The Big A: Little General Leading Charge in Big D

By Jerald LeVon Hoover
Updated: February 4, 2007

DALLAS — He stands about 5-feet-11 inches tall. He has a high-pitched voice to go along with his southern accent (he was born in and raised in the New Orleans area), which makes his voice even more humorous.

He was known as a journeyman in his playing days. He’s been the brunt of more than a few jokes and has been mocked on several occasions. But has that deterred the determined head coach of the Dallas Mavericks, Avery Johnson? The answer is a resounding, no!

In a little over two seasons, the Little General That Could has guided the Mavs to becoming perennial playoff powerhouses capable of capturing the whole enchilada.

This was done all in part mind you on the fly, especially when you consider that former Mav coach and new Golden State Warrior coach, Don Nelson left him to man the ship. Johnson who has always been a student of the game as he was a point guard on the Spurs champion season of 1999 had never been a head coach on any level.

Like Hall of Fame coach and player Lenny Wilkens said, ”all I ask for is a chance. All we can ask for as minorities is a chance. Give us a chance to see what we can do first then you can judge us on the results. But, give us a chance first.”

As far as championship caliber minority coaches are concerned, Tony Dungy and Lovie Smith has shown the world that it’s not the color of your skin that wins or loses games, it’s your skill level and your management and your player relationship skill that ultimately wins or losses.

And in the case of the aforementioned gentlemen, history will be made no matter whose team wins. This year will mark the very first time that a Super Bowl game was one by a Black man.

This past NBA season, Johnson himself came a Dirk Nowitzki, Jerry Stackhouse and owner Mark Cuban meltdown of winning his first championship himself. The Mavs had the Miami Heat down two games to love heading back to the Sunshine State.

Not only that, but they were winning by a double-digit margin late into the game when the dam opened and the waters drowned out the Mavs season as the Heat overcame the elements and won the series in six games. “We had no answer for Wade,” is something Johnson was found often saying.

But, like a true leader that he is, Johnson has this years Mavs as focused as ever. After overcoming a 0-4 start the Mavs have gone on to a 32-5 record. The only team hotter or just as hot are the Phoenix Suns and the Mavs took care of them last season albeit without the services of All-pro center Amare Stoudamire.

The Mavs are deep and solid at each and every position on the floor. Their second unit, led by guards Anthony (no relation to the coach) Johnson and Devin Harris would be a playoff contender in the Eastern Conference. They also sport a bevy of playoff experience.

The rest of the NBA better beware, the Little General and his crew are on a mission.

GAME NOTES: With a 122-102 win over Seattle, the Mavs improved to a NBA best 36-9. Sub forward Austin Croshere scored a career-high 34 points in 24 minutes. He made up for a cold Dirk Nowitzki who was 3-for 12-shooting while finishing with on 15 points. Sonics Guard Ray Allen on Croshere’s big night, “Austin and I are friends, I’ve known him a long time. He didn’t surprise me too much tonight. I’ve always known he could shoot.”