Thunder fire Carlesimo after 1-12 start

Thunder fire Carlesimo after 1-12 start

Thunder fire Carlesimo after 1-12 start
November 22, 2008

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -The Oklahoma City Thunder fired coach P.J. Carlesimo, with the team off to an NBA-worst 1-12 start in its new city.

Assistant Scott Brooks was appointed interim coach Saturday, hours after the Thunder lost their 10th straight game.

``This was a very difficult decision to make,'' general manager Sam Presti said in a statement. ``It is one that I felt was necessary at this time. I am very appreciative of the hard work and effort that P.J. gave to this team and we wish him the best in his future endeavors.''

The firing - the first of an NBA coach this season - followed a 105-80 defeat to the New Orleans Hornets on Friday night. The Hornets played for two seasons in Oklahoma City and rebuilt themselves into a playoff contender. A similar scenario hardly seemed in the making following the relocation of the Seattle SuperSonics to Oklahoma City.

Brooks' debut was to come Saturday night in a rematch against the Hornets in New Orleans.

The Thunder also let go assistant coach Paul Westhead, who led the Phoenix Mercury to the 2007 WNBA title. He had successful stay at Loyola Marymount in a coaching career spanning more than 30 years.

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. Brooks also worked for the Sacramento Kings and joined Carlesimo's staff last season in Seattle.

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. The Hornets were up 32 in the opening minute of the fourth quarter, and stars Chris Paul and David West joined the rest of the starters on the bench.

Many fans also called it an early night, leaving the stands mostly empty by the time the final horn sounded. Despite the team's full allotment of season tickets selling out in five days, only three of the eight home games have sold out so far - opening night, a visit from the NBA champion Boston Celtics and the return of the beloved Hornets.

This marks the second time Carlesimo has been fired early in a season. He took the Portland Trail Blazers to three straight playoff appearances in the 1990s before moving to Golden State. His time there was marked by the Latrell Sprewell choking episode during his first season with the team. He was fired after a 6-21 start in 2000, his third season.

He got another chance after serving as an assistant on three NBA championship teams with the San Antonio Spurs, whom Thunder owner Clay Bennett once represented on the Board of Governors.

In Oklahoma City, this was expected to be another season of rebuilding around Rookie of the Year Kevin Durant and fellow All-Rookie Team selection Jeff Green. Veterans Desmond Mason and Joe Smith were brought in to provide leadership, and salary flexibility following this season, and the team added No. 4 overall pick Russell Westbrook as another potential building block.

But the result was an even slower start than last season, when the SuperSonics lost their first eight games before winning two straight. That season, which featured all the wrangling about a potential move to Oklahoma City, ended with a franchise-worst 20 wins.

Presti stuck with Carlesimo after that season, but it didn't last long. Carlesimo finished with a 21-74 record in just more than one season with the franchise.

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