By Chris Hooker
There’s a reason why fans don’t work in the front offices.
I don’t want to call out fans. Few on this planet are bigger ones than I am. I love basketball and I love the Nets, probably too much for my own good. This is why I am particularly upset at Billy King and Mikhail Prokhorov for acting like Deron-Williams-jersey-wearing-Brooklynites.
The thing is, fans are stupid. They overreact, they’re hopelessly optimistic, they draw insane conclusions and they read into things that don’t even matter. We spend morning, noon and night thinking about and breaking down our teams, playing out unlikely and impossible scenarios in our head. When we watch games, we shout inane things at the television or at the court from our seat in the stands. We yell obscenities and irrational statements that, if played back on a tape recorder, probably would have been contradicted several times throughout the course of a two-and-a-half hour basketball game. There is a reason why most of us here are fans and not general managers or vice presidents.
When the Nets have a bad month following a great month, it’s okay for fans to demand for a coach’s head. In fact, that’s normal, even encouraged. It’s a good thing if fans aren’t accepting stretches of bad basketball. It means they are die-hards, it means that they care about the direction of their team. If a fan watches a game and jumps to a gut-conclusion on Twitter, like, “Fire Avery because he had a bad December!” it means that person watched enough of the Nets to know they had a bad December and cares enough about that team to voice his or her opinion. For a brand new team in a new city, that is only a good thing. That’s what sports is about. But then, that fan should go to bed and wake up with the same head coach with that team because general managers aren’t supposed to overreact to bad stretches like dumb fans.
Yes, every reason Billy King gave for firing Avery Johnson is true. He went 3-10 in his last 13 games as the Nets coach. He may have been losing his players. Perhaps his system wasn’t the best fit for the Brooklyn Nets roster that King constructed.
And, really, most additional reasons the fans gave for wanting Avery gone were also likely true. He appeared to clash with players, recently MarShon Brooks and Kris Humphries. At one point he wasn’t Brook Lopez’s biggest supporter. Deron’s comments only stoked that fire. Surely, he played some questionable rotations and his idea of team defense wasn’t really yet working.
But still, doesn’t this move reek of desperation? Isn’t it a classic panic move?
Avery Johnson was hired two years ago. He coached two below-terrible teams and he was a reason Deron Williams chose to return. He was given less then two months in the era he helped lead the Nets into. His team probably overachieved the first month, and probably underachieved in the second month. The team had nine new players, and most of the returning roster hadn’t even played long enough to get to know each other's styles before this season.
Sure, Avery wasn’t the most effective coach right now. No one would deny that. But how can someone establish himself as a proper head coach after 28 games with an entirely new roster in an entirely new city and stadium with an entirely new fan base? 14-14 isn’t an ideal record by any means, but could it have been worse?
Why not just keep Avery Johnson on the bench the rest of the season? Why not just let the struggles happen, let the good times roll, let a potential roller coaster of a season go on? Does firing a coach a third of the season in only to replace him with a new face and a new system really make the team better right now? After all, isn’t that why they chose to fire the man today?
Ever since Mikhail Prokhorov signed on, and the Nets hired Billy King and Avery Johnson, every move they have made have been about making a ‘splash.’ First it was with Avery himself, then with LeBron, Carmelo, Dwight. Even the Gerald Wallace trade could be put under that category. Each major decision has been quick and in win-now-as-in-right-this-very-second mode. There is no time for gelling, for chemistry building, for putting together a team. It’s all supposed to just happen. It’s all manufactured.
When the Nets locked themselves into this roster, I was excited about the potential of having a consistent group. I was ready to watch a team grow together. For the first time since the departure of Jason Kidd, the Nets had a team. Not a collection of fill-in role players as they awaited the next big thing, but a group of guys who would stay and be successful together. The first 28 games have been a disappointment, but isn’t that what growth is all about? Isn’t that why a season is 82 games, and why players are locked into contracts that last years on years?
Billy King gave the fans what they wanted, but the problem is, most fans don’t know what they are talking about. Avery may not have been the answer, but how can we be so sure that he was the problem?