Avery Johnson in Lexington; talks grades and basketball

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - Former NBA coach Avery Johnson spoke at Lexington's Beaumont Middle School Wednesday afternoon and his message was clear to students: choose friends carefully, compete in the classroom just as hard as in athletics, and care about classmates and teachers.

Johnson, who spent 16 years in the NBA as a player and now is an analyst for ESPN, was in town as part of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the "Just Say Yes" program.

"What we want to do is go in the schools and give positive messages to kids, to say yes to their dreams and goals," Johnson said before speaking to a gym full of middle schoolers.

"Everybody can't be an NBA player," he said. "We talk to them about being coachable. We talk to them about picking their right circle of friends."

In 1999, Johnson led the San Antonio Spurs to an NBA championship. The team has since retired his No. 6 jersey.

As an ambassador of the NBA, Johnson agrees with new commissioner Adam Silver's response to ban Clippers owner Donald Sterling for life.

"I thought it was swift. I thought it was decisive," Johnson said. "I like the collaboration between the owners, the players association and the fans. It was a win-win for everybody."

Johnson says he's in favor of the NBA expanded its age requirements and thinks that will change soon.

"The kids coming in would be much more NBA ready, a little more mature," he said. "I'm looking for Adam Silver to work with the player's association and come up with something everybody can live with."

The former Nets coach thinks UK's John Calipari doesn't get enough credit for the job he does with a roster stocked with young players.

"Everybody can't do what coach Cal does," Johnson said. "People say, 'Any coach could have won championships like Phil Jackson.' I disagree with that. I think John is cut out to do this specific job, training these young freshmen, with the discipline he instills in that program."

"They've had an awful lot of success," he continued. "Next year, they're going to look primarily like an NBA team."

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