6. 1982-83 New Jersey Nets
The New Jersey Nets entered the 1982-83 season with expectations and high spirits. And why not? The Nets had just posted their first winning season as an NBA team the previous year and had a terrific young core of talent led by reigning Rookie of the Year Buck Williams.
Coach Larry Brown had engineered a remarkable turnaround in his first season in New Jersey, but the Nets got off to a sluggish start and were just 13-13 on Dec. 21 before running off 11 straight victories.
Sir Charles In Charge
In early February, the Nets traded first-round pick Sleepy Floyd and veteran Mickey Johnson to the Golden State Warriors to get disgruntled former All-Star Micheal Ray Richardson and played well the rest of the way.
After an April 6 win against the Indiana Pacers, the Nets were 47-29, safely locked into the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference behind the powers of the day — the Philadelphia 76ers, Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks.
A 50-win season seemed within reach … before Brown shocked the Nets the day after the win over the Pacers by resigning to take the head coaching position at the University of Kansas.
Yes, Next Town Brown had done it again, leaving the Nets staggering under assistant coach Bill Blair to close the season.
New Jersey won just two of its last six games to finish at 49-33 and staggered into the playoffs against the New York Knicks, losing the opener at home 118-107 before taking a 105-99 loss at Madison Square Garden in Game 2 to end their season.
It took a lot of the shine off a season in which Williams earned All-NBA honors and was an All-Star for the second straight year, as he tied for the team lead with an average of 17.0 points per game (matched by fellow second-year man Albert King) and averaged 12.5 boards a night as well.
Richardson put up 12.7 points and 6.0 assists per game in 31 games with the Nets, Otis Birdsong shook off injuries to score 15.1 a night and newly acquired Darryl Dawkins average 12.0 points and 1,9 blocks even as he set an NBA record by being called for a whopping 379 fouls.
The 49 wins was an NBA high for the Nets and would remain so for almost 20 years, but Brown’s abrupt departure torpedoed what could have been a season with a lot more.