Odds on Brooklyn Nets' Possible Replacements for Avery Johnson
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After getting his team off to an 11-4 start in November, Johnson was named Eastern Conference Coach of the Month. Brooklyn was rolling, and it appeared Johnson was managing one of the best teams in the East.
Since then, however, the Nets have gone just 3-10 in their last 13 games. Coming off a brutal loss on Christmas to the Boston Celtics and an uninspired follow-up against the Milwaukee Bucks, Nets management had apparently seen enough.
According to ESPN, the Nets will begin the search for a new head coach immediately. That means it's time to round up the usual suspects, as well as some more unusual ones, and figure out who the most likely replacement is.
Jerry Sloan: 100/1
No chance that Sloan reunites with Deron Williams.
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The people talking about Jerry Sloan taking the Nets job are delusional.
Sloan abruptly resigned from the Utah Jazz midway through the 2010-11 season, ending a 22-year tenure as their head coach. He is interested in coaching again, but you have to assume that he'd still be on the Jazz bench if not for the friction with Deron Williams.
Even when Sloan had previously plotted a return to coaching, Williams was still on his mind.
In the 2012 offseason, he expressed interest in coaching either the Orlando Magic or the Charlotte Bobcats. These weren't just teams with openings; they were blank slates, places without a malcontent star to clash with.
If Sloan really does want to get back to coaching, then never say never, but a Sloan/Williams reunion makes zero sense.
Jeff Van Gundy & Phillip Saunders: 75/1
Van Gundy and Saunders are both more likely to stay at ESPN.
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Two ESPN broadcasters are up for the job, but neither is likely.
Jeff Van Gundy began doing color commentary for the network in 2007, when he was fired by the Houston Rockets. Though he has expressed interest in someday returning to coaching, he seems very comfortable working alongside Mike Breen and company. Don't expect him to leave unless he's in love with the job offer.
Phillip Saunders, on the other hand, just got into the TV game, but he's also not a hot coaching commodity at the moment. He presided over two-and-a-half seasons of the utter turmoil in Washington; the Gilbert Arenas gun incident and the black comedy of JaVale McGee both happened on his watch.
The rationale is different for each, but Van Gundy and Flip Saunders are pretty sure bets to stay right where they are.
Mike Brown: 40/1
Mike Brown might need some time off before his next media circus.
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Mike Brown is a fine coach who needs to stay out of the limelight for a little while.
He was quite successful with LeBron James and company with the Cleveland Cavaliers, knowing full well to build his system around his superstar. In LeBron's last year in Cleveland, Brown only coached the Cavs to the second round of the playoffs. As a result, it was his last year, too.
When he moved to the Los Angeles Lakers, Brown again tried to work to the strengths of his players, resulting in a philosophy that ended up keying heavily on Kobe Bryant. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.
Before the 2012-13 season, Brown finally tried to implement a more rigid system with the Princeton offense. Five games later, he was gone.
After managing LeBron and Kobe and the fanfare surrounding both firings, Brown could use a break from media scrutiny. He might want to get another coaching gig, but Brooklyn might not be in his best interests right now.
Phil Jackson: 25/1
The Zen Master probably doesn't want to deal with turning this Nets team around.
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Brooklyn is interested in Phil Jackson, but he might not feel the same way.
The cons of this arrangement are obvious.
ESPN reports that Todd Musburger, Jackson's agent, says the 11-time champion has "no interest in the Nets' job at this time." On top of that, the Zen Master might want to watch this situation as it develops. There's no reason to think he'd want to come out of retirement to contend with a malcontent Deron Williams and his rudderless ship.
On the other hand, Jackson is supposedly Brooklyn's top option, and Mikhail Prokhorov could certainly shell out the money sufficient to hire him. If he truly is interested in returning to coaching, and the Nets call, there isn't going to be a more attractive job on the market.
That's just an outside chance, though. Until Jackson actually takes another job, it's probably best to consider him done with coaching.
Nate McMillan: 15/1
McMillan brings a similar philosophy to the table.
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Nate McMillan could be the answer in Brooklyn, or he could just be more of the same.
Though he has never made it past the second round of the playoffs, McMillan has developed a reputation as a hard-nosed, no-nonsense guy over his 12-year coaching career. His stints in Seattle and Portland were marginally successful at best, but he has also served as a Team USA assistant under Mike Krzyzewski since 2006.
A tough-minded attitude might be exactly what the Nets need to kick them into shape, but McMillan also might be too similar to Johnson to replace him. Both are defense-first guys who favor a methodical half-court offense. Brooklyn might be looking for something different going forward.
He's a capable candidate, and he's available; he just might not fit in Brooklyn right now.
Larry Brown: 9/1
Billy King could reunite with Larry Brown.
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GM Billy King could look to one of his old coaches to be his new coach.
Back in 1998, King was promoted to general manager of the Philadelphia 76ers. Larry Brown was the coach in Philly at the time, and the two men developed a successful working relationship.
Though Brown won a title with the Detroit Pistons, he won his lone NBA Coach of the Year award and made his first NBA Finals in 2001 with the Sixers.
At 72, Brown is five years older than Phil Jackson, but he's still plugging along in the college ranks. As of Dec. 28, his SMU Mustangs team is off to an 8-1 start.
Perhaps he's more comfortable in the college game, but Brown could be compelled to return to the pros if his old colleague King made him an offer.
Peter J. Carlesimo: 4/1
Carlesimo can parlay his interim work into the full-time job.
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Until someone swoops in to take it from him, this job is Peter J. Carlesimo's to lose.
The Nets' interim head coach has the least success of any of the rumored candidates. Though he made playoffs in each of his first three years coaching, P.J. Carlesimo never made it out of the first round. After that, he never had another winning season.
That said, Billy King is currently in his corner. According to ESPN, King told Carlesimo to approach his new role "like he's going to coach the team for the next 10 years." It doesn't matter if he's the best man for the job as long as management is on his side.
There are two things working against Carlesimo, though: his competition and his coaching style.
When Phil Jackson and Larry Brown are being rumored for your job, it can't be considered secure. And when you're infamous for your merciless screaming, you have to do a damn good job to beat those guys.
But for now, regardless of who the best candidate is, Carlesimo is the leader in the clubhouse.