BOSTON - The first major move in the Mikhail Prokhorov Era has been made with the hiring of Avery Johnson to take over as head coach of the Nets. A deal was reached between Johnson, a former Coach of the Year with the Dallas Mavericks, and the Nets Wednesday. A formal announcement is expected as early as Thursday.
Johnson went 194-70 in four seasons with the Mavericks and was named Coach of the Year in 2005-06, when he guided the Mavs to their first NBA Finals appearance. The fiery, defensive-minded coach with the high-pitched voice was fired by the Mavericks after the 2007-08 season. He has worked as a studio analyst for ESPN and confirmed he accepted the Nets' offer to the network.
"Yes," he said, "I am going to New Jersey."
Johnson takes over a team that had the worst record (12-70) this past season, but does have enough salary cap space to make a run at a max contract player such as LeBron James. The team also has the No. 3 overall pick in the NBA draft. The Nets are a franchise in transition, with a new owner in Prokhorov, and a move to the Prudential Center in Newark for the next two seasons before the team settles in Brooklyn.
With this move, four of the seven coaching vacancies in the NBA are filled, with Monty Williams (New Orleans) and Doug Collins (76ers) already in place and Celtics assistant Tom Thibodeau expected officially to accept the Bulls position after the NBA Finals are over.
The Clippers, Hawks and Cavaliers jobs are still open. It is believed Mark Jackson and Dwane Casey are the leading candidates for the Hawks, while there remains major speculation that Larry Brown could wind up leaving the Charlotte Bobcats to return to Los Angeles to coach the Clippers.