A couple of weeks ago, on March 21, AL.com's lead sports columnist, Kevin Scarbinsky, wrote an item suggesting Bill Battle look at former NBA player and coach Avery Johnson.
I think @CoachAvery6 would be a fascinating hire for Alabama.— Paul Finebaum (@finebaum) April 4, 2015
In looking at current candidates for the job on Friday night, I had Steve Prohm of Murray State -- an alumnus -- and Michael White of Louisiana Tech circled as the two frontrunners. Jeff Goodman of ESPN.com had confirmed that in a tweet sent Friday morning, so they made sense.
Then, later Friday, I found Fox Sports and Outkick the Coverage media mogul Clay Travis had ranked SEC coaches in his mailbag. In his ranking, he began with and John Calipari -- which we can argue at a later date -- and he followed that up with the likes of Auburn's Bruce Pearl, Mississippi State's Ben Howland, and others. I scrolled the list, kept scrolling and found "Alabama's vacant coaching spot" at No. 13 ahead of Missouri's Kim Anderson. Looking at Prohm and White, that made sense.
I thought at best with Buzz Williams (whose name has been thrown around here and there for the job), Alabama could get to No. 9. But then, as I was sitting down in a chair with drinks in hand and hors-d'oeuvres on the table with the Final Four pregame on TV, another Jeff Goodman tweet popped up on my feed.
Alabama meeting with former NBA coach Avery Johnson tonight, sources told ESPN.— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanESPN) April 4, 2015
Scarbinsky wrote that article and it took two weeks of Gregg Marshall-hunting for something to surface. Two weeks of me asking, questioning, wondering why Johnson would be a solid hire, but those questions were answered quickly.
After Goodman's tweet, the Twitter world then blew up. Avery Johnson was trending in Birmingham, in Tuscaloosa, in Alabama, and I'm assuming all over the Southeast. I didn't think Alabama could beat the Howland hire in "splash," I didn't think they could beat Tennessee in "splash" after Rick Barnes was hired, but I think Johnson would do that.
Johnson has basketball experience. He's never coached on the college level, but in straight basketball knowledge, he gets it. In 1999, he won the NBA championship as a player for the San Antonio Spurs and Greg Popovich. His No. 6 jersey is retired in the AT&T Center, and that success led to his coaching career.
After retiring in 2004, Johnson went on to assist the Dallas Mavericks under Don Nelson. A year passed and he succeeded Nelson and in 2006, he led the franchise owned by Mark Cuban to a Western Conference title and was named NBA Coach of the Year.
He bounced around after his three-year stint in Dallas to ESPN and then back to the New Jersey and Brooklyn Nets. Since 2012, though, he's been back with ESPN as an NBA analyst.
I'm getting a lot of texts asking "if he is offered would Avery Johnson take the UA job?" My answer again - if $ is right I know he would.— Ian Fitzsimmons (@Ianfitzespn) April 4, 2015
Johnson has moxie. He's a fiery guy, brings energy and shows toughness -- and has since his days as a player. He's a big name who grew up in Louisiana, so he's familiar with the Southeast. Would Avery Johnson succeed at Alabama in recruiting and day-to-day operations that colleges ask of a coach? I'm not sure.
I do know though that a name like Johnson is a name that would make Clay Travis and many rethink their ranking.