Nets Reach Out to Avery Johnson

Just one day after the sale of the New Jersey Nets to Russian tycoon
Mikhail Prokhorov was approved by the NBA, team president Rod Thorn
quietly started the team’s coaching search.

League sources told FanHouse that Thorn inquired about Avery Johnson and
his interest in the Nets job through his representatives on Wednesday.
The former Dallas coach has already interviewed for openings in
Philadelphia and New Orleans and looked to be the frontrunner for the Hornets job, but he is believed to have interest in joining New Jersey.

An interview has not yet been scheduled, but Thorn — who has said he is hoping to have a coach in place before the June draft — is expected to begin interviewing with candidates soon. Yet while Johnson will certainly receive consideration, the Nets continue to hope the prospect of big money on two vital fronts can coerce Jeff Van Gundy to return to coaching: his potential salary and the team’s salary cap space.

Share36 Prokhorov’s well-chronicled riches and his passion for winning could mean a huge payday for Van Gundy. And considering the Nets were reportedly prepared to offer Duke and Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski between $12 to $15 million per year before he made it clear he’s not interested, it remains possible that Van Gundy could be coerced.

Van Gundy — who has an overall record of 430-318 in 11 seasons with New York and Houston — hasn’t been on a bench since leaving the Rockets after the 2006-07 season and is now a television analyst. His brother, Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy, said recently he expects Jeff to resist the urge to return and remain with his family in Houston.

The Nets, of course, also offer financial flexibility when it comes to their roster as well. They’ll have approximately $26 million in cap space this summer, with Thorn looking to remake the roster after their franchise-worst record of 12-70. New Jersey has one of the game’s best young big men in second-year center Brook Lopez, and could have a chance at nabbing Kentucky point guard John Wall in the draft if they get the top pick in the May 18 lottery (their pick can be no worse than fourth). They’ll also have the 27th pick in the first round.

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