Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov has his first NBA coach in New
Jersey: ESPN analyst Avery Johnson.
After breaking into the coaching business under Mark Cuban in Dallas and
interviewing with New Orleans and Atlanta in recent weeks, Johnson on
Wednesday struck a verbal agreement to coach Prokhorov’s Nets.
Although the sides might need the rest of the week to finalize what
sources close to the situation say will be a three-year contract,
Johnson confirmed the agreement in a Wednesday afternoon interview with
ESPN’s Hannah Storm.
"We’re excited about it," Johnson told Storm. "We’ve come to a verbal agreement and hopefully the Nets will have an official announcement tomorrow. But, yes, I am headed to New Jersey."
Johnson, whose gaudy career winning percentage of .735 is the highest in league history, is completing his second season with ESPN. He was fired in Dallas in May 2008, in spite of his 194-70 record, after consecutive first-round playoff defeats.
Taking the Nets’ job takes him out of the running in Atlanta after three face-to-face interviews with the Hawks, which followed a contentious end to Johnson’s candidacy with the Hornets after the New Orleans native was initially presumed to be the favorite with his hometown team.
The Hawks met with Johnson as recently as Saturday, when general manager Rick Sund came to his house in Houston. But Atlanta, according to NBA coaching sources, is now expected to choose by week’s end between Dallas Mavericks assistant Dwane Casey, holdover Hawks assistant Larry Drew and ESPN/ABC’s Mark Jackson.