Johnson backs Vincent
By Mike Cranston
Associated PressCHARLOTTE ó There have been whispers for months: Maybe Sam Vincent was the wrong choice to coach the Charlotte Bobcats. With the team all but eliminated from playoff contention, those whispers hovered around the franchise as it headed toward a disappointing season.
But count owner Bob Johnson among the Vincent supporters. On Tuesday, Johnson openly praised his rookie coach for the second time this year ó but also stopped short of saying Vincent will definitely be back. That decision rests with part-owner and basketball operations chief Michael Jordan.
“The definitive answer will come from Michael, but my position is, I think Sam did a credible job,” Johnson said.
A team spokesman said that Jordan, who rarely grants interviews, will not comment on Vincent’s status until after the season. Vincent and Jordan were briefly teammates with the Chicago Bulls. But Jordan has had a quick trigger in the past, firing Leonard Hamilton after just one season when he ran the Washington Wizards.
Johnson made it clear he believes Vincent has earned another season.
“Did Sam do something that was just obviously so blatant that you said, ‘This guy could never get you there?’ ” Johnson said. “I don’t see that at all.”
The Bobcats took a chance on Vincent last spring when he was picked to replace Bernie Bickerstaff, who took a job in the team’s front office. Vincent had never been an NBA head coach, and he spent just one season as an NBA assistant in Dallas.He was tested early when forwards Sean May and Adam Morrison were lost to season-ending knee injuries.
Vincent struggled to find a consistent rotation, constantly shifting Raymond Felton from point guard to shooting guard. He switched from big lineups to small. He angered some players for questioning their effort in front of reporters.
The Bobcats (28-46) have played better of late. They recently had a five-game winning streak and then won three straight on a West Coast road trip before losing at home to Toronto on Monday. But despite playing in a weakened Eastern Conference, the Bobcats are six games out of the final playoff spot with eight games left.
Earlier this week Vincent said “my seat is always hot.” But Johnson said Tuesday that Vincent “has all of the elements of a winning coach.”
“He’s got the work ethic,” Johnson said. “He’s got the intelligence. He’s got the leadership quality. He’s got the motivational spirit to get players to do what they want them to do.”
Johnson appeared upbeat Tuesday as he promoted a horse show jumping event he sponsors each year. Johnson believes the fledgling Bobcats will eventually become a winner on the court ó and in his wallet.
Johnson said the team is close to getting out of a television deal with Time Warner Cable that will allow the team’s games to be shown on one of Fox Sports’ regional sports channels. The complicated deal to move the team onto Fox Sports includes a 20-year contract that would make Time Warner Cable the naming rights holder for Charlotte’s downtown arena.
“I’m confident the deal will be done very soon,” Johnson said.
Johnson said he’s toying with the idea of reducing ticket prices for fans who would be willing to pay more down the road if the Bobcats become a contender. Charlotte drew just 12,188 fans on Monday.
“As the team gets better, you might say, ‘I got this price at this time when the team was on its way up,’ ” Johnson said. ” ‘As the team gets better, I’m willing to pay more.’ “