The New Jersey Nets have issued a press release stating that Avery Johnson has agreed to become the new head coach of the team next season.Johnson’s only previous NBA head coaching job was with the Dallas Mavericks, who Johnson led to a 194-70 record in three-plus seasons with the team. That record gives Johnson the highest winning percentage as a head coach in NBA history, but Johnson was fired by the team after being on the wrong side of a historic playoff upset by the Golden State Warriors in 2007 and losing to the Hornets in the first round of the 2008 playoffs.
“The hiring of Avery Johnson as the Nets head coach is a wonderful first step towards building a winning team,” said Nets Principal Owner Mikhail Prokhorov. “His leadership qualities, knowledge of the game and ability to motivate are all talents we will be calling upon as we move forward. This is the beginning of what I hope will be many more exciting announcements to come before the start of the season.”
“I am really excited to be the head coach of the New Jersey Nets, it’s an honor,” said Johnson. “I want to thank Mikhail Prokhorov and Rod Thorn for their confidence in appointing me as head coach. The future of the team is bright and I am excited to be a part of that future. We want to play tough, hard-nosed defense and we are going to move the ball on offense. It’s all going to begin with training camp where we will start building a foundation for the future.”
When the Mavericks hired Johnson, they wanted him to instill a defensive mentality in a team of talented veterans they felt had gone soft. For the Nets, who lost 70 games last season, Johnson will be asked to take a young team and mold it from the ground up. The Nets do have cap space and the #3 overall pick, but they are still a long-term reclamation project for Johnson; more than anything, I’d wager that the main goal of the Nets ownership right now is to have a presentable team when the Nets move to Brooklyn after two more years in New Jersey.