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Thunder fire Carlesimo; Brooks named interim coach

Posted Nov 22 2008 8:27PM

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- 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 followed a 105-80 loss to the New Orleans Hornets on Friday night, the Thunder's 10th straight setback.

Brooks made his debut Saturday night in a rematch with the Hornets in New Orleans, and general manager Sam Presti said Brooks would finish the season.

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"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 was expected to produce a winner around Kevin Durant, but he never really stood a chance. Carlesimo inherited a roster shredded by the trades of stars Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis after a decision to rebuild.

"We have to get better no matter who the coach is," Durant said Saturday night in New Orleans. "To start off like we did my first year and now this year is tough to deal with. If we continue to work hard, things will start to turn around for us."

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 season 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.

P.J. Carlesimo Coaching Record
Season Team G W L W-L%
1994-95 POR 82 44 38 .537
1995-96 POR 82 44 38 .537
1996-97 POR 82 49 33 .598
1997-98 GSW 82 19 63 .232
1998-99 GSW 50 21 29 .420
1999-00 GSW 27 6 21 .222
2007-08 SEA 82 20 62 .244
2008-09 OKC 13 1 12 .077
Career -- 500 204 296 .408

"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."

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

"Things aren't good," Brooks said Saturday night in New Orleans. "It's a challenge to get our guys motivated to play every night. ... Our team needs direction. I have clear plans to make this team play with much more energy and passion."

Brooks has been a fill-in head coach a few times. He served as Sacramento's 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 Karl was suspended for four games during the 2005-06 season. Brooks lost all four of those games in Denver, but won both when in charge of the Kings.

"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.

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