Mikhail Prokhorov deflects discussion of timetable to pick permanent Nets coach

Brooklyn Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov speaks to reporters

Brooklyn Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov speaks to reporters at halftime of a game against the Charlotte Bobcats. (Dec. 28, 2012) (Credit: Jim McIsaac)

Mikhail Prokhorov could see the Nets were struggling to meet his championship expectations after he shelled out $330 million in new contracts in the offseason. He didn't like the way things were headed.

So the Nets' Russian billionaire owner figured there was only one solution: Avery Johnson had to go.

"I cut my vacation short and am here to solve this problem," Prokhorov said during halftime of Friday night's 97-81 win over the Bobcats at Barclays Center. "From the first day I bought the team, we had one goal: championship. Our fans have been incredibly welcoming . . . and supportive . . . and they deserve a team they can be proud of.

"So as you know, we did our best and we are ready to pay any expense in bringing [a title] to the Nets. I think we have very talented players, but they are capable of much more than what we have seen in recent weeks. And for me, this is totally unacceptable. So I respect Avery, and really I wish him well. But sometimes chemistry just isn't right. It happens."

Although he severed ties with Johnson on Thursday, Prokhorov said he had his mind made up days ago. "I made the final decision like last week," he said.

Asked why he waited, Prokhorov said: "I spoke with Billy King. We had a discussion and then it was my decision."

Prokhorov, who had been vacationing in British Columbia, flip-flopped a bit as talk shifted to Johnson's replacement. He praised interim coach P.J. Carlesimo but left the door ajar for others. "Now, P.J. is the head coach," he said. "And if it becomes necessary, you know the usual suspects."

Pressed further, Prokhorov kept referring to Carlesimo, though he indicated his status will be tied to results. "Now we need to give support to our head coach," he said. "It is very important. I want to stop any kind of rumors and speculation."

Carlesimo is scheduled to have lunch with Prokhorov before Saturday night's game against the Cavaliers, but he said he hasn't contemplated the possibility of being the guy long term. "Honestly, if I had a choice of somebody getting the job or me, I'll think about it, but I'll probably pick me," he said. "It really isn't something I'm thinking about because I don't have a good sense of what's going on. My job is an assistant that's minding the store, and we'll see what happens.''

But Carlesimo didn't deny he's intrigued about listening to Prokhorov's pitch, whatever that may be. "Am I anxious to hear what he's got to say? Of course . . . I certainly don't want to lobby for it or anything like that. I'm sorry that I'm in this position right now. I'm very happy to be coaching in the NBA, but I'm sorry that I'm the one sitting up here right now."

Prokhorov wouldn't give a timeline on when he wants to hire a permanent replacement. "Really, I don't want to affix any number of games," he said. "I want to see the trend, we need a trend to be in [the] championship. For me, really, I want to see all the players will give us 100 percent their efforts in every game."

Prokhorov doesn't think his title aspirations for this team, which improved to 15-14, are too lofty. His goals won't change one bit with Carlesimo at the helm.

"It's not very high," Prokhorov said. "Only championship. Not more. We're only human beings, you know."

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