The Hawks’ only candidate with a proven record as an NBA head coach just took a job — and not in Atlanta.
Avery Johnson has reached a verbal agreement to become the next head coach of the New Jersey Nets, according to ESPN.com. Assuming the report is accurate, that means the Hawks are down to three known candidates: Dwane Casey, who briefly was the head coach of Minnesota and is a long-time friend of general manager Rick Sund; Larry Drew, who was Mike Woodson’s assistant and never has been a head coach; and Mark Jackson, an ESPN commentator and former player who never has coached at any level.
(UPDATE WITH CONFIRMATION AND COMMENT FROM JOHNSON)
According to the Newark Star Ledger, Johnson has confirmed the hiring but the Nets are holding off on the announcement.
“We’re excited about it: We’ve come to a verbal agreement, and hopefully the Nets will have an official announcement tomorrow,” Johnson told ESPN, where he works as an analyst. “But yes, I am coming to New Jersey.
The Nets were trying to delay the announcement for two reasons: [general manager] Rod Thorn himself still hasn’t signed a contract extension with owner Mikhail Prokhorov, and the Nets aren’t prepared to hold a press conference while their gym headquarters is overtaken by scouts from all around the league for the draft combine this week.
How do you feel now? What does it say that Johnson bypassed the Hawks for the Nets?
Do you think it’s a statement on the Hawks (roster), the ownership (multiple voices as opposed to one in New Jersey) or merely the fact that Nets owner Mikhail Prokorov might have offered more money (we isn’t known yet)?
The Hawks have made the playoffs three straight years. New Jersey has missed the playoffs the last three years and is coming off a 12-70 season.
As I noted in a previous blog, I don’t see how Johnson could conclude that job was better than this one, unless Prokhorov was simply blowing the Hawks out of the water with a better offer.
I put up a poll the other day asking who your first choice was among the four candidates. With over 1,400 votes, Johnson was the overwhelming pick at 65 percent. He was followed by Casey and Jackson at 14 percent each (Casey had one more vote at last check) and Drew at seven percent.
Johnson was the NBA’s coach of the year in Dallas and he took the Mavericks to the NBA finals. His winning percentage there was a sparkling .735.
How do you feel about this? Whom would you pick among the other three, or is there another candidate the Hawks should be talking to?