When the Mavericks fired Avery Johnson in 2008, other teams called him about their job vacancies. They liked Johnson for his defensive acumen and motivational skills.
Johnson was in no hurry to coach for anyone. He was going to wait for the best situation. The Mavericks paid him to do nothing for the remainder of his contract after he was let go.
With his contract expiring, he had to look for work. Working for ESPN is something most coaches don't aspire to be doing for the rest of their lives. Johnson is no different.
Plus with young assistant coaches on the rise, Johnson could not afford to keep looking for a better job. He either had to take a job or risk being passed over in future years due to not coaching from the sidelines.
That's why he reached a deal with the Nets. The Nets are thankful for that.
There were no other coaches interested in that position no matter what Rod Thorn or Mikhail Prokhorov blurt out in public.
After the top pick was not rewarded to the Nets, the team’s coaching vacancy was less appealing. Jeff Van Gundy decided not to apply for the Nets coaching job. College coaches were going to steer clear from the Nets. Phil Jackson talked about how he wanted to drink vodka with Prokhorov, but that was never going to happen. Mike Brown was lukewarm about the job.
All signs pointed to Thorn hiring an anonymous assistant coach. Fortunately for the Nets, they caught a break. They know what it would be like if they could not get Johnson.
They could not market their product to the fans. They could not position themselves to be a championship contender once they move to Brooklyn. There would be no hope whatsoever.
For Johnson, there was nothing to gain in taking the Nets' offer.
Folks talk about the talent the Nets have. With that said, how is Johnson going to win with a team that has the third pick of the draft? That pick is not a franchise player.
The rest of the talent on that team is nothing special. They're decent at best, which is good enough to be an average team. Most of the players are going to be untradeable.
It will be interesting how Johnson works with Devin Harris. Harris did not blossom under Johnson when both were in Dallas. Johnson was frustrated with Harris' indecisiveness with the ball when it was his turn to shoot or pass the ball. Harris couldn't understand how to run an offense.
Harris started off well with the Nets, but he regressed last year.
He would have been gone if the Nets won the John Wall sweepstakes, but now they're stuck with him. It's up to Johnson to try again. It's hard to think it's going to work again. Harris and Johnson couldn't wait to get away from each other.
The Nets are nowhere close to being a championship team. In fact, there's a good chance they are not making the playoffs next season. As great as Johnson is, he needs players that can help him achieve what the Nets hired him to do.
It isn't happening with this group. If this team won only 12 games this past season, what makes anyone think they can win a championship? The only good cornerstone player on that team is Brook Lopez.
Just what is appealing about this job that one struggles to understand?
The Hawks' job makes more sense for Johnson. He would be a great fit there. The Hawks are good enough to be in the finals with better coaching.
The Hawks were not going to pay what Johnson wanted for him to come to Atlanta. That's why he was never in consideration to coach the Hawks.
Still, is being paid worth it for him to come to New Jersey? Prokhorov showed he's willing to pay top dollar to get the best talent there is, but what if it does not work out?
Playing in New Jersey is as bad as playing in Cleveland. New Jersey never cared about the Nets. They drew empty seats during their success in 2002 and 2003.
Why would players play in front of empty seats now? It may work out in Brooklyn, but the Knicks control New York City. If LeBron James signs with the Knicks, the Nets will have a hard time getting anyone in the city to pay attention.
It's hard to think it's going to work out for both parties.
Johnson was better served coaching in Atlanta.
For him, he needed a place that would let him coach and pay what he wants.
He found it with the Nets. He better hope it was worth it.