Bobcats fire Sam Vincent; is Brown interested?

Updated: April 26, 2008, 9:56 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Michael Jordan took a chance on a young, inexperienced coach and it didn't work. Sam Vincent was fired Saturday after one turmoil-filled, non-playoff season running the Charlotte Bobcats.

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Vincent's dismissal was only minutes old when speculation turned to whether Jordan, the Bobcats' part-owner with the final say on all basketball decisions, would take a 180-degree turn with his next hire.

Is the old reliable -- and temperamental -- Larry Brown poised to return to North Carolina, be reunited with his fellow former Tar Heel Jordan, and coach his ninth NBA team?

Neither side was saying much. Jordan was unavailable for questions and the team called off a conference call Saturday night.

But the firing came shortly after the Charlotte Observer reported that according to a source close to Brown, the Hall of Fame coach would be willing to discuss the job with the Bobcats should it become available.

The source said Brown had not been contacted by the Bobcats, the Observer reported.

"I'm driving on the turnpike, I'm on the way to celebrate my daughter's [11th] birthday, and there's nothing to talk about," Brown said Saturday morning when reached by ESPN.com's Chris Sheridan.

Sam Vincent

Vincent

Brown resigned as executive vice president of the Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday. Brown's agent, Joe Glass, refused to discuss the Charlotte job Saturday, but said his client is eager to return to coaching.

"Larry is interested in getting back into coaching in the pros or college," Glass said.

Brown could get a chance to erase memories of his last coaching job, an ugly one season with the New York Knicks that ended in 2006, at the expense of Vincent.

Struggling to find a consistent rotation and clashing with players, Vincent led the Bobcats to a 32-50 record in a season the fourth-year franchise felt confident would end with its first playoff berth.

"The decision to remove Sam as head coach after just one season was difficult, but it was a decision that had to be made because my first obligation is to do what is in the best interest of our team," Jordan said in a statement.

Reached at his home in Dallas on Saturday night, the 44-year-old Vincent expressed disappointment at being given only one year.

"I can understand why he needs to make a change. I can understand where he's trying to take the team," Vincent said. "I don't wish them anything but the best. I'm disappointed, but I'm hopeful for them that things will turn around and the Bobcats can be a successful organization."

When Bernie Bickerstaff stepped down as coach to take a job in the front office at the end of the 2006-07 season, Jordan said he was looking for a young coach in the mold of Avery Johnson of the Dallas Mavericks.

Vincent, a former first-round pick of the Boston Celtics and Jordan's one-time teammate in Chicago, had worked for one year under Johnson in Dallas, his only NBA coaching experience.

Quick Decision-Maker

As Sam Vincent can attest, there's little room for failure when you work for Michael Jordan. Vincent joins the list of coaches the front-office version of MJ has dismissed after one season.

Coaches Fired After
1st Year Under Jordan
Season Coach W-L
2007-08 Sam Vincent 32-50
2000-01 Leonard Hamilton 19-63*
1999-00 Darrell Walker 15-23*
1999-00 Gar Heard 14-30*
*With Wizards

Jordan said he was intrigued by Vincent's international experience. Vincent coached the Nigerian women's national team, and had coaching stints in South Africa, Greece and The Netherlands. Vincent was coaching in the NBA Development League before going to Dallas.

Vincent was given a four-year contract by the Bobcats, but only the first two years were guaranteed.

Vincent entered the job confident, saying on the day he was introduced that he'd be "incredibly discouraged and disappointed" if the Bobcats didn't make the playoffs this season. The Bobcats also significantly increased their payroll by acquiring Jason Richardson in a draft night trade with Golden State and re-signing Gerald Wallace to a big free-agent deal.

But the Bobcats got off to a poor start as Vincent clearly suffered growing pains. He struggled to define roles for players, constantly shuttling Raymond Felton between point guard and shooting guard. Matt Carroll, a 3-point specialist, saw little playing time early in the season. Rookie Jared Dudley also played little

Vincent constantly switched from small to big lineups and angered players for questioning their effort and commitment in front of reporters. Charlotte was also hampered by the lack of depth in the frontcourt after season-ending knee injuries to Adam Morrison and Sean May.

While majority owner Bob Johnson gave Vincent a vote of confidence late in the season, Jordan was mum on the issue, saying he would decide on Vincent's fate after the season.

Charlotte finished with one fewer win than in 2006-07.

"I appreciate the opportunity from Michael," Vincent said, "having the opportunity to be a head coach and I appreciate what he did. I support the fact that they need to grow."

Vincent becomes the second coach to last just one season in Jordan's checkered history as an NBA executive. Leonard Hamilton resigned after going 19-63 with the Washington Wizards in 2000-01.

Jordan was eventually fired by the Wizards. He bought a minority stake in the Bobcats in 2006 and took over the decision-making from Bickerstaff.

But Jordan has failed to produce a playoff team, and now he may take a completely different direction with his next hire.

Brown, popular in the area because of his ties to the Tar Heels, could give the struggling franchise a spark. Charlotte ranked 24th out of 30 teams in attendance this season and fans have been slow to warm up to a new team after the Hornets left for New Orleans in 2002.

Brown, inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2002, is one of five NBA coaches with at least 1,000 victories and led the Detroit Pistons to the NBA title in 2004. But Brown has had messy divorces from several jobs.

He would also likely command a salary much larger than Vincent, who made about $1.5 million this season. But Brown would bring instant credibility -- and baggage -- to a struggling franchise.

ESPN.com NBA writer Chris Sheridan and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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