By the end of the business day on Friday, the University of Alabama had made no announcement about the status of head men’s basketball coach Avery Johnson.
The Tuscaloosa News, al.com and other media reported late on Thursday that Johnson and the UA Athletics administration had entered “negotiations for a buyout” of Johnson’s remaining contract, which runs through 2023.
A source familiar with the negotiations told The News that talks continued on Friday but no resolution has been reached.
The issue may seem like semantics, but those semantics may have a strong financial component. The buyout clause in Johnson’s contract drops from the current $8 million to $6 million on April 15, although there have been no specifics released regarding the issues being discussed in the ongoing negotiations. Regardless, it is virtually impossible to imagine any avenue that would allow for Johnson’s return at this point. Several sources indicated that Johnson informed the Alabama players and staff on Thursday that he would not be back next season.
Johnson had indicated after Alabama’s overtime loss to Norfolk State in the opening round of the NIT on Wednesday night that he “loved being the coach here at Alabama. That’s my plan. I made that crystal clear to Greg (Byrne) in our meeting. And hopefully they (the athletic administrators) feel the same way.”
However, the season-ending loss to a 17-point underdog at home, capping a 3-8 stretch over the final 11 games, led to further scrutiny and, ultimately, the opening of the current buyout negotiations.
Johnson had a four-year record of 75-62, with one NCAA Tournament appearance (2018), which was the only year in his tenure in which UA posted a winning record (10-8) in Southeastern Conference play. In 2019, Alabama gave up double-digit second-half leads in five of its 16 losses, including four of its six losses at Coleman Coliseum. He recruited and coached Alabama’s first NBA first-round draft choice in 17 years (Collin Sexton, 2018).
The Twitter account, @coachavery6, remained active on Friday but consisted only of retweets of messages from seniors Riley Norris and Lawson Schaffer thanking the Alabama fans for their support, with no specific references to Johnson.
With negotiations still ongoing, Alabama has not begun a formal search for candidates. Various names have been linked to Alabama and the current SEC vacancies at Vanderbilt and Texas A&M, including Iowa State head coach Steve Prohm, a UA alumnus.
Asked about the Alabama speculation following Iowa State’s first round loss in the NCAA Tournament on Friday night, Prohm expressed a desire to remain at Iowa State.
“There’s nothing to say, man,” Prohm said. “I want to be the best coach at Iowa State. That’s it. I mean, my AD (Jamie Pollard is) right there, he knows that. I love this job. I’m blessed to be the head coach here, first and foremost. I love Ames. There is no story. I’m trying to be the best head coach at Iowa State and see if I can be here for a long, long time.”
Pollard said he had received no request from Alabama to speak with Prohm.
“No, nobody,” Pollard said. “And I don’t expect there will be, because Coach Prohm’s going to be our coach.
“Steve is a great man. He’s a great fit for Iowa State. We have a great collection of head coaches and he’s one of ’em. He knows where he’s really wanted, and I’m not spending any time worrying about it.”
Reach Cecil Hurt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-722-0225.