The Spurs Family Tree Part 2: The good, the bad and the ugly


In part two of the San Antonio Spurs Family Tree, let’s take a look at the good, the bad and the ugly of head coaches who were at one point Spurs “students,” and their success, or lack thereof, after leaving the San Antonio.

Avery Johnson

Better known in San Antonio as the “Little General,” he played for the Spurs in the 1990-1991, 1991-1993, and 1994-2001 NBA seasons. As a player with the Spurs, Johnson averaged, 10.1 points, 6.8 assists, 2 rebounds, 28.7 minutes per game and appeared in 725 games — all stats including regular and post season.

Spurs’ coach, Gregg Popovich, knew Johnson would become a coach since 1999 and would often refer to him as “Coach Johnson” during Spurs’ games and practices. Seems Popovich was right.

After retiring as a player in 2004, he became an assistant coach with the Dallas Mavericks under Don Nelson. Nelson left the Mavericks on March 19, 2005, and Johnson took over as head coach. He led the Mavericks to a 60-22 record in his first full season in 2005-2006 and was named the NBA coach of the year.

Under Johnson, the Mavericks reached the NBA Finals in 2006 but lost four straight games to the Miami Heat after taking the first two games of the series. He led the Mavericks to the best record in the league in 2006-2007 at 67-15, but the Mavericks lost in the first round to the Golden State Warriors.

He was fired after the 2007-2008 when the Mavericks lost in the first round of the playoffs to the New Orleans Hornets. For the past two years Johnson had been working for ESPN/ABC until June 9, 2010, when Johnson agreed to become the New Jersey Nets new head coach.

When asked his thoughts on Johnson, Popovich said the following:

He’s got a special mind — you’re going to see it in New Jersey, even if they’re going to be young, taught himself what it takes to be successful in the league, and since then he’s taught others. He’ll get a defensive mentality established with the group. He’ll get Devin [Harris] in attack mode. He’ll adjust regardless of what personnel they get there.

Popovich also added he thought Avery has a “brilliant basketball mind.”

As a head coach, Johnson’s regular season record was 194-70 (.735 winning percentage) and in the post season he had a record of 23-24 (.489 winning percentage).

Was Johnson successful after leaving the San Antonio Spurs? Check out some more of his notable achievements and you be the judge.

  • 2006 NBA Coach of the Year
  • Fastest coach to 50 wins, 100 wins and 150 wins
  • Led the Dallas Mavericks to its first and only trip to the NBA Finals in 2006
  • Named April 2005 Coach of the Month (only one month after becoming head coach for the first time ever)
  • Named November 2005 Coach of the Month (also became first ever coach to win back to back Coach of the Month awards)**

**April was the last month of the regular season and November was the first month of the next season.

Vinny Del Negro

The former Chicago Bulls’ coach, played with the Spurs from 1992-1998 and averaged 10.1 points, 3.4 assists, 2.5 rebound and 29 minutes per game and appeared in 479 games (stats include regular and post season play).

After retiring in 2001 and a small stint as a radio commentator for the Phoenix Suns, Del Negro was promoted to Director of Player Personnel for the Suns in 2006. The next year he was promoted to Assistant General Manager along side of Steve Kerr. Del Negro was part of the front office which was responsible for making dramatic changes to the Suns roster from 2007 to 2009. He was a major influence of Phoenix adopting the “run-and-gun” style of offense.

He was recognized for all of his work by the Bulls in 2008 when he replaced Jim Boylan as the new head coach. Del Negro finished his first season as head coach of the Bulls with a 41-41 record, sufficient for the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference. That year the Bulls played a seven-game series against the Boston Celtics, featuring a record seven overtimes, before losing.

The next year the Bulls finished with the same 41-41 record and gained the eighth seed in the East but lost to the Cavaliers Cavaliers in five games. It also didn’t help De Negro’s case with reports about he getting into physical altercations with Bull’s front-office personnel. The Bulls dismissed Del Negro as head coach on May 4th, 2010 and but has been hired as the new coach for the Los Angeles Clippers. 

Was Del Negro successful after leaving the Spurs? Check out some more of his statistics as a head coach and you be the judge.

  • Regular season record of 82-82 (.500 winning percentage)
  • Post season record of 4-8 (.333 winning percentage)
  • Del Negro never made it past the first round of the playoffs

P.J. Carlesimo

Carlesimo was an assistant coach under Popovich for the Spurs from 2002 to 2007. He was part of the coaching staff that won three championships in a span of five years, winning in 2003, 2005 and in his last year with the Spurs 2007.

On July 5, 2007 he was hired to become the then Seattle Supersonics head coach. After Carlesimo coached one year in Seattle, the organization would move to Oklahoma City and be renamed the “Thunder.”

After a lousy 1-12 start in the 2008-2009 season, Carlesimo was dismissed from his duties as head coach, making it the second consecutive head coaching job he has been fired from.

Things may be looking up for Carlesimo. On May 31, 2010, he reached an agreement to join the Toronto Raptors as an assistant coach under Jay Triano.

Was Carlesimo successful after leaving the San Antonio Spurs? Check out some of his statistics and you be the judge.

  • Regular season record: 21-74 (.221 winning percentage)
  • Postseason record: 0-0 (did not make playoffs as head coach after leaving San Antonio)
  • Finished 25th out of 30 teams in the NBA in the 2007-2008 season
  • Fired on November 22, 2008 after 1-12 start of 2008-2009 season

As you can see Spurs fans, sometimes it doesn’t end up “roses” when a former Spurs player or a coach leaves. In this case, you have the “good” with Johnson, the “bad” because of how it ended in Chicago with Del Negro and the “ugly” with Carlesimo.

Come back next week for part three of this series.