Winning Is Everything: Absence of playoff success doomed Johnson
Nor was Johnson shown the door because he clashed philosophically with point guard
No, Johnson was fired for the reason most coaches are (or at least should be): He couldn't get the job done in the postseason.
For the second time in as many seasons, Cuban watched his $105.3 million investment exit the playoffs with barely a whimper. Last season it was the fast-breaking Golden State Warriors who sent Dallas packing, dismissing the top-seeded Mavs in six games. It only took five games this season for a young New Orleans Hornets team to bounce Dallas, leaving Cuban seething on the sidelines and in search of a fall guy.
Johnson was it.
Johnson certainly deserves credit for changing the culture in Big D. Under
That regular season success, however, did not transfer to the postseason. Much like the 2007 playoffs, Johnson couldn't devise schemes to stop the simplest of styles. Golden State ousted the Mavericks by pushing the tempo and playing a smaller defender on
For that he was fired.
But he may not be the only one leaving Dallas.
His dismissal is likely the first in a wave of changes for the Mavericks, which Nowitzki hinted at in his postgame press conference Tuesday night. "I'm sure there are going to be some changes," said Nowitzki. "Once you don't win the championship, you always have to look at what you're going to do to make the franchise better."
Those changes could include Dirk. As disappointing as the loss to New Orleans is, Dallas won't panic and make a knee-jerk deal involving Nowitzki. But after years of steadfastly standing by his star, Cuban (who once refused to include Dirk in any deal with the Lakers for
And Nowitzki could still fetch a nice price. At 29, he is a year removed from an MVP season and is still one of the league's elite scorers (23.6 points per game in the regular season). What if Miami lands one of the top-two picks? Could a package of Nowitzki and a future first-round pick for
Dallas will also have to explore its options at the center position. If the NBA gave out its version of the Razzie Awards for playoff series,
Finding that type of player should be one of the Mavericks' top priorities in the offseason. The free agent pickings are slim:
The Mavs may also get creative in replacing Johnson. This will ostensibly be Cuban's first independent hire: He inherited Don Nelson when he bought the team in 2000 and allowed Nelson to groom Johnson as his hand-picked successor. While names of the usual candidates (
The Mavericks are in line for an overhaul. Just how big is the only question.