NEW YORK (AP) — Avery Johnson was fired Thursday as coach of the Brooklyn Nets, who have fallen to .500 in their season of new surroundings and elevated expectations.
General manager Billy King announced the dismissal without saying who will be interim coach. The Nets next play at home Friday against Charlotte.
“The Nets ownership would like to express thanks to Avery for his efforts and to wish him every success in the future,” owner Mikhail Prokhorov said in a statement.
After a strong start to their first season in Brooklyn, the Nets have lost 10 of 13 games to fall well behind the first-place New York Knicks, the team they so badly want to compete with in their new home.
But after beating the Knicks in their first meeting Nov. 26, probably the high point of Johnson’s tenure, the Nets went 5-10 and frustrations have been mounting.
The Nets were embarrassed by Boston on national TV on Christmas, then were routed by Milwaukee 108-93 on Wednesday night for their fifth loss in six games.
Star guard Deron Williams recently complained about Johnson’s offense, and Nets CEO Brett Yormark took to Twitter after the loss to Celtics to voice his displeasure with the performance.
Brooklyn started the season 11-4, winning five in a row to end November, when Johnson was Eastern Conference coach of the month. But he couldn’t do anything to stop this slump, one the Nets never anticipated after a summer spending spree they believed would take them toward the top of their conference.
Johnson has been the Nets’ coach for a little more than two seasons. He went 60-116 with the Nets, who moved from New Jersey to Brooklyn to start the 2012-13 season. Johnson coached the Dallas Mavericks to a spot in the NBA Finals in 2006.
This is the NBA’s second coaching change this season following the dismissal of Mike Brown by the Los Angeles Lakers.
Johnson arrived in New Jersey with a 194-70 record, a .735 winning percentage that was the highest in NBA history, but had little chance of success in his first two seasons while the Nets focused all their planning on the move to Brooklyn.
They looked to make a splash this summer when they re-signed Williams and fellow starters Gerald Wallace, Brook Lopez and Kris Humphries, traded for Atlanta All-Star Joe Johnson, and added veteran depth with players such as Reggie Evans, C.J. Watson and Andray Blatche.
Johnson didn’t have a contract beyond this season but seemed to have the confidence of Prokhorov, the Russian billionaire who before the season said he had faith in “the Avery defense system.”
Some predicted the Nets would finish as high as second in the East behind defending champion Miami, and the projections seemed warranted when the Nets started quickly amid much fanfare. But all the good publicity faded in recent weeks once the losing started.
Williams, who has struggled this season, stirred the waters when he expressed his preference for the offense he ran under Jerry Sloan in Utah before a loss to the Jazz. Williams and Johnson, nicknamed “Brooklyn’s Backcourt” and expected to be one of the best in the NBA, have shot poorly and rarely meshed.
The Nets were embarrassed near the end of their 93-76 loss to Boston, when fans exited early amid a chant of “Let’s go Celtics!”
“Nets fans deserved better,” Yormark tweeted after the game. “The entire organization needs to work harder to find a solution. We will get there.”
Not under Johnson, though.
The Nets should be able to entice a big-name coach with Prokhorov’s billions and the chance to play in a major market at Barclays Center, the $1 billion arena that has drawn praise in the city and from visiting teams.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.