It was this same time two years ago when Johnson entered his first playoffs as a head coach after taking over the Mavericks from Don Nelson with 18 games left in the regular season. When Johnson unilaterally decided to change Dallas' way of defending the pick-and-roll on the eve of his club's first-round postseason matchup with the Houston Rockets, a team that lives on a steady diet of such plays, the move couldn't have turned out any worse.
The Rockets took advantage of the change to win the first two games on Dallas' home floor, and appeared poised to send theMavericks to a second consecutive first-round postseason knockout.
Except Johnson took corrective action, tweaked his previous game plan and Dallas took four of the next five games to eliminate the Rockets.
"That was probably the turning point for him," Harris said. "Being able to, even with no experience, get down 0-2 against a really good team in the playoffs, have to go to their arena for Games 3 and 4, and win that series. I think that after that series, he really picked up the kind of confidence it takes to lead a team through playoff battles. ... He felt more confident in just doing what he believed in doing, That was a big thing for him, to realize he didn't have to change a lot of stuff."
So even as the Warriors justifiably celebrate their first postseason win since 1992, don't be surprised if Johnson junks his small lineup and follows through on his earlier promise to make centers Erick Dampier and DeSagana Diop who combined for just 18 minutes in Game 1 key facets of his game plan.
"There's a couple of adjustments we've got to make," Johnson said. "I'm not one to back away from a little adversity. I think if that was the case, a lot of you guys never would have heard this Cajun voice. I'd probably be doing something else in sports."
Johnson's big break on the road to coaching stardom came at the expense of Tim Hardaway. If not for Hardaway suffering a season-ending Achilles' tendon injury, Johnson who had spent his first five seasons out of Saint Augustine (La.) bouncing among four different NBA teams might never have landed his first full-time starting job as an NBA point guard, and wouldn't have gotten to know Nelson, then and now the Warriors coach.
"I knew that early on that if he wanted to change professions someday that (coaching) would be a good one for him," Nelson said.
Donn Nelson, the Mavericks' president of basketball operations and son of the Warriors coach, said that he, his father and Mavericks owner Mark Cuban quickly realized what they had when they brought Johnson on board in 2004 as the heir apparent.
"We knew he was going to be good. We thought he could be exceptional," Donn Nelson said. "But we didn't know he was going to be this good this fast. Usually there's a learning curve. You don't usually walk in for your first (full) year and win Coach of the Year. If you watch us practice, it's textbook. He teaches. He injects his team with energy. He motivates. He's got the whole package."
Come Wednesday, Johnson will try to use all those skills to steal back the momentum gained by the Warriors with their Game 1 victory.
"He's good at making adjustments, whether it's going from the first half to the second half or in the playoffs, going from game to game and really throwing wrinkles in there that guys aren't expecting," Mavericks guard Devin Harris said. "He's good at really figuring out what the other coaches are trying to do and taking those things away."
For the second time in three seasons, it looks like he'll have to be to make it out of the first round.