Sonics fire Weiss after 13-17 start

Updated: January 3, 2006, 7:38 PM ET
Associated Press

SEATTLE -- Bob Weiss' laid-back attitude made him a favorite of players. It just didn't translate to enough victories.

CHRIS SHERIDAN REAX
As Seattle dismisses coach Bob Weiss, the Sonics are 10 victories below the level they were at a year ago when they won the Northwest Division title and reached the second round of the playoffs, losing 4-2 to the eventual champion San Antonio Spurs. With the league's worst defense in terms of points allowed and opponents' field-goal percentage, the Sonics had lost eight of their last 12 games following Monday night's 115-96 defeat at Indiana.

"I'm certainly surprised to hear that," Pacers coach Rick Carlisle told ESPN.com when informed of Weiss' firing. "We made seven 3s and had our first 38-point first quarter in two years, and they missed shots they normally make. I thought they gave an honest effort but happened to catch us on [the] worst night of the year."

There were signs that Weiss was in trouble, with GM Rick Sund publicly expressing his dissatisfaction nearly three weeks ago and predicting changes would be made if the team didn't make a quick turn for the better. There was impatience from ownership, too, with the way the team had faltered in what was supposed to be the final stage of a five-year plan to become as competitive as the mid-1990s Sonics teams, which routinely won the Pacific Division and flirted with 60 victories.

After losing key pieces when Antonio Daniels and Jerome James left as free agents, this year's Sonics have dealt with a host of personnel issues, including Danny Fortson's ongoing feud with the referees and the league office, Vladimir Radmanovic's season of limbo while he waits to become an unrestricted free agent, Reggie Evans' suspicion that management has been trying to trade him and Luke Ridnour's recent demotion to the bench in favor of Damien Wilkins.

Weiss was fired as coach of the Seattle SuperSonics on Tuesday with Seattle struggling at 13-17 and having lost five of its last seven. The Sonics are the second NBA team to change coaches this season, following Stan Van Gundy's resignation at Miami last month.

Assistant Bob Hill will take over and his first game will be Wednesday night against Chicago. Seattle opened a five-game road trip with a 115-96 loss to Indiana on Monday.

"We've epitomized the word 'inconsistent' for professional basketball," general manager Rick Sund said after the team practiced at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago on Tuesday. "We talked a lot in the last two weeks trying to [figure out] 'How can we get more consistent?' ... We talked, and we both kind of felt that a change might be in the best interest of the club."

Usually smiling, Weiss was promoted from assistant to head coach on July 18 after Nate McMillan left for Portland and was a popular choice of All-Stars Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis. He was also a cheaper option, as Seattle passed on higher-priced candidates like Flip Saunders and Paul Silas.

But Weiss' smile was absent lately, replaced by visible signs of frustration. Seattle has not been above .500 this season after winning 52 games last season while capturing the Northwest Division. The Sonics are four games below .500 for the first time since finishing the 2004 season 37-45.

"There are a lot of things I could have done better to help this team. I take full responsibility. I feel I let Bob Weiss down as a coach," Allen said. "He was a guy you could trust and count on. My heart goes out to him."

The 63-year-old Weiss previously coached the Atlanta Hawks, San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Clippers and has an overall record of 223-299. He was a Seattle assistant from 1994 to 2005.

But his track record as a head coach was average. He had two winning seasons -- 1991 and 1993 in Atlanta -- and never finished higher than fourth place.

Team president Wally Walker could not be reached for comment on Tuesday but in a statement released by the team said, "Over the past 11-plus seasons, the Sonics have the fifth-best winning record in the NBA including four division titles. Bob Weiss has been a significant contributor to that success. His loyalty and insights have been extremely valuable to this organization."

Weiss will remain with the team in an advisory role, Sund said.

The firing falls in line with the Sonics' history of quick moves. Weiss is the third coach fired by Seattle during the season since 1992. In 2000, Paul Westphal was let go after a 6-9 start, replaced by McMillan. In 1992, K.C. Jones was fired after an 18-18 start and replaced by George Karl.

Hill found out about the decision during breakfast and said there would be significant changes, including possible starting lineup moves. This will be his fourth head coaching job, with previous stops in Indiana, New York and San Antonio, where he had the most success.

From 1994-96, Hill compiled a 124-58 record with the Spurs, winning two division titles and advancing to the 1995 Western Conference finals before losing to Houston. Hill has a 257-212 overall record.

Hill met with the players before practice.

"I told them that when they signed that contract they were agreeing that they would cooperate with whatever we wanted to do," Hill said. "I expect them to play hard. I'm not going to coach effort, but I want them to play hard and play good."

Hill's most recent head coaching job was at Fordham University from 1999 to 2002. He's also served as an assistant with the Knicks and Orlando Magic.

Because the Northwest Division is weak, making the playoffs is not out of the question. Despite their struggles, the Sonics are only two games behind first-place Minnesota.

When he was hired as an assistant, Hill believed the Sonics could win the West. Now?

"I don't know what we can do," Hill said. "I think it's a good team. I think we can be a good team. How good? I don't know."

The majority of the Sonics' problems are at the defensive end, where they are worst in the league in points allowed (105.2) and field-goal percentage (49.8).

Monday's loss may have sealed Weiss' fate. The Pacers had lost four straight and were without All-Star Jermaine O'Neal, guard Jamaal Tinsley and embattled forward Ron Artest. Yet Indiana raced to a 38-23 lead and finished with its highest point total of the season.

Seattle has held only six opponents under 100 points and just once in its last 12 games.

"I think we all believe we're a good team," Allen said.


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press

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