Mavericks fire Johnson after another playoff flop

Thursday, May 1, 2008

DALLAS -- From the start, Avery Johnson was a perfect fit as coach of the Dallas Mavericks.

At the end, it was pretty obvious he wasn't.

Johnson lost his job Wednesday, a move the team referred to as "relieving him of his duties." The softer tone made sense considering that in three-plus seasons Johnson guided the Mavericks to the finals for the first time and to a club-record 67 wins the following season.

Yet for all the high points, there were some serious lows -- blowing a 2-0 lead in those finals, getting dumped in the first round of the playoffs after that 67-win season and then, the final straw, getting knocked out in the first round again this season after Dallas shook up its roster and mortgaged some of its future to acquire Jason Kidd.

Over those three straight postseason wipeouts, the Mavericks lost 12 of 15 games, including all nine on the road.

"Was it time for a change? I guess," said Dirk Nowitzki, who won the MVP award under Johnson's watch. "I think this franchise, we owe him a lot. Unfortunately it's just one of those situations where everybody's got to move on."

The final mark during Johnson's tenure: 194-70 in the regular season, 23-24 in the playoffs.

Johnson got the news during a meeting at his condominium Wednesday morning. Donnie Nelson, the team's president of basketball operations, was there, while team owner Mark Cuban joined via cell phone from Chicago.

Johnson flew to Houston soon after because his son had an accident at school. He will meet with reporters today, but called in to the local ESPN affiliate, KESN, to talk about his dismissal.

"This is something that needed to happen," Johnson said. "There's no animosity or bitterness. We all still really care about each other, but it was time to go in a different direction. ... We didn't win the championship, but if you look at the whole body of work that we put together over the last 3 years ... we'll put it up against anybody."

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