Nets Hire Avery Johnson
A source close to the ESPN analyst confirmed to FanHouse Wednesday that the former Dallas coach and the Nets entered contract negotiations with his lawyers, Jeremiah Haylett (Dutt Sports General Counsel) and Curry Cooksey (Orgain, Bell and Tucker, LLP). After apparently agreeing to a deal, Johnson will return to the bench for the first time since being fired from the Mavericks' head post in 2008.
Yahoo! reporter Marc Spears reported that Johnson would be given a three-year deal, and sources close to Johnson told FanHouse that his target salary entering negotiations with Thorn -- and by extension new Nets billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov -- was between $4 million to $4.5 million per year.
Johnson was the only candidate who was known to be interviewed, although team president Rod Thorn had hoped to convince Jeff Van Gundy to return to coaching and he had conversations with Boston lead assistant Tom Thibodeau as well before he took the job in Chicago. As first reported by FanHouse, Nets president Rod Thorn reached out to Johnson before any other candidates.
While there were reports that former Cleveland coach Mike Brown was on Thorn's list as well, sources close to the team had indicated that fears over whether hiring Brown would take the Nets out of the LeBron James sweepstakes this summer meant he would not be considered.
Johnson, who was a finalist for the vacant Atlanta job as well and had nearly hurt his chances at a coaching return by insisting he have some front-office power, now gets a chance to redeem his once-sparkling coaching career with a team that is surely about to get better. Johnson, who was 194-70 in three-plus seasons with the Mavericks, was fired after his team's collapse against Miami in the 2006 Finals was followed by first-round bowouts against Golden State and New Orleans in subsequent postseasons.
With the Nets, he'll join a team that is coming off a franchise-worst 12-70 record but has enough salary cap space to sign a maximum contract player like James to add to the core that includes former Mavericks point guard Devin Harris and center Brook Lopez. He may also have a chance to have his desired say in personnel matters, as Thorn recently assumed dual titles of team president and general manager after it was decided that former GM Kiki Vandeweghe would not return.
This article was updated following Johnson's confirmation to the AP.