DJ Purged Along with the Other Assistant Coaches

May 16, 1997

After starring on the court and showing tremendous promise in his coaching stint, Dennis Johnson is now trying his hand at the waiting game.

While being duly impressed with the way Rick Pitino has quickly established control with the Celtics, DJ, fired last week with the other assistant coaches in the front office purge, is sitting tight until some of the upper echelon coaching changes shake out.

"I think right now everyone's waiting to see what's going to happen with Phil Jackson and Chuck Daly," said Johnson, who will be a strong candidate for the Vancouver vacancy among others.

"They're the biggest and hottest names out there. A lot of teams seem to be after them, and once they decide where they're going to be next year, then everyone can get down to talking to the rest of the coaches out there.

"We're talking to some teams now, but I'll just have to see how some things go."

Johnson is still hoping to get his head coaching shot next season, but, in the event that doesn't happen, he'll set his sights on a first-assistant opportunity. With two years of Celtic pay still due him (a contract that will be paid out even if he gets another job, giving him the chance to double dip), DJ can afford to be selective. Still, he doesn't want to fall out of the coaching loop - and that shouldn't be a problem."

"I am going to be a head coach in this league," Johnson said. "It may be next season. It may take a year. It may take two years. But it is going to happen, and I'm going to be a fine head coach. I'm really confident of that now."

One might have suspected that Johnson would be a bit hurt by Pitino's takeover, in light of the fact sources say DJ believed he was told the Celtic head coaching job was going to be his starting with this past season. Such is not the case.

As for the job that could have been his and the alleged agreement, he said, "It doesn't matter what we think. If something isn't yours, then everything else is null and void. I really don't even think about that anymore."

What he does think about is how well the Celtics - his Celtics - can do under Pitino.

"Rick Pitino is great for the Celtics, and that means he's great for me because I'm a Celtic," DJ said. "I've played here a long time and coached here, and I want nothing but the best for this team."

Johnson is even understanding about being fired.

"That's all part of basketball," he said. "When a new coach comes in, he has to want to have his own coaches with him. We're coming off two bad years here, and one of the things you probably have to do is remove all the negative things you can. I'm not saying I was a negative thing at all - I think I did a lot of good things for this team - but you have to try to make things as new as you can. Rick Pitino has proven he's a winner and a leader. I just know he's doing the right things and I know he's going to win here."

1 comment:

FLCeltsFan said...

Sad that he ended up in the D-league and never got that shot at coaching in the big leagues, other than that short interim job he had with the Clippers. DJ never got the respect he deserved.

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