By Steve Silverman
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It’s supposed to be the NFL firing season when you get to late December.
But NBA firing season?
They made the move before the 2012-13 season slipped away. That’s just what was happening after the Nets had lost 10 of 13 games.
A good start appeared to have the Nets challenging the New York Knicks for both city and NBA Atlantic Division superiority.
Since then, the Nets have gone the other way, and have appeared to be far too similar to the New Jersey Nets of yesteryear for owner Mikhail Prokhorov and general manager Billy King. They decided to let the squeaky-voiced Johnson go.
While it was no doubt upsetting to be on the receiving end of such news, this was the perfect time to fire a head coach.
The season is not even 30 games old and there is plenty of time to get the Nets going back in the right direction. A 14-14 jumping-off point is a lot better for interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo to work off of than 10-18 or 9-19, which would be what you would expect when the owner decides to make an early-season coaching change.
Johnson is one of the nicest guys in basketball. He was during his playing career — largely with the San Antonio Spurs but also with Golden State, Seattle, Denver, Houston and Dallas — and he was during his earlier coaching stint with the Mavs.
But he didn’t last in Dallas under another billionaire owner in Mark Cuban.
Much of the blame for Johnson’s troubles have landed on Deron Williams, since he was so instrumental in the end of Jerry Sloan’s incredibly long coaching run with the Utah Jazz.
But it shouldn’t.
Nobody’s saying that Williams made life easy for Johnson, but Prokhorov made the decision because the team was failing and he did not have an adequate plan to take his team out of its malaise. Johnson had no answers and it was not going to get any better.
So the deed was done.
Carlesimo is going to be a caretaker for the next coach, and given Prokhorov’s penchant for spending money and his desire to make the Nets a big-time team, they are going to push hard for Phil Jackson.
Jackson, 67, is willing to get involved in the mating dance. But in the end, it seems unlikely that Jackson really has the desire to leave Los Angeles with his bad hips and do some serious coaching to get the most out of the team.
It would really irritate the Lakers and he would be a stone in the bottom of the Knicks’ shoes if Jackson was coaching in Brooklyn. Prokhorov will almost certainly come through with the money that Jackson wants.
But he would have to believe that he could turn the Nets from a bottom-rung playoff team and give them a fighting chance to become a solid team this year and a contender the next.
Jackson, of course, has a huge ego. He has won an NBA-record 11 championships as a head coach. He knows how to manage people as well as the greatest coaches in the history of sports. But he’s also a realist. That’s why he’s probably going to take a pass in the long run.
But it won’t be an easy decision.
In the end, the Nets are going to have to live with Stan Van Gundy, Jeff Van Gundy or Nate McMillan as the head coach.
All of those candidates give the Nets more than nice-guy Avery.
None of them would give them as much as Jackson.
If the Nets don’t land Jackson, who do you think is the next best candidate to replace Avery Johnson? Sound off with your thoughts and comments below…