Former Nets coach Avery Johnson said he has no regrets about what happened in Brooklyn two years ago, but admits he wishes he had more time with the roster in a podcast recorded with Grantland’s Jalen Rose.
The 37-minute podcast, which details various points in Johnson’s career, only spends one question on Johnson’s two-plus years with the New Jersey/Brooklyn Nets. (Starts at around 14:15.) Johnson acknowledges what most already know: he signed onto a team with a “depleted roster” that “basically played 82 road games” in New Jersey.
When the team got to Brooklyn, Johnson noted that they’d built a much stronger core — citing, in order, Joe Johnson, Gerald Wallace, Brook Lopez, and “uh, Williams from Utah.” Reading a little into that? Maybe, but it’s interesting that the guy Johnson once hailed as the savior of his organization is now relegated to an afterthought, and the only player not to get first-name treatment.
Johnson also added that he would take the job again if he could do it all over, and enjoyed specifically working on the East Coast after spending so much time out West.
Here’s the full transcript of his answer:
Jalen Rose: And all that success as a coach, then you end up in New Jersey! With the Nets. Youngsters may see them playing in Brooklyn now, but it was a process to get the team from Jersey to Brooklyn. You were the head coach in transition.
Avery Johnson: Yeah, absolutely. You know, when I took over the New Jersey team, Nets, it was a depleted roster. They were coming off one of the worst years, historically, in the NBA. It was just a decimated team. But I accepted the challenge, and thought we could go — and it was a reclamation project — and get it back, get it back healthy again, get it back on its feet, and we took a lot of losses and a lot of bumps and bruises in those first two years, especially in playing in New Jersey, where every game basically at that point, since people knew we were moving to Brooklyn, we were the road team, so we basically played 82 road games.
But by the time we got into Brooklyn, we had put together a better roster. We had acquired Joe Johnson, we had guys like Gerald Wallace, Brook Lopez was starting to come into his own, we had traded for, uh, Williams from Utah. So, you know, we started really piecing the team together, and we got off to a great start, we were 11 and 4 in November that first month, and unfortunately I got fired in December, but that’s the way it goes sometimes. I’m disappointed I couldn’t see it through to the very end, wish we’d have had a little bit more time, but that’s how it goes in the NBA. No regrets. If I had to do it all over again, I would take that job again. It was great experience in the East Coast, because I had played my whole career and coached up until that point in the Western Conference.
Rose and Johnson later discussed the job fellow former Nets coach Jason Kidd has done in Milwaukee, with Rose saying that Kidd’s success blew up in Mikhail Prokhorov’s face, and Johnson praising Kidd’s role in Milwaukee’s “180-degree turn,” as well as former Nets assistants Joe Prunty and Sean Sweeney, who worked with Johnson in the past. Johnson has Kidd third on his Coach of the Year ballot.
Johnson also talked rumors about him joining the Denver Nuggets as their head coach, saying he’s interested in “any coaching job that’s available, there’s no arrogance here.” He then threw out another Nets reference. “That’s what I did in 2010,” Johnson said. “I took the Nets job, but I interviewed with New Orleans, I interviewed with Philadelphia, came in 2nd to Doug Collins for that job, I interviewed in Atlanta, basically had the Atlanta job, but then decided to take the Nets job, and then Atlanta hired Larry Drew.”