Avery Johnson (born March 25, 1965 in New Orleans, Louisiana, United States) is a retired American professional Basketball player and former Head coach of the NBA's Dallas Mavericks. Johnson is known as the "Little General" for his small (by NBA standards) stature, his leadership skills as a point guard and floor general, and his close friendship with former San Antonio Spurs teammate David Robinson (basketball).
As a high school senior in 1983, Johnson led New Orleans' St. Augustine High School to a 35-0 record and the Class 4A Louisiana State Championship. Johnson matriculated at New Mexico Junior College before moving on to Cameron University, and finally Southern University, with whom in his senior season in 1988 he led the NCAA with 13.3 assists per game, a senior and all-time record that still stands. Upon Graduation in 1988 Johnson was not selected in the NBA Draft. After a summer season with the USBL's Palm Beach Stingrays, however, Johnson was signed by the Seattle SuperSonics and managed to spend the next 16 years playing in the NBA, including stints with the Denver Nuggets, Houston Rockets, Golden State Warriors, and Dallas Mavericks. A true journeyman as a player, occasionally being traded, or even waived, mid-season, Johnson is best known for his time with the San Antonio Spurs (1991, 1992–1993, 1994–2001), particularly his integral role on the 1999 Spurs team that won the NBA championship against the New York Knicks in which he hit the championship-clinching shot in Game 5. The San Antonio Spurs retired Avery Johnson's number 6 on December 22, 2007 in a home game against the Los Angeles Clippers. He will also be inducted into the San Antonio Sports Hall of Fame on February 20, 2009.
After spending the 2003–2004 season playing with the Golden State Warriors, Johnson signed as a player-coach with the Dallas Mavericks under Don Nelson. Johnson had played under Nelson from 2001–2003, and it was understood from the beginning that Johnson was being groomed to eventually succeed Nelson as Head coach. On October 28, 2004, Johnson retired from playing to concentrate full-time on Coach (basketball), and his transition from assistant to head coach came five months later on March 19, 2005.
Under Johnson, the Mavericks closed out the 2004-2005 season with a 16-2 run and a first-round playoff victory over the Houston Rockets, before bowing out to the Phoenix Suns in the second round of the playoffs. Johnson was named the April 2005 NBA Coach of the Month, only one month after becoming a head coach for the first time.
The 2005-2006 season was even more successful for Johnson and was marked by a series of milestones. In November 2005 Johnson again won the NBA Coach of the Month award (his second and second consecutive, following his award from April the previous season), making him the first NBA coach to win the award in his first two months as a head coach. On January 28, 2006, when the Dallas Mavericks defeated the Utah Jazz, Johnson's record as coach reached 50-12, making Johnson the fastest coach to reach 50 wins. In February 2006, he was chosen to coach the 2006 NBA All-Star team for the Western Conference. On March 15, 2006, Johnson set the record for most wins over the course of a coach's first 82 games (the duration of a full season), with 66 wins over the span. Although Johnson ultimately led the Mavericks to the second-best record in the Western Conference, the team entered the playoffs as the fourth seed in the west, due to the structure of the 2006 NBA Playoffs seeding.
In April 2006, Johnson was rewarded for this success with the 2006 NBA Coach of the Year Award.
In June 2006, after defeating the Memphis Grizzlies, the defending champion San Antonio Spurs, and the Phoenix Suns in the first three rounds of the playoffs, Johnson led the Dallas Mavericks to their first ever NBA Finals appearance. However, the Mavs were defeated in the series by the Miami Heat, losing 4 straight after winning the first two games.
On December 31, 2006, Johnson became the fastest head coach to win 100 games by defeating the Denver Nuggets.
In the 2006-07 season, Johnson's Mavericks had the best record in the NBA with 67 wins and entered the playoffs as first seed. But his Mavericks eventually lost to the 8th seed Golden State Warriors, led by former Mavericks head coach Don Nelson, in one of the biggest upsets in recent NBA history.
With his win on November 18, 2007 against the Grizzlies, Johnson became the fastest coach to reach 150 wins.
But following the 2007–2008 season, the Mavericks, under Johnson, were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs for the second year in a row. A day later, on April 30, 2008, Johnson was dismissed as head coach of the Mavericks. On several occasions, Avery Johnson joined ESPN as an analyst. After the firing of Flip Saunders, on June 3, 2008, Johnson became one of the candidates for the head coaching position for the Detroit Pistons, a position that eventually went to Pistons then-Assistant Coach Michael Curry.