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Using the grace card

December 31, 2012
By MIKE MATHISON - Sports editor ( , The Herald-Star

I love watching people show class, grace.

It is something we all need to do more in all situations.

Sometimes, we think this world is ours in a bubble and we are so wrong.

We make decisions every day and some of those are how we act and react to situations

I witnessed all class and all grace in two moments completely different from one another.

I watched the news conference in which Avery Johnson answered questions not long after being fired as head coach of the New Jersey Nets.

He didn't have to be there.

He chose to be there on Thursday morning.

He said yes to the question, "Will you talk to the press."

Among the things he said was:

"It's a really disappointing day for me and my family. It's my wife's birthday. It's not a great birthday gift. I didn't see this coming. But this is ownership's decision. It's part of the business. Fair or unfair, it's time for a new voice and hopefully they'll get back on track."

"You don't always get a fair shake as a coach. I'm not the owner. If I were the owner, I wouldn't have fired myself today. But life is not always necessarily fair. It's a business and in this business, the coach always gets blamed."

"You never think when you're a .500 team and then you're going into two more home games at home that something like this would happen. But this is ownership's decision, and this is what we sign up for. This is part of our business. Fair or unfair, it doesn't matter. But again, it's time for a new voice, and hopefully they'll get back on track."

Johnson was NBA Coach of the Month for November and fired in late December.

See any self-pity there?

See anyone blaming the situation on others?

See any selfishness there whatsoever?

The firing came not long after point guard Deron Williams openly questioned Johnson's offense to the media.

"From Day One, I always had a really good relationship with him. I don't think it's fair for anyone to hang this on Deron. We were just going through a bad streak, a bad spell. It's not time for me to be down on one player. That would be the easy way ... He's one player. We have 15 players, and it's up to the coach to really maximize the team. But at the end of the day, ownership, they're the ones that own the team. We just went through a bad stretch, a bad spell, we couldn't make a shot. But I always thought we were gonna get it turned around, knowing full well that we weren't necessarily finished with (assembling) this roster."

From Greg Popovich, coach of the San Antonio Spurs, thanks to Spurs Nation:

"Of course, many of us were surprised to see what happened in Brooklyn. From my perspective, Avery's not a good coach, he's a very good coach. He's a hell of a coach. He's proven that. There aren't too many of us out there who have ever won 67 games in a season. He's taken a team to the Finals. If my memory serves me correct, he was Coach of the Month. It sort of shows what a fickle, volatile business we're in. We all know that. Avery knows that, too.

"Often times, situations like that have nothing to do with the ability of the coach. It has more to do with circumstances. We've seen it before. I can't help but think sometimes a little patience could go a long way.

"You think about coaches I believe Dean Smith, they did a little effigy in his honor in the beginning when things weren't going well. Johnny Wooden had a rough patch in the beginning. Mike Krzyzewski, arguably our best coach we have in basketball today, things didn't go very well in the beginning. He had an AD who was smart enough to know what he had. He exhibited a lot of patience, so now you see where Coach K is. I think we all understand that. But circumstances, especially in the NBA, have a whole lot more to do with firings than how well or how poorly a coach did. It's unfortunate. But we all move on, including Avery."

Johnson was in the last year of a three year, $12 million contract.

He was 60-116 since the start of the 2010 season. He was 194-70 before walking into the Nets' clubhouse.

The Nets focused the first two years under Johnson rebuilding a team and preparing for its move to Brooklyn.

"I thought especially under the circumstances that I took this job - knowing that the first two years we were gonna get beat up pretty bad - then I thought the third year I'll have the whole third year and the fourth year to maybe really try to put together a championship team, but that didn't happen," Johnson said.

"I think any coach, and I got a lot of guys that have called today, you gotta have in this business, you gotta have the power in terms of the ability to coach and the respect. It would help if you do have a contract that the players respect. That's the nature of our business. And when you don't have that, then, sometimes when things tend to go sideways, you just don't have the full support. And if you don't have the full support of ownership in a lot of different areas, then for the most part it's just not gonna work."

Johnson sat there and answered questions not long after being fired.

It was not his decision to get fired, but it was his decision to show class and grace after being fired.

Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson finished nine yards short of surpassing the NFL record of most rushing yards in a season of 2,105 by Eric Dickerson.

When he was told that just after the game in an on-field interview, he didn't whimper, whine or complain that he finished nine yards short.

He said the team goal of getting a win and making it to the playoffs was the No. 1 goal and if the record came, the record came.

He later went on Twitter and said, "It's bittersweet coming up 9 yds short of the record but I came into this game w my main focus being getting a "W". Mission accomplished!"

All class by All Day.

He didn't bemoan the fact his individual goal came up just short and the fact it happened about 370 days after tearing his ACL and MCL on a 2011 Christmas Eve game.

He was thankful for the team goal.

He showed class and grace.

(Mathison, a Weirton resident, is the sports editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times and can be contacted at

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