EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Avery Johnson was fired as the Brooklyn Nets’ coach Thursday, weeks after leading them to their best start in franchise history and earning NBA coach of the month honors.
The move was announced by general manager Billy King, who said he spoke with the Nets’ owners Thursday morning and the decision was made by them.
“It was a tough decision,” King said at a news conference Thursday afternoon. “I worked well with Avery for 21/2years. The way we’ve been playing lately and talking with ownership, I spoke to them this morning, and the decision was made.”
P.J. Carlesimo, Johnson’s top assistant, was named interim coach. King declined to say whether the Nets would launch a search for a long-term replacement, saying only that the team would go with Carlesimo for now.
“This is a really disappointing day for me and my family,” Johnson said. “This is a difficult time. It’s something that I didn’t necessarily see coming, especially after our pretty good November.”
The Nets went 11-4 to start the season, their play living up to the immense hype that accompanied their move to Brooklyn after more than three decades in New Jersey. But they have disintegrated in December, losing 10 of 13 games amid growing signs that Johnson had lost command of the locker room.
“Watching us, we just didn’t have the same fire that we had when we were 11-4,” King said.
Deron Williams, the Nets’ star point guard, publicly criticized Johnson’s offense last week, unfavorably comparing it to the Utah Jazz system that Williams thrived in earlier in his career.
Johnson said he also would not blame his fate on Williams and his recent comments.
“I thought from day one, we had a really good relationship,” Johnson said. “I don’t think it’s fair for anybody to hang this on Deron. He’s one player. We had 15 players, and it’s up to the coach really to try to maximize the team.
“Being a coach is not always fair. This is not the fair game. A lot of times it’s about the blame game.”