EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Avery Johnson says he has agreed to become the coach of the New Jersey Nets, the NBA’s worst team.
In a text message to The Associated Press on Wednesday, Johnson said he thinks the Nets will announce the deal Thursday.
Nets president and general manager Rod Thorn did not immediately respond when asked to comment on Johnson’s text. In an earlier e-mail to the AP, he said he “will have something to say” Thursday.
The current ESPN analyst coached Dallas for three-plus seasons, going 194-70 in the regular season and 23-24 in the playoffs. He guided the Mavs to the NBA finals in 2006, but was fired after a first-round playoff series loss to New Orleans in 2008.
Johnson will take over a team that posted a league worst 12-70 record and set a league-record opening the season with 18 straight losses.
The miserable start led to the firing of coach Lawrence Frank after 16 games. Outgoing general manager Kiki Vandeweghe served as the interim coach for the majority of the franchise’s worst season and only the fifth 70-loss season in NBA history.
The Nets threatened to break the Philadelphia 76ers’ league record for fewest wins in a season — nine — until a late run got them over the hump. The 76ers set the record in 1972-73.
Johnson is a proven winner, and his arrival in New Jersey will reunite him with point guard Devin Harris, who was shipped to New Jersey in the deal that sent Jason Kidd to the Mavericks.
The Nets also have a young talented center in Brook Lopez, two guards with tons of potential, Terrence Williams and Courtney Lee, and high hopes for Chinese Olympian Yi Jianlian.
New Jersey also has the third pick in this month’s draft.
Johnson should also benefit working with new Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov. The Russian billionaire has said he will open his wallet in free agency, and the Nets have more than $23 million to spend on a talent pool that might include LeBron James.
Johnson, who met with Thorn early in the coaching search, emerged as the leading contender after former Knicks and Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy turned down overtures from Thorn and Boston Celtics assistant coach Tom Thibodeau opted to take the Chicago Bulls’ head coaching job.
The Nets will be moving to the Prudential Center in Newark for the next two years before permanently moving to their new arena, the Barclays Center, in Brooklyn, N.Y. in 2012.
AP Sports Writer Brett Martel in New Orleans contributed to this report.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.