Twenty-eight games into the 2012-2013 NBA season, and the Brooklyn Nets have fired Avery Johnson.
Less than 30 days after he was named Eastern Conference Coach of the Month, Johnson has been relieved of his duties. The announcement was made by Nets general manager Billy King on Thursday afternoon. Assistant coach P.J. Carlesimo will take over as the interim head coach.
On Wednesday night, Brooklyn lost to the Milwaukee Bucks by 15 points. The defeat dropped them to 3-10 in December. Brooklyn has struggled after getting off to a hot start. They began the year at 11-4.
In their first season in Brooklyn, the Nets have aspirations of making a deep run in the playoffs. Owner Mikhail Prokhorov could decide to make a big splash to try and ensure that Brooklyn is in position to contend in the Eastern Conference.
With Phil Jackson unemployed, there’s a good chance that Prokhorov will make a run at the Hall of Famer.
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The interest from the Nets will almost certainly be there if Jackson is open to going to Brooklyn. He’s won 11 titles as a coach, and is considered by many to be the greatest in NBA history.
Jackson retired at the end of the 2010-2011 season, but he has expressed an interest in returning to the NBA. Just last month, there were reports that he wanted to coach the Los Angeles Lakers when Mike Brown was fired. Jackson seemed to be on his way to having a third run with L.A., until Jim Buss decided to hire Mike D’Antoni instead.
There were also rumors that Jackson was considering coaching the New York Knicks this season, though no offer was ever made and Mike Woodson kept the job.
The idea of Jackson returning to coach Brooklyn is considered to be a long shot by many. The Nets have a .500 record, and haven’t looked like a team that can contend for a championship.
It’s not likely that Jackson would coach a team that he feels won’t eventually be able to compete for a title. However, Jackson would have plenty of incentive to lead the Nets in 2013 and beyond.
Prokhorov is a billionaire and one of the richest men in the world. While the salary cap limits what he can spend on players, the Nets owner can pay his head coach whatever he wants.
Prokhorov might blow Jackson away with a large contract offer. In September, the Russian billionaire said that he expected his team to win a championship in the next three years. Hiring Jackson would certainly give Brooklyn a better chance of doing so.
Even if the money doesn’t matter to Jackson, he might feel that he has a chance to win with the Nets. Brooklyn got off to fast a start in November, and showed that they have the ability to play like one of the better teams in the league.
Despite their record, Brooklyn has plenty of talent. Before this season, Deron Williams was considered by many to be the best point guard in basketball. Brook Lopez is one of the top centers in the league, and Joe Johnson has been one of the premier shooting guards for the past few years.
Jackson may have retired from the NBA, but he still loves coaching. If the Lakers wanted him to replace Mike Brown, he likely would be in L.A.
The Lakers' decision to snub Jackson could even give him more reason to go to Brooklyn. The Lakers hired D’Antoni, a man who couldn’t win a playoff game in his three and a half years with New York, over Jackson, who led L.A. to seven NBA Finals. L.A.’s decision could be the spark that Jackson needed to return to the Big Apple, where he had so much success as a player.
At 67 years old, Jackson would be the oldest coach in the NBA. He’s one of the all-time great coaches, but time may be running out for him to make a return.
The Nets may not be the perfect situation for Jackson. They have the eighth-best record in the East, and haven’t looked like a title contender this season.
However, Prokhorov’s checkbook and Jackson’s desire to return to the NBA could be enough to make the Hall of Famer consider replacing Johnson in Brooklyn.