From the team's public relations department on Twitter:
The Brooklyn Nets have relieved Avery Johnson of his head coaching duties, Nets GM Billy King announced.— Nets PR Dept. (@Nets_PR) December 27, 2012
Yes, the Nets fired their coach after a 14-14 start. The word you are looking for is "wow." Or perhaps the words you are looking for go something like, "Oh, that Deron Williams strikes again!"
Those are two of many reactions that bounced about the Twitterverse after this news broke. We'll get to that in a minute, and yes, hilarity will ensue. But for now, there are a few items of business that need attention.
For one, who will be the interim head coach? Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports has us covered in that department:
In fact, the Nets have made P.J. Carlesimo the interim head coach, sources tell Y! Sports.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) December 27, 2012
This move didn't just surprise the majority of fans and sportswriters; as Ken Berger of CBS reports, many in the organization were surprised when this news broke on Thursday as well:
While not unforeseen given the Nets' struggles, firing Johnson caught some in the organization off guard. Clearly a Prokhorov decision.— Ken Berger (@KBergCBS) December 27, 2012
It was believed that Johnson would be given more time to turn things around after nine losses in 12 games against mostly winning teams.— Ken Berger (@KBergCBS) December 27, 2012
Well, those folks thought wrong. Welcome to sports in the 21st century, where owners have no patience, fans have no attention spans and a portion of sports media has become a contest to see who can yell the loudest to draw ratings or page views.
Seriously, this was a really rash move. John Schuhmann of NBA.com provides a bit of perspective:
Avery Johnson was named Coach of the Month 24 days ago.— John Schuhmann (@johnschuhmann) December 27, 2012
One person who has been vocally furious over this decision is Avery Johnson Jr., the coach's son. Yup, we've got family tweets, folks—this should be fun:
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— Avery Johnson Jr. (@itsaveryjohnson) December 27, 2012
I'm sorry are best players couldn't make open shots. Yeah that's my dads fault totally...— Avery Johnson Jr. (@itsaveryjohnson) December 27, 2012
Sort of hard to dismiss his feelings out of hand here, isn't it? He's not completely wrong, even if his response is (understandably) emotional in nature.
However, it could have been worse for the coach. It can always be worse, as people who have given up on even pretending to be sympathetic always love to point out. Thankfully, Jemele Hill of ESPN is here to point that out in Johnson's case:
Dear Avery Johnson: At least you lasted 28 games -- Signed, Mike Brown— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) December 27, 2012
Mike Brown did not approve of that message.
Of course, perhaps we shouldn't be surprised that Mikhail Prokhorov pulled a quick plug. After all, as Dan Levy of Bleacher Report jokingly points out, there's a Russian billionaire template for dealing with coaches and managers we should have already noticed:
Levy was of course referencing Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, who fired head coach Roberto di Matteo after Chelsea hit a rough patch this season. Yes, Abramovich fired the man who led Chelsea to Champions League glory a year ago.
What have you done for me lately, huh?
But as referenced before, the Interwebs immediately turned its gaze toward Deron Williams. First, it was Jerry Sloan. Now, it looks like the star guard's distaste for Johnson and his system may have played a part in the coach getting axed.
Remember, just a week ago Williams said the following (via Mike Mazzeo of ESPN):
On Monday, Williams said that he hasn't been the same player since being traded to the Nets from the Utah Jazz on Feb. 23, 2011, because he's had trouble getting acclimated with Johnson's isolation-heavy system. When he was in Utah, Williams thrived while playing in then-coach Jerry Sloan's "flex" offense.
Stars generally win in conflicts of style in the NBA, unless the coach is larger than life. Williams is a star. And one Bonnie Bernstein wouldn't want anything to do with him if she were a coach:
Deron Williams is really talented. But I'd be scared to coach him. #Nets— Bonnie Bernstein (@BonnieBernstein) December 27, 2012
Barry Petchesky of Deadspin has a solution to this problem:
Time for player-coach Deron Williams.— Barry Petchesky (@barryap1) December 27, 2012
He'd probably get himself fired, let's be honest.
But should we be surprised by any of this? Should we be shocked that a team with a history of ineptitude and an organization that has been all about spectacle since moving to Brooklyn would provide us with a such a surprising and head-scratching move?
As Bart Hubbuch of the New York Post notes, this is just what the Nets do:
You can take the Nets out of New Jersey, but you can't take the Nets out of the Nets.— Bart Hubbuch (@HubbuchNYP) December 27, 2012
What else needs to be said beyond that?
Hit me up on Twitter—my tweets don't employ Deron Williams, so they aren't going anywhere. Phew.