If you are a Catholic as I am, you are aware of the fact that Pope Benedict XVI stepped down and relinquished the papacy of the Roman Catholic Church in 2013, just before turning 86 years old. There is something in that event which connects Joseph Ratzinger to Avery Johnson and the Alabama Crimson Tide.
Obviously, The Little General is much younger than 86, but rather than get eighty-sixed from Tuscaloosa in a one-way decision made by his boss, Johnson mutually decided along with the school, according to reports from Al dot com, that he should seek other opportunities:
BREAKING: Avery Johnson, Alabama negotiating buyout. https://t.co/P5H9B2pq9O
— Michael Casagrande (@ByCasagrande) March 22, 2019
There is a refreshing amount of wisdom found in a man who is willing to acknowledge something isn’t working. We tell people to not give up, and it is true that we should persist in our ambitions and pursuits in order to become our best selves, but there is also a time to admit that an endeavor isn’t working; it is okay to step back and cede control of a mission and see if someone else can do a better job. It is okay to try something fully, make an honest effort, fail, acknowledge the failure, and then regroup for the next chapter of life.
Avery Johnson coached hard at Alabama. He drove his team to overcome a 16-point deficit in the second half against NCAA Tournament-bound Ole Miss in the SEC Tournament second round. Johnson was able to win bubble games at the SEC Tournament in consecutive years. He and his teams — for all their many flaws — did not quit.
His teams just weren’t very good, and Johnson didn’t make transformative improvements in either his recruiting or his player development.
The project wasn’t working, and I can tell you that Auburn fans and other non-Alabama fan bases in the SEC are inwardly disappointed that Johnson is leaving. They would have liked to have seen Johnson stay on in Tuscaloosa, the surest possible indicator that a coach isn’t making the grade.
When rivals want you to remain employed, you’re failing. When they want you to leave town, you know you’re succeeding.
Johnson could have pressed forward at Alabama and insisted that he could get this right. Instead, he had the clarity of mind to see that it wasn’t very likely. A better fit is what Johnson — who coached in the NBA Finals and has demonstrated his coaching acumen in the past — must now find.
I think this move is not only good for Bama, but also for Avery Johnson.
The bottom line with Johnson at Alabama is that his tenure bore an uncomfortable resemblance to Danny Manning at Wake Forest.
Think about it: Manning has had only one NCAA Tournament season at Wake. That one season was a campaign in which John Collins basically took the Demon Deacons on his back and BARELY got the team into the NCAA Tournament. Other than that one supernova of a player changing the trajectory of a season, Wake has done nothing under Manning.
Compare that in Winston-Salem to Johnson in Tuscaloosa.
Collin Sexton was for the Tide under Avery what Collins was to Manning at Wake. If Collin Sexton hadn’t won that SEC Tournament game against Texas A&M a year ago, Johnson would not have made the NCAA Tournament with a lottery pick, which calls to mind Johnny Jones of LSU failing to make the NCAA Tournament with Ben Simmons in 2016.
This wasn’t working. Avery Johnson might not know a thing about Pope Benedict XVI, but he was willing to give up power.
Alabama fans might not be Catholic, but they can see the wisdom of this decision… as can many others.
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