Moke Hamilton, SNYNets.comEAST RUTHERFORD — The Brooklyn Nets entered the 2012-13 NBA Season with their sights set on challenging the Miami Heat, Boston Celtics and New York Knicks for supremacy in the Eastern Conference.
Now, just 28 games later, they have their sights set on an unsure future and eventually finding a new head coach.
Just 24 days after being named the NBA's Coach of the Month for November, the Nets announced on Thursday that Avery Johnson had been fired.
P.J. Carlesimo has been named interim head coach and the rest of Johnson's staff—Popeye Jones, Mario Elie and Doug Overton—will be retained.
"At this time, P.J. is our head coach and the remaining staff will stay with him," general manager Billy King said. "In watching us, we just didn't have the same fire we had when we were 11-4... We just weren't able to pinpoint what was missing."
King also alluded to the fact that the Nets had recent poor showings against the likes of the Knicks and Celtics as being a troubling sign for the team moving forward. "When you lose by 17 to the Celtics and when you lose to the Knicks like you did... When you lose to Milwaukee... I mean, these are teams you're talking about competing with. It was a pattern, whether guys played or didn't play, it was a pattern that kept on happening."
When asked whether the decision to remove Johnson was made by him, King initially said it wasn't. "It was ownership," he said. "The decision was made after a discussion we had." But when asked whether he was on board with the decision later, King said that he agreed with it. "The great thing about working with ownership is that when we decide something, we decide it as a group."
There has been much speculation about whether or not Johnson had the full support of his locker room, including star point guard Deron Williams. Williams made news earlier this month when he made critical comments about the Nets offensive system. His recent poor play has been viewed by some as a passive aggressive stance toward endorsing a change. That, however, isn't something that King said was a factor in making the decision.
"I just got a sense that, for some reason, [Johnson] wasn't reaching [the players] anymore. To pinpoint this all on Deron, that's not fair. He's not the deciding this decision. It was something, in talking with ownership, we just felt we didn't like the direction we were going."
After beginning the season 11-4, the Nets have struggled in the month of December, compiling just a 3-10 record. Across NBA circles, some felt that the Nets overachieved in November. "Are we as good as 11-4? I'm not sure. Are we as bad as 14-14? I'm not sure," King said. "I just think we can be a better ball club than we have been lately."
There is a healthy list of free agent coaches, including Phil Jackson, Flip Saunders, Nate McMillan, Stan Van Gundy and Jeff Van Gundy. Another name that has been thrown around recently is Mike Fratello. Fratello last coached the Memphis Grizzlies and was fired in December 2006 after beginning the 2006-07 season with a 6-24 record.
Fratello, a New Jersey native, has been working as a YES Network broadcaster since the 2008-09 season and would probably have a good pulse of the team's personnel. King, however, stressed that Carlesimo was the interim head coach and that while the Nets would probably consider outside coaches, that is not the team's focus right now.
"I'm not gonna comment on anyone we're supposedly going to reach out to," King said. "At this point, P.J. is our coach. Right now, we're going to give all of our support to P.J. and we'll go from there. If anything changes, we'll go from there."
As the Nets began their 3-10 free fall, many began to feel that the writing was on the wall for Avery Johnson's dismissal. The Nets will return to action with back-to-back home games at Barclays Center when they host the Charlotte Bobcats and Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday night and Saturday night, respectively.
Currently in eighth place in the Eastern Conference, the Nets, who once had designs of hosting a first round playoff series, are now searching for answers.
"Right now, for whatever reason, we're just not clicking," King said. "Somehow, we've gotta figure it out, and I think we will."
Unfortunately, for Avery Johnson, they'll try to figure it out without him.