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News » Thunder fire Carlesimo following 10-game skid

Thunder fire Carlesimo following 10-game skid

Thunder fire Carlesimo following 10-game skid
OKLAHOMA CITY - The losses kept piling up for P.J. Carlesimo, and it didn't matter which city his team called home.

With the relocated Oklahoma City Thunder off to an NBA-worst 1-12 start, Carlesimo was fired as coach Saturday and replaced on an interim basis by assistant Scott Brooks.

The firing — the first of an NBA coach this season — followed a 105-80 defeat to the New Orleans Hornets on Friday night for the Thunder's 10th straight loss.

Brooks was to make his debut Saturday night in a rematch with the Hornets in New Orleans, and general manager Sam Presti said he would remain through the end of the season.

"This isn't about one person," Presti said. "There's accountability for everybody involved — players, coaches, myself and anyone involved with our basketball team. We understand that."

The Thunder also let go assistant Paul Westhead, who guided the Phoenix Mercury to the 2007 WNBA title and won an NBA title in 1980 with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Carlesimo had been expected to produce a winner around Kevin Durant, but he never really stood a chance. He inherited a roster shredded by the trades of stars Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis after a decision to rebuild. But there was clearly more to rebuild than anticipated.

Carlesimo had questioned his team in recent games for failing to give full effort, performances resulting in a string of blowouts. The last six losses were by double-digits, and most of those were even more out of hand before the Thunder rallied.

"We feel like that is something that is nonnegotiable," Presti said. "We have to continue to play hard and put ourselves in positions to compete and win basketball games."

The loss Friday night served as a reminder of how the Hornets rebuilt from an 18-win season to a playoff contender during a two-year stay in Oklahoma City brought on by Hurricane Katrina. The Hornets improved by 20 wins their first season in Oklahoma City, and by last year were pushing the San Antonio Spurs in a second-round playoff series.

A similar scenario hardly seemed in the making for the Thunder following their switch from Seattle and discarding the SuperSonics nickname along the way.

"When you're hitting these struggles, there's different factors. I don't think it's necessarily professional and appropriate for me to dwell or dig into all of them," Presti said.

"I'd rather just stay focused on the direction we're going, the things that we're looking towards and to provide leadership for the organization during a period of time where there's going to be change."

Brooks, an 11-year NBA veteran, played on the Houston Rockets' 1994 NBA championship team and bounced around with seven teams before becoming a Denver Nuggets assistant in 2003. He also worked for the Sacramento Kings and joined Carlesimo's staff last season in Seattle.

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Presti believes Brooks' experience as an NBA point guard should help prepare him for his latest assignment because he's used to thinking his way through a game.

Brooks has been a fill-in head coach a few times. He served as Sacramento Kings' head coach for two games in February 2007 when Eric Musselman was suspended for driving under the influence, and he substituted for George Karl in Denver when he was suspended for four games during the 2005-06 season. He lost all four of those games in Denver, but won both when in charge of the Kings.

He was said to be a candidate to replace Musselman when he was fired after one season, and was reportedly in the mix in Seattle when Carlesimo was hired instead. However, Presti said he hadn't previously spoken to Brooks about the job.

"He's someone that I do think has a skill-set potential," Presti said. "This is a new opportunity for him and as he continues to make his way and grow with our team, we're going to certainly support him and help him throughout the process."

Despite all the excitement leading to the season — with the team selling out its full allotment of season tickets in five days — only three of the eight home games have sold out: opening night, a visit from the NBA champion Boston Celtics and the return of the beloved Hornets.

That latest game turned into a rout and dropped Carlesimo's record with the team to 21-74 in just more than one season. Most of what had been a sellout crowd left early after the Hornets took a 32-point lead early in the fourth quarter.

"The first thing for us is coming to the floor with a passion and competing and playing a style of basketball that our fans are going to get behind and enjoy, and that our players are going to enjoy," Presti said.

The announcement came the same day as the biggest game of the college football season — No. 5 Oklahoma at home against No. 2 Texas Tech.

"When you make a determination that you need to go in a different direction," Presti said, "we feel like you need to do it decisively."

Author: Fox Sports
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Added: November 22, 2008


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