A Few Minutes With AJ

By Anthony Harris
Updated: December 22, 2004

Avery Johnson
Avery Johnson

NEW YORK,NY.—What is there not to like about Avery Johnson.

He entered the National Basketball Association as an undrafted gym rat who toiled in the United States Basketball League.

In college his tenacious never-give-up attitude wasn’t recognized until after attending two universities and going back home to Southern University where he was the SWAC player of the year and conference tournament MVP in successive seasons.

In the NBA, he continued to work extremely hard to improve every bit of that 5’-11” frame, becoming one of the game’s most reliable floor leaders (hence the nickname “Little General”).

Yes, he did bounce around some over that 16-year career, playing for six different franchises – including two stints with Golden State and San Antonio.

With the Spurs he played an integral part in their first ever league title during the 1999-2000 campaign.

Throughout the league his peers and members of the media respect him.

Off the court he has consistently taken time to think of others either through his foundation or just helping out in any way that he could.

I recently had the pleasure to rap with the recently retired 39-year old Johnson, and yes we did discuss his unique voice.

Q: You’re now an assistant coach with the Dallas Mavericks being groomed for a future head coaching position

A: Yeah, it’s just something that I always wanted to do, and it’s something that I’m real passionate about and I love it. I love it, I love the teaching, the challenges, the rewards, and I really love everything about it.

Q: It was actually announced on December 8th, how’s it going so far

A: Right. It’s going really well. We’ve got a good group of guys that are real coachable. Our coaching staff we really get along well, and we’ve got solid ownership. So when you have all those intangibles it makes life as a coach a lot easier.

Q: How has current coach Don Nelson helped you out

A: Oh tremendously, just so many little things. I learn something new every day, he has a wealth of knowledge and he’s been real unselfish in sharing his knowledge and it’s something that I’ll never forget.

Q: I know you’re just starting out, but what kind of coach would you say you are

A: I’m definitely not a player’s coach. I think I’m more of a disciplinarian, and I think I lean a little bit more towards the defensive side.

Q: When you say disciplinarian can you give me an example

A: I just think that teams just have to be disciplined with their approach especially defensively. You gotta be sound and disciplined defensively; you can’t really have guys running all over the place doing their own thing. You have to have a structure. You have to stick by your structure. You have to be on time for practices and planes, and you just gotta have a very disciplined environment but at the same time have some fun.

Q: You made that little reference there about being on time, was that something that bothered you during your playing days

A: Yeah, I hated when players were late, so I definitely want our players to be on time.

Q: Was coaching something that you paid close attention to during your playing days

A: Absolutely, yeah it’s not something that you wake up and decide to do, it’s a well thought out process and I think that’s why I’m having as much fun as I am doing it

Q: Do you have any more coaching dates set up

A: Yeah, there’ve been two actually, I just did one against Atlanta and yeah we won fortunately and I was a much better coach that night than I was the previous time. During the course of the year coach is giving me three more times, so we’re not going to announce it like we did the first time. I’m being groomed for the job, I’m just an assistant coach and they’re giving me as much experience as they can.

Q: I have to ask you about your voice, many people have talked about it

A: It’s just one of those things, I’m from New Orleans and I have a certain voice so I’m glad that when people hear my voice they know it’s me, because that could be good and bad but more good than bad.