Nets’ next coach must win now
by Sam Amick, USA TODAY Sports
What do Avery Johnson and Mike Brown have in common beyond being the first two NBA head coaches to be fired this season?
They both learned the hard way what it’s like to work for the league’s bigger spenders.
The Brooklyn Nets and their Russian owner, billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, showed Johnson the door Thursday, deeming a 14-14 start and recent slide (10 losses in the past 13 games) unacceptable for a team that made major offseason moves (re-signing Deron Williams, Gerald Wallace and Brook Lopez and trading for Joe Johnson) and has an $83.5 million payroll, No. 3 that ranks third in the league.
The Los Angeles Lakers swapped Brown for Mike D’Antoni in early November, when they took all of five games to decide an upgrade was needed for the $100 million, so-called Super Team that is more expensive than the rest.
A higher price tag means increased pressure. And since and the fact that coaches are easier to change than players, means they’ll almost always take the fall for an underachieving team.
The question in the case of the Nets, though, is whether expectations met reality.
Despite Prokhorov proclaiming early last month that a successful season could mean reaching the Eastern Conference finals, the view that the Nets could be the East’s second-best team is hardly the prevailing sentiment among executives around the league.
Still, Nets general manager Billy King insisted the Johnson decision wasn’t just about the need to get more out of the roster because of the price that was paid for it.
“I think each situation is different, and it’s not just how much money you spend,” King told USA TODAY Sports by phone Thursday evening. “Being inside of it, you evaluate it based on what you’re going through at the time. I just don’t think we were playing the way we had played. And I couldn’t put a finger on why.
“Were we as good as 11-4? I don’t know. Are we as bad as 14-14? Now I don’t know. But I think we’re somewhere in the middle there, and we weren’t playing up to that potential.”
The next coach of the Nets is … [For more on Nets' next coach, Phil Jackson or not, must win now, click here.]