TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – The University of Alabama Director of Athletics Bill Battle formally introduced Avery Johnson as the Crimson Tide's new head men's basketball coach this morning at a press conference inside the Naylor Stone Media Room of the Mal M. Moore Athletics Complex on the UA campus. Johnson becomes the 20th head coach in the program's 102-year history.
“I believe Avery Johnson will passionately live our mission of Alabama basketball every day,” said Battle. “Our mission in basketball is to recruit and develop student-athletes to compete at the highest level in NCAA basketball, to educate and prepare those student-athletes to compete at the highest level in life after graduation, and to do both with honor and integrity.
“There is no doubt in my mind, after being around him for a few days, that he can recruit,” Battle continued. “He can lead young men. He will not only be a great teacher, but he will be a great example. He and his family will be great assets to the University, the athletic department and to our community.”
“What a great day it is for me to be the new head men's basketball coach,” said Johnson. “This is a great opportunity with tremendous potential.
“I want to say thank you to my wife. My wife who has been married to me for 24 years, Cassandra. Coach Battle already mentioned my kids who we are so proud of. I really enjoyed meeting Dr. Bonner; thank you Dr. Bonner. Coach Battle, what can I say, I just want to thank you for this opportunity. I also want to thank all of the players, the current players from The University of Alabama men's basketball family.”
Johnson wasted no time outlining his upcoming plan of action. “To every recruit in the state of Alabama, to every high-level recruit in this state, you're our first target,” he said. “We want to put a fence around the state of Alabama. Yes, we would love to go and recruit some of the high-level, blue-chip players outside of this state, but the state of Alabama and its high school players and AAU players, you are our priority. To every high school coach and every AAU coach in the state of Alabama, you are our priority. We're taking this program to places it has never been before. But you are our priority, the young people that are student athletes in the state of Alabama.
“Our goals are to develop young men,” Johnson added. “We are here to develop our student-athletes in terms of their character, the way they communicate, the way they compete on the court and also in the classroom. We're here to teach them how to care more about our program than themselves. We're here because we want them to become confident young men in the community, academically, but also on the basketball court. We want them to maximize their potential.”
Johnson enjoyed a 16-year NBA career as a player with stints with the San Antonio Spurs, Golden State Warriors, Seattle Supersonics, Denver Nuggets, Dallas Mavericks and Houston Rockets. Johnson played 10 seasons with the Spurs, including nine under legendary coach Gregg Popovich.
"Avery Johnson has a unique blend of desire, basketball knowledge and compassion," said Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich. "While we will miss having him in the NBA family, I'm excited to see what he brings to The University of Alabama and the NCAA. I think it's a great hire."
Johnson brings a 254-186 (.577) career coaching record to the Crimson Tide after spending four seasons with the Mavericks and two-plus seasons with the NBA's Brooklyn Nets. He was named the 2006 NBA Coach of the Year after his first full season as head coach of the Dallas Mavericks.
During his time in Dallas, Johnson led the Mavericks to the postseason in each of his three-plus seasons as head coach. He guided the Mavericks to a record of 194-70 (.735) and set an NBA record for reaching the 50-win plateau (62 games) and the 150-win plateau (191 games) the fastest of any head coach in league history. In 2005-06, Johnson led the Mavericks to their first appearance in the NBA Finals en route to earning NBA Coach of the Year honors.
In 16 NBA seasons as a player, Johnson averaged 8.4 points, 5.5 assists, 1.7 rebounds and 25.3 minutes played in 1,054 career games with seven different teams.
A New Orleans native, Johnson played his final two collegiate seasons at Southern University, leading the NCAA in assists both years, and was named the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) Player of the Year and the Most Valuable Player of the SWAC Tournament during his junior and senior seasons. He still owns several NCAA Division I records, including most assists in a single game (22 – shared with two other players), most games with 20 or more assists (four), the highest single-season assists average (13.3), and the highest career assists average (12.0).
Johnson earned a bachelor's degree in psychology from Southern University in 1988. He and his wife, Cassandra, were married in July of 1991 in New Orleans. The Johnsons are the parents of two children, a daughter Christianne (22), who is a 2015 graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, and a son Avery Jr. (19), who just finished his freshman season on the men's basketball team at Texas A&M.
“I wouldn't have taken this job if we couldn't make it to the Final Four,” said Johnson. “I wouldn't have taken this job if I didn't see and have a vision of how we could get to the Final Four, and have an opportunity to win a championship. Duke University – that's the standard for us here at The University of Alabama and our basketball program. The way they play defense and offense, the way they move the ball, that's the standard. Nobody else is the standard, that's the standard – Duke University. That's why I'm here.
"I promise you, I will work morning, Noon and night to get the job done," Johnson said.