Nets General Manager Billy King spoke about the firing of Head Coach Avery Johnson at a press conference at the team’s practice facility in East Rutherford, New Jersey, on Thursday afternoon.
The interim coach will be P.J. Carlesimo, who has served as an assistant coach this season. “I told him to coach like he’ll be here for 10 years. That’s how he’s approaching it, that’s how we’re approaching it,” said King.
When asked if it was a decision he agreed with and if there was pressure with the way the “other New York basketball team is playing,” King responded, “The Rangers aren’t playing, are they? The great thing about working with ownership is when we decide something, we decide it as a group and we made the decision together and I support it.
“Nah, there’s no pressure, the Knicks are having a great year, and you’ve got to give them credit, but we’re not trying to just beat the Knicks. We want to be a good ballclub and the greatest thing for this area is competing against each other in the playoffs. Our goal is to get to the level where they are right now and to get better than them and other teams in the league.”
On a conversation King had with Johnson Thursday morning, he said, “We talked… 30 minutes, and I expressed my thoughts, he expressed some of his.
It’s never easy when you have to do this, expecially someone that I’ve gotten to know and become good friends of. It’s not something you look forward to doing, but as part of the job, part of the title, this is responsibility that comes with it.”
King was asked if he consulted with any players and he said, “No. Because it was ultimately ownership’s, and our job to make this decision. We had some players in getting treatments and, afterwards, there were four or five of them, we alerted them that we made a decision, but at the end of the day, coaches and players may have input or may say things that make people make decisions, but this decision was exclusive of talking to any player.”
On the players’ reactions, King said, “Some were shocked, some were disappointed. Anytime a guy loses his job, they feel for them. I think a lot of it, that’s where they felt that…they felt bad, think that’s the right word.”
On Nets Principal Owner Mikhail Prokhorov’s three-year goal to win a championship and reach the Eastern Conference Finals this season, King said, “That’s our goal. We started out good and now stumbled, so we have to get back on track to reach that goal.”
On an unattributed report that the team will reach out to Phil Jackson, “OK, well I’m not going to comment on anybody that we’re supposedly going to reach out to. At this point, P.J.’s our coach, we’re gonna get through this day and shootaround tomorrow morning, and then I’ll be in constant contact, like I have today with ownership. But right now, we’re gonna give all our support to P.J.
On whether the play of big-time free agents led to this change, “No, I think it’s overall team play that led to this, because when we were 11-4, we had guys that weren’t shooting the ball pretty good, but we still were winning ballgames. So I think it’s overall as a team because, at the end of the day, it’s not like golf, you know, where Tiger has a bad day, his caddy doesn’t make any money.”
“It takes five guys on the court at one time to play. So when we were, go back to when we were playing well, we had guys that were struggling shooting the ball, but we did other things and we figured out ways to win basketball games. It’s not on maybe three, four, five guys; it’s 15 guys on this roster that haven’t played up to their abilities.”
On Avery Johnson not reaching the players anymore and getting to them and making the team play better, “If I knew, we probably wouldn’t be here having this conversation. The reality of it, I don’t know. That’s what Avery and I talked about, we didn’t know, not sure, but it happens, and unfortunately it does.”
On how Johnson won NBA Coach of the Month for November, and if it’s believable that they’re in this situation now: “Yeah, it is, it’s ironic, and Avery and I talked about that today. But I think that’s the reality of where we are now because our performance has really slipped.”
On whether Carlesimo or another new coach will know how to maximize Deron Williams’ talent: “Deron, yeah, he’s gotta play better, and I think he knows that, but I look at the fact that Joe (Johnson) was struggling early when we were going through that stretch. You know, we didn’t have Gerald Wallace and we were able to figure out ways to win games.”
“I just think that whoever the coach is has to get five guys together to play on the court as a unit both offensively and defensively to find ways to win basketball games. I don’t think we’ve had it where all five of our top guys have played at their peak. We’ve been able to win and lost some games, but right now, for whatever reason, we’re not clicking. It’s not just one guy that’s not clicking, it’s some of our guys that were on the bench played great and are not playing as good. Somehow we’ve got to figure it out, and I think we will.”