Ever since Mikhail Prokhorov became principal owner of the Brooklyn Nets in May 2010, he has made it his purpose to change the nature of the organization.
Prior to Prokhorov's tenure, the Nets had built up a reputation as the little brother, within the Atlantic division, of the New York Knicks and Boston Celtics. Aside from back-to-back runs to the NBA final more than a decade ago, the only specimen that could associate the Nets with success, prior to moving to Brooklyn, is that they played in the same arena as the three-time Stanley Cup champion New Jersey Devils.
Even when the Nets were setting records for bad starts, bad finishes, and poor play in practically every other month, they held on to coaches like John Calipari, Byron Scott and Lawrence Frank.
But, when the Nets jumped out to an 11-4 start this season -- playing in Brooklyn -- and then went on a month-and-a-half long slump, Prokhorov made a statement, firing Avery Johnson, who coached the team to two miserable seasons before making the move to the borough across the Hudson River.
In essence, Johnson was hired to be the coach that moved the Nets to Brooklyn. And, even the day before he was fired, there was still confidence in the coach who once led the Dallas Mavericks to a 67-15 regular season record. But, he was given just 28 games and was axed with a 14-14 record.
The move proves to people that the Nets and Prokhorov have intentions of winning games, and they have expectations to win now. If a .500 record wasn't cutting it in December, it certainly won't be cutting it in April.
It's a different feeling for Nets fans. Most of them, after all, have seen very little success from the franchise, and even less in terms of expectations. But maybe it was expected. With the roster that general manager Billy King put together this year, it was fairly obvious that it was going to be a different Nets team on the floor -- and it has been.
Since the firing, rumors have circled around several big names to fill the vacancy, highlighted, of course, by Phil Jackson. Sources close to the team have said that Jackson is Brooklyn's first choice, but no name has emerged as a top candidate since Johnson was fired. For now, it's former assistant coach P.J. Carlesimo's team to manage.
Johnson being fired will do something in Brooklyn, that's for sure. The Nets could take it as a spark, run with it, and make a serious run this spring. Or, it could be the beginning of disaster, again, and a coach-less team could struggle for the rest of the season.
Either way, one thing is for sure: Prokhorov has created a different atmosphere in Brooklyn, and in a short amount of time, it will be known if it's a winning or losing one.