Avery Johnson

On how to be an NBA coach.

Evan Smith: Let’s talk about your new book, Aspire Higher. I guess it can be described as a self-help book.

Avery Johnson: I wanted to help people who are in-between. We are all in-between. We are in-between as fathers. We are in-between as husbands. A kid in school—he’s in between grades. Some people are in between jobs. I wanted to help all of those individuals to go to the next level.

ES: So it’s a book for everybody—not just potential athletes?

AJ: Yeah. It just so happens that an athlete, a former athlete who’s now a coach, has written it. But it encircles all walks of life. Everybody can get something from it. The CEO who’s trying to stay on top. The young pastor who’s trying to get his church going. A Little League baseball coach. A schoolteacher can not only get something out of it for herself, she can read chapters to her students. So many young people are rushing their lives without enjoying today. A lot of what I talk about in the book is savoring the moment.

ES: Are you savoring the moment? You’ve now been coaching the Dallas Mavericks for a couple of years after a long career as a player. Are you happy with how things turned out?

AJ: Oh, I feel great. But if you talk to coaches who’ve been doing it much longer, it’s not only about enjoying what you’re doing. I also enjoy the people I work with—the players I get a chance to teach and coach, to help get better on and off the court.

ES: Tell me about the transition from playing to coaching.

AJ: It’s all about leadership. It’s all about managing.

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