he Brooklyn Nets have relieved Avery Johnson of his coaching duties, general manager Billy King announced Thursday.
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P.J. Carlesimo has been named the interim coach, a source told ESPN.
One NBA coaching source told ESPN.com that the Nets will immediately start a broad search for Johnson’s replacement, which will include a call to gauge Phil Jackson’s interest after Jackson was bypassed by the Lakers in November after Mike Brown was fired five games into the season.
A list of the top available coaching names includes Jackson, Jerry Sloan, Stan Van Gundy, Nate McMillan, Mike Dunleavy, Brown, and ESPN’s Jeff Van Gundy and Flip Saunders.
The prospect of a Sloan reunion with Deron Williams seems highly unlikely, however, after the coach’s abrupt resignation in Utah in February 2010 two weeks before the Jazz decided to deal Williams to the Nets. But the coaching source did not rule the possibility that Brooklyn will also sound out Southern Methodist University’s Larry Brown about a possible NBA return given Brown’s close association with Nets general manager Billy King.
A source told ESPN Los Angeles that the Nets have not placed an “official” call to gauge Jackson’s interest yet. If they do, Jackson would entertain the idea in much the same way he did when the Lakers called him and he spent the weekend analyzing the Lakers roster and visualizing how he would turn it into a championship team.
Johnson, who was in the final year of his contract, was named Eastern Conference Coach of the Month for October and November following an 11-4 start. But the Nets have won just three of their past 13 games in December, prompting the team to go in another direction.
The Nets, at 14-14, currently hold the eighth and final playoff spot in the East.
Nets Dreadful In December
It was quite a drop-off for the Nets in December. After starting the season 11-4, Brooklyn’s 3-10 mark during the month has dropped it to 14-14 on the season and cost Avery Johnson his job.
|— ESPN Stats & Information
“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.
The Nets’ season took a turn for the worse when center Brook Lopez, who was playing the best basketball of his career, missed seven games because of a sprained right foot. The Nets went 2-5 in his absence and have gone just 2-5 since his return. They have not beaten a team with a winning record since Nov. 28.
More than a week ago, star point guard Williams, who is having the worst season of his career, criticized Johnson’s isolation-heavy offensive system, saying he felt uncomfortable.
After Tuesday’s 93-76 loss to the Boston Celtics, CEO Brett Yormark tweeted that “Nets fans deserved better,” though he later clarified through a team spokesman that he wasn’t just referring to the team’s on-court performance.
He coached the Dallas Mavericks to a spot in the NBA Finals in 2006.
The Nets spent $330 million in the offseason to upgrade their roster as they moved into their first season at the $1 billion Barclays Center but have certainly not lived up to lofty expectations.
Prokhorov said before the start of the 2012-13 campaign that a successful season would be defined by a possible trip to the Eastern Conference finals.
Johnson was named coach of the Nets on June 15, 2010. In two-plus seasons with the Nets, Johnson compiled a record of 60-116.
Johnson arrived in New Jersey with a 194-70 record, a .735 winning percentage that was the highest in NBA history, but had little chance of success in his first two seasons while the Nets focused all their planning on the move to Brooklyn.
SVP & Russillo
ESPN NY 98.7 FM’s Ryan Ruocco weighs in on the Nets’ decision to fire Avery Johnson, discusses Deron Williams’ role and talks about where the team will go from here.
Backup center Andray Blatche was among the first of the Nets players to react to the news, posting on Twitter: “Thanx coach Avery for everything.”
Johnson’s son, Avery Jr., voiced his displeasure over his father’s dismissal with tweets of his own.
“The expectations were way to high for this team. We didn’t even have a losing record…. Didn’t even give my dad a full season. #OUTRAGE” he tweeted.