Rod Thorn figured he better gobble up Avery Johnson before somebody else did.
The Nets announced Thursday what Johnson will coach the Nets. Johnson, who announced the deal Wednesday on ESPN, will make between $11-12 million on a three-year deal, according to reports.
"In thinking long and hard about it I just felt Avery was a good fit for us," Thorn, the Nets president, said Thursday in a conference call. "If we were going to go down the path to try to sign Avery, that we better get moving, because there are other teams that had some interest and my feeling was we didn't want to lose out in getting him if he were in fact interested in doing it. So I decided to act."
Johnson was also a finalist for the Atlanta Hawks job.
The new coach will meet the new owner -- the Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov who became the first non-North American owner of an NBA franchise -- Sunday in Boston for Game 5 of the NBA Finals. The Newark Star-Ledger first reported the meeting Wednesday night.
"The hiring of Avery Johnson as the Nets head coach is a wonderful first step towards building a winning team," Prokhorov said in a statement. "His leadership qualities, knowledge of the game and ability to motivate are all talents we will be calling upon as we move forward. This is the beginning of what I hope will be many more exciting announcements to come before the start of the season."
Armed with a young nucleus of point guard Devin Harris, center Brook Lopez, the No. 3 pick in the upcoming NBA draft and $26 million in salary-cap space, the Nets have a high ceiling after finishing an NBA-worst 12-70 last season.
"I am really excited to be the head coach of the New Jersey Nets, it's an honor," Johnson said in a statement. "I want to thank Mikhail Prokhorov and Rod Thorn for their confidence in appointing me as head coach. The future of the team is bright and I am excited to be a part of that future. We want to play tough, hard-nosed defense and we are going to move the ball on offense. It's all going to begin with training camp where we will start building a foundation for the future."
Former Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy took himself out of the search the night before the draft lottery. Once that happened, Thorn said he felt Johnson, the NBA coach of the year in 2005-6 with the Dallas Mavericks, was the most prepared for the job.
"I felt very good about him," Thorn said. "In that he knew a lot about our team, the pluses and minuses of the players we have, he has as defensive philosophy that is something we definitely need, was very impressed with his basketball knowledge, was also impressed with his attention to detail -- the plan that he has for practices, for shootarounds. He is as very prepared individual. And I just felt he would be a good fit for what we need to do."
Thorn said he was also impressed at how Dallas "got better" defensively under Johnson and also became "more physical."
Although Harris has clashed with Johnson in the past during their time together in Dallas, Thorn said he consulted his point guard on the move.
"He felt that he certainly had his moments with Avery, but felt Avery was a very good coach and really helped him in the long-range scheme of things, and held everyone accountable -- not just Devin or not just some of the other players on the team,but also the top players on the team," Thorn said. "Felt he would be a good fit for our personnel and spoke very highly of him."
Johnson also got the endorsement of former Seton Hall and NBA coach P.J. Carlesimo.
"That's a terrific choice," Carlesimo, now an assistant with the Toronto Raptors, told The Star-Ledger. "He's great for Jersey."
Before getting the Nets job, Johnson said he thought New Jersey would be a great fit for LeBron James and other NBA free agents, and he echoed those comments Wednesday on ESPN.
Can Johnson help lure James and others to Newark?
"He can help," Thorn said of Johnson. "But in free agency, different players look for different things. Some look for a city they can live in. Some look for a team that can be competitive. Some look for the monetary aspect. Different things go into it. Other things, who am I going to play with? There is no hard-and-fast rule there. Certainly a coach can have an effect, but there are a lot of other things that go into it."