Eastern Conference completes its purge

Saturday, May 8, 2004

The dean of Eastern Conference coaches, Terry Stotts, was fired Friday after 1 1/2 seasons with the Atlanta Hawks. That must seem like an eternity to Tim Floyd, who was dismissed by the New Orleans Hornets after just one season.

In the rapid-fire, what-have-you-done-for-me-lately profession of NBA coaching, both got more time to prove themselves than John Carroll, Randy Ayers and Chris Ford -- each let go after less than a year on the job.

In fact, the firing of Stotts and Floyd means all 15 teams in the Eastern Conference have changed coaches at least once since the end of last season. Five coaches -- all in the East -- have lost their jobs since the regular season ended less than a month ago.

"The whole atmosphere right now I don't think is healthy for coaching," said former Milwaukee coach George Karl, who is now an analyst for ESPN.

Since the start of the 2002-03 season, there have been 24 coaching changes in the NBA.

The reasons vary -- from too many losses to personality conflicts with players and management to a team simply wanting a coach with a marquee name.

Floyd was let go after a combination of injuries and chemistry problems he struggled to control contributed to a 41-41 regular season and an opening-round playoff loss.

Of the four Eastern Conference coaches remaining in the playoffs, Detroit's Larry Brown has technically been on the job the longest. He was hired by the Pistons on July 2, two days after they fired Rick Carlisle -- who had led them to two straight 50-win seasons.

Carlisle was subsequently hired by the Indiana Pacers, who had the league's best record this season.

Earlier this season, New Jersey fired Byron Scott -- who had led the team to two straight NBA Finals appearances -- after reports of a personality conflict with star guard Jason Kidd.

"I don't understand it when good coaches get fired, when coaches who are winning are let go," Karl said. "It's kind of confusing. It doesn't make a lot of sense right now."

Indeed, wins and losses no longer seem to be the only way coaches are measured. They need to get their teams playing an exciting brand of basketball and keep their star players happy.

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