching them anymore,” King said. “He tried a lot of different lineups and I give him credit for that, but it just didn’t seem to work. It happens in sports. It isn’t fair. We just didn’t like the way things were going.”
Two nights ago in Milwaukee, Williams was on the bench in a gray suit with a wrist injury in what became Johnson’s last game in charge.
“It’s something that I guess had to happen,” Johnson said at a news conference yesterday. “We just went through a bad stretch, but I always thought we were going to get it turned around.”
The Knicks, now leading the Atlantic Division at 21-8, defeated the Nets at Madison Square Garden 100-86 on Dec. 18 to drop Brooklyn to 13-12.
King said the decision had little to do with how New York is playing.
“We’re not just trying to beat the Knicks,” King said.
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