Fri, May 02, 2008 - Page 24 News List

Mavericks let Johnson go after two first-round flops

AP , DALLAS

The Dallas Mavericks fired coach Avery Johnson on Tuesday, a move that likely was the first of many in the offseason by the club.

Despite having the NBA’s highest annual payroll, Dallas was eliminated in the first-round of the playoffs for the second straight season.

Johnson leaves with an impressive resume after three-plus seasons, but Mavs owner Mark Cuban couldn’t tolerate a bottom line of being 3-12 in the playoffs since leading the Miami Heat 2-0 in the 2006 NBA finals and losing the title.

The Mavericks followed that disappointment by being ousted by Golden State in the opening round last season in one of the biggest upsets in league history — eliminated in five games by the New Orleans Hornets.

Dallas didn’t win a single road game this season against the Heat, Warriors or Hornets, an 0-9 record that was too much to overcome.

While accumulating a record of 194-70 in the regular season, Johnson was just 23-24 in the playoffs.

“It is never easy to relieve a coach of his duties, especially one of Avery’s caliber,” Cuban said in a statement. “He is a talented coach and I want to thank him for his efforts over the last four years and what he has done for this franchise.”

A championship-winning point guard for San Antonio during his long career, Johnson became Dallas’ coach-in-waiting when he joined Don Nelson’s staff before the 2004-05 season. He only had to wait a few months. Nelson stepped aside in March 2005 and “The Little General” took over.

The Mavs went 16-2 the rest of that season and won a playoff series. Then, in his first full season, Dallas went to the NBA finals for the first time and he was the league’s coach of the year.

After squandering their title shot, Johnson and the Mavs won 67 games the next season — only to lose in the opening-round of the playoffs to the Warriors.

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