Earlier this week, the Brooklyn Nets ousted head coach Avery Johnson (via ESPN New York). This comes after the Nets had lost 10 of their previous 13 games and Johnson had lost control of point guard Deron Williams.
In turn, D-Will continued to pad his reputation as the NBA's most toxic coach killer.
Per a report via Stephen A. Smith of ESPN New York, Williams claims to be an innocent party in the firing. Whether or not you believe him is one story, but D-Will was quick to defend himself, specifically against parallels drawn between Johnson and Jerry Sloan:
"First of all, I have not had one conversation with [general manager Billy King] about not being happy with Avery, wanting him gone, etc.," Williams told me Thursday, just hours after Johnson was fired. "It's not my fault. But as soon as I heard the news, I knew what was coming. I knew folks would blame me, would assume that it's history repeating itself because of what was said about Coach [Jerry] Sloan and me after he resigned.
The last thing I would want to do is get Coach Johnson fired. Any coach, for that matter."
Let's make one thing clear.
There is no reason to believe that Williams asked for Johnson to be fired. In fact, accusing D-Will of such a thing would be absolutely blasphemous until there was physical evidence that he did.
The fact of the matter is, this is the second head coach who has ended up unemployed after a clash with Williams.
According to Howard Beck of The New York Times, Williams reportedly quit on Johnson. This led to his teammates following suit and displaying poor team chemistry during a recent string of 10 losses in 13 games.
Whether he meant to or not, Williams has run another coach out of town.
Is Deron Williams a coach killer?
Starting with Jerry Sloan
During February of 2011, legendary Utah Jazz head coach Jerry Sloan resigned after a halftime clash with Deron Williams (via Yahoo! Sports). Sloan had been Utah's leader since 1988, the longest tenure in the NBA.
After 23 years of trials and tribulation, it was Williams who forced him to say "enough is enough:"
“He decided right there in halftime that he was done,” a league source told Yahoo! Sports. “He felt like ownership was listening more to Williams than they were to him anymore. He was done.”
It was a shocking end to one of the greatest coaching careers in league history.
The fact that Williams was able to push Sloan out of Utah was stunning due to the long-time coach's history. After managing the hot-headed Karl Malone for 15 years, it appeared as if nothing could push Sloan over the edge.
D-Will was able to.
Avery Johnson: Defending D-Will
Before we acknowledge Deron Williams as responsible for Avery Johnson's firing, let us understand one thing: Johnson was no innocent party in this decision.
According to Smith's previously alluded to article, losing 10 of 13 games wasn't the only reason why Johnson was let go:
According to team sources, Johnson was annoyed with Williams' visible apathy toward the Nets' offense and delivered a sarcastic "How would you do things differently?" -- only to watch as Williams diagrammed plays, maneuvered players around and basically showed up his coach in front of the entire team.
That report makes it sound like Johnson's ego got in the way of accepting D-Will's input. Nothing more, nothing less.
Whether sarcastically or not, Johnson asked D-Will what he would do differently. In response, the point guard decided to do just that—show the team how he felt the offense should be run.
In other words, Williams orchestrated the offense in practice. You know, what he's expected to do during games as the team's starting point guard.
Johnson should know that, as he ran point for 16 years in the NBA.
Plain and simple, Johnson was offended by something that should have been viewed as constructive criticism. Even still, we can't make D-Will out to be innocent.
Even if his intentions were harmless.
The Coach Killer Reputation
As far as we know, Deron Williams did not ask for Avery Johnson to be fired. As a result, the theory that D-Will ran Johnson out of town is difficult to accept as true.
Unfortunately, Williams' head coach was fired after the two had a high-profile dispute. Again.
This is where Williams' reputation derives from. It is not that he is the type of player who will sabotage a coach's campaign, but instead one that suggests he is treated as a more important than the coach.
In other words, if D-Will displays signs of uncertainty, it is the coach's head on a silver platter.
Chances are, Williams never intended for this to become his reputation. Instead, D-Will simply looks to have a voice in the way a team is coached and managed.
Unfortunately, there have been casualties along the way. In turn, his career has been defined by his influence on a coach's job security.
The only way to fix that is to win a ring. The pressure is on.