Better late than never for Porter

Updated: August 7, 2003, 2:03 AM ET

ST. FRANCIS, Wis. -- With a revamped roster, a new general manager and stars Ray Allen, Sam Cassell, Gary Payton and Glenn Robinson all gone, the Milwaukee Bucks' choice of Terry Porter as their new coach is a smart marketing move.

Yet, owner Herb Kohl, a U.S. senator who recently took the team off the market, insisted Porter's local roots had nothing to do with his hiring.

"It was just a matter of great coincidence but also great fortune for us that the best-qualified candidate was also the guy from our own community," Kohl said of Porter, who starred at Milwaukee South Division High School and Wisconsin-Stevens Point in the early 1980s.

"Not too many franchises have the opportunity to hire the best-qualified candidate who's also the local candidate."

Kohl knows, however, that Porter's background can help win back fans discouraged by two straight underachieving seasons that led to the firing of coach George Karl last month. Karl's ouster culminated a tumultuous offseason that also saw the departures of general manager Ernie Grunfeld and veterans Payton, Cassell and Ervin Johnson.

Porter "has instant credibility, instant recognition, instant acceptance," Kohl said.

Kohl said he was traveling through Wisconsin on Tuesday in his role as senator and spoke with audiences about the budget and Iraq before opening it up to questions.

"All they wanted to talk about was Terry Porter -- and that's fine with me," Kohl said. "He's a guy who's recognized, respected and thought about with great affection all over the state of Wisconsin, so that's a huge, huge benefit for the organization.

"It's not the reason we chose him. But it's an added benefit that is incalculable."

The Bucks passed on their opportunity to land Porter the player 18 years ago.

"I'm glad they didn't pass on me this time; '85 was a tough year for me," Porter said Wednesday at his introductory news conference.

Porter felt so strongly about his chances of joining his hometown team 18 years ago that he spent draft night at the Bucks' headquarters.

After coach Don Nelson selected LSU's Jerry Reynolds instead, Porter went two spots later to Portland, where he starred for a decade, becoming the Trail Blazers' career assists leader.

Porter also played for Minnesota, Miami and San Antonio during a career that included two trips to the NBA Finals.

Through it all, he never forgot that awful night in 1985.

"It always stuck me," Porter said. "But I look forward to being a big part of the organization now."

Porter, 40, worked last season as an assistant with the Sacramento Kings, his first season in coaching after a 17-year playing career.

"He is a proven winner in the NBA who played the game with dignity, confidence and intensity, skills that will translate directly to the improvement of our team," general manager Larry Harris said.

Porter said he never saw his short coaching resume as a drawback.

"Some of the things that made me a great player are going to make me a great coach as far as my work ethic, my time commitment and my personal drive to be better," he said.

Karl was fired after posting a 205-173 record in five seasons in Milwaukee. The Bucks are paying him his $7 million contract for 2003-04 plus more than $1.5 million for his 1 percent slice of the team that Kohl gave him two years ago.

The Bucks didn't reveal terms of Porter's contract other than to say it's for four years.

Porter, who beat a field of seven other candidates, including finalist Terry Stotts, a former Bucks coach now in charge in Atlanta, inherits a young team that features Desmond Mason, Dan Gadzuric, Marcus Haislip, rookie T.J. Ford and Michael Redd.

"The vision is to be competitive every night and compete for a playoff spot," Porter said. "I wouldn't call it rebuilding. We have a good mix of players, a good foundation. We have some youth, we have some experience."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index