Avery Johnson (born May 25, 1965 in New Orleans, Lousiiana, was obtained by the Dallas Mavericks along with Raef LaFrentz, Nick Van Exel and Tariq Abdul-Wahad on February 21, 2002 from the Denver Nuggets in exchange for Juwan Howard, Tim Hardaway, Donnell Harvey and a 2002 first round draft pick.
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. In his senior year at Southern, Johnson led the NCAA with a 13.3 assists-per-game average, also a Southern University record that still stands.
Upon graduation in 1988 Johnson went undrafted. After a summer season with the USBL 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, of course, the Mavericks. The 5"10 guard is most well-known for his time with the San Antonio Spurs (1991, 1992-1993, 1994-2000), particularly his integral role on the 1999 Spurs team that won the NBA championship against the New York Knicks in which he hit the series-clinching shot in Game 5.
He played all 82 games for San Antonio three times and still holds the Spurs' record for most consecutive games played with 296 never missing a game from December 11, 1992 through March 14, 1997. A leader on the court and a gentleman off, Johnson won the NBA Sportsmanship Award in 1998.
Standing 5'11", Avery Johnson is the only other player in NBA's history beside the league's great Calvin Murphy to play in more than 1000 games among all other players who are under 6' of height. Off the floor, Johnson was known for his leadership ability, or so-called "locker room appearance", he brings to a team, with which granted him the nickname "The Little General" and eventually the coaching career.
Johnson joined Dallas in February 2002 and played a season-and-a-half in a Mavs uniform.
After spending the 2003-2004 season playing with the Golden State Warriors, Johnson returned as a player-coach with the Dallas Mavericks under Don Nelson. Johnson had played under Nelson from 2002-2003, 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 coaching, 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 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. Nevertheless, Johnson was rewarded by the league with the 2006 Coach-Of-The-Year award.
On December 31, 2006, Johnson became the fastest head coach to win 100 games when the Mavs defeated the Denver Nuggets. The team went on to win 67 games that season and entered the playoffs with the league's best record but were knocked out in the first round by former Mavs Coach Don Nelson and the Golden State Warriors.
2007-2008 was a repeat of the previous year as, despite a nice regular season run, Dallas was eliminated from the playoffs in the first round by Memphis. One day after their playoff elimination, Johnson was relieved of his coaching duties.
He went on to become an analyst for ESPN over the next two seasons before being named head coach of the New Jersey Nets in June of 2010. His first year with the Nets, Johnson led the team to an improved record of 24-58. That improvement did not continue the next season however as the Nets were a disappointing 22-44 in the shortened season.
Johnson stayed with the Nets as they relocated to Brooklyn in 2012 where, despite an 11-4 start, they went on to lose ten of the next 13 games and was dismissed as head coach on December 27, 2012.
He rejoined ESPN for two years until being named head coach of the University of Alabama men's basketball team on April 6, 2015.