Johnson Must Learn From History And Popovich

Avery Johnson was fired yesterday as the coach of the Brooklyn Nets and the reason is all too familiar for him.

He's been known for having a "dictator" type philosophy as a head coach, not budging on his philosophy to mold it around the players he's coaching. When he became the head coach of the Dallas Mavericks in the 2004-2005 season, he coached the Mavericks to great regular seasons but with disappointing playoff results. In 2005, they were eliminated by the running Phoenix Suns and in 2006 they made it to the Finals and lost to the Miami Heat. The playoffs in 2007 and 2008 brought results that would ultimately seal his fate with the franchise with an an embarrassing first round loss to the eigth seed Golden State Warriors (2007) and another first round exit against the seventh seed New Orleans Hornets. While it took the Mavericks players to get a few seasons under Johnson to get comfortable with his season and philosophy, Johnson's coaching flaws showed up when his team's back was against the wall. Most notably in the 2007 playoffs, Johnson was quick to change the lineup he'd use for the season in the first game before his team squared off against the Warriors that got him the number one seed. He substituted his traditional center for small forward Devean George to keep up against the smaller Warriors, but then started center Erick Dampier the next two games and then substituted him for DeSagana Diop. The series eventually ended in 6 games.

What eventually doomed Johnson's tenure with the Mavs was his reluctance to change his coaching style to his players and his inability to stay calm under pressure instead of changing his lineup to see which one fits his system best, the exact same reason why the Brooklyn Nets let him go with a 14-14 record. The Nets started off at 11-4 and went on a 3-11 record after that. During that run riddled with losses, Johnson decided to tweak his lineups and going from traditional to small to traditional again. This was clear when he went with a smaller lineup against the Boston Celtics in their third meeting of the season. The Celtics lost to the Nets in the first two meetings and beat the Nets when Johnson changed the lineup. Before Johnson was let go, his star point guard Deron Williams voiced his frustration with his role and the offense coached by Johnson, something that was voiced over from his past tenure with the Mavericks.

These are the characteristics that might have owners think twice about having him coach their teams. This is where he needs to learn from one of the best coaches in the NBA, Gregg Popovich. If you compare the Spurs teams he's coached in the past, you'll realize how different they are to this current Spurs team and that's a tribute to his greatness. He's adjusted to his players and his team the past few years, changing lineups and his coaching style while not changing his defensive philosophy. Popovich has been known to change lineups during the years, but they didn't effect the style of play like Johnson's did and he had his core on the floor to guide the team while being fully comfortable with his scheme. During his two coaching jobs, he's had two different point guards and two different teams who've tried to play the same way under Avery's coaching methods. If he wants to succeed in another coaching job, he has to take Popovich's successful formula into account and know how to adjust to his players and their skills while putting them in his system in a way that a level of comfortability can be reached. If he doesn't, he'll see the same result he saw his last two head coaching jobs.
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