Former Milwaukee Bucks GM Larry Harris says team isn't far from contention Print
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Thursday, 20 March 2008 13:47
NBA Headline News

 MILWAUKEE (AP) -Larry Harris is still trying to figure out why the Milwaukee Bucks underperformed this season, but the former general manager says his successor will inherit a strong team.
One day after being fired, Harris said he felt good about the roster decisions he made since he was hired in July 2003.
``I think whoever the new GM is, I think that person can sit here and say the cupboard isn't bare,'' Harris said Thursday.
He mentioned guards Michael Redd and Mo Williams, whom he re-signed, as formidable scorers. He also talked about his recent draft picks - former No. 1 pick Andrew Bogut and rookie Yi Jianlian - and said all four players form a core group of young players.
``Hopefully I paved the way for the next guy to come in and not have to change a lot,'' said Harris, who hadn't talked to any Bucks players since his firing.
The team announced Harris's departure as general manager on Wednesday after he lobbied unsuccessfully to have his contract renewed at the end of June. After discussions with his advisers during the weekend, team owner Sen. Herb Kohl decided to let Harris leave immediately.
Player personnel director Dave Babcock is handling day-to-day operations as Kohl searches for a replacement. Potential candidates include TV analyst and former coach Doug Collins, former Sonics GM Rick Sund and Pacers CEO Donnie Walsh.
Harris got emotional when he expressed his appreciation for Kohl. He choked up for a moment, pausing in silence before finding his voice.
``I don't want it to be forgotten what Sen. Kohl did for me,'' he said, tapping his finger on a table to underscore his point.
The team has struggled all season, and its 23-44 record is third-worst in the Eastern Conference. But the Bucks' performance hit an especially embarrassing low Tuesday night when they lost at home to the Miami Heat, the worst team in the league. Milwaukee was booed as it squandered its 18th fourth-quarter lead en route to a 112-106 loss.
Harris said his conversations with Kohl began two days before the Heat game.
``As embarrassed as I am about that effort and losing to that team, Miami had nothing to do with it,'' Harris said of his firing.
Harris tried to improve the team midseason by trying to trade for the Knicks' Zach Randolph, but Kohl squelched talks after studying Randolph's off-the-court issues. Still, Kohl denied allegations that he kept Harris from doing his job.
``He's had the freedom to do what he's wanted or needed to do. It doesn't mean that any general manager anywhere has total freedom to do anything they want to do,'' Kohl said. ``There has been a minimum of second-guessing, if any.''
Harris agreed but declined to elaborate.
``It's in the past,'' he said. ``I was honored to have this job for five years. That's all I'll say on that.''
Harris never made the impact he'd hoped for after being hired as GM. He'd been with the franchise full-time since 1990 when he was the scout-video coordinator under his father, then-coach Del Harris.
But the younger Harris' teams faltered as he went through a stream of coaches from Terry Porter to Terry Stotts before settling on Larry Krystkowiak in March 2007.
Harris' teams made the playoffs in 2004 and 2006, but failed to win more than one game in each first-round series.
When asked why his teams struggled, he joked that if he knew the answer to that question he'd still be employed. He acknowledged the team's tendency to play lax defense, but he defended Krystkowiak as a coach who still deserves time to develop.
Harris also denied that Milwaukee's small-market status made it tough to attract free agents, noting that players are drawn to winning teams regardless of geography.
He said he's not sure what his next career move will be, and he wants to stay in Milwaukee where he has lived for 20 years, but noted that the NBA is all he knows.
 

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