ST. FRANCIS, Wis. -- Terry Porter is finally over the heartache of being bypassed by his hometown team in the NBA draft 18 years ago.
Now he's coach of the Milwaukee Bucks.
This is a good fit for the Bucks, because Porter is a favorite son who was a high school star in Milwaukee. As a favorite son, he can help Bucks fans get behind the franchise.
I don't see the Bucks being a playoff team in their first season under Porter. Former coach George Karl made lots of personnel mistakes (including trading Ray Allen away and trading for Anthony Mason).
Milwaukee's Big Three of Allen, Glenn Robinson and Sam Cassell are gone now, along with Karl, so Milwaukee is in rebuilding mode. But I believe Porter will succeed. I applaud Bucks owner Herb Kohl for hiring him.
"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 replaces George Karl, who was fired on July 20, and becomes the first black coach in franchise history.
After starring at Milwaukee South Division High School and Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Porter was hoping to be drafted by the Bucks in 1985.
He even spent the evening as their guest at the club's draft headquarters at the Milwaukee Arena.
But coach Don Nelson selected LSU's Jerry Reynolds instead and Portland grabbed Porter two spots later with the 24th pick.
He starred for a decade with the Trail Blazers, becoming their career assists leader before stops at Minnesota, Miami and San Antonio before retiring in 2002.
Through it all, he never forgot that awful night in 1985.
"It always stuck me," Porter said. "Whenever I see Nelson and guys who were on that staff, I always give them a little jab: 'Hey, you guys passed up on me.' I always say that. Growing up in this town and being a part of the draft day and then not get drafted, it was disappointing
"But I look forward to being a big part of the organization now.''
Sen. Herb Kohl had just bought the team when the Bucks passed on Porter the player.
"It's nice that you guys didn't pass up on me this time," Porter said he told Kohl after getting the coaching job.
Kohl gladly welcomed Porter to the Bucks this time.
"We are really very pleased that a man from our community has gone out and been a big success and now is coming home to provide that kind of leadership to our organization," Kohl said.
"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."
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.
"My playing career stands for itself," Porter said. "And 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."
Porter met with Harris last month and returned for a second interview over the weekend with the Kohl and vice president of business operations John Steinmiller.
Following two straight underachieving seasons, 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 didnt' reveal terms of Porter's contract other than to say it is for four years.
Porter was among eight candidates for the job, including former Bucks assistant and current Atlanta Hawks coach Terry Stotts.
Porter inherits a young team that has lost the "Big Three" of Ray Allen, Glenn Robinson and Sam Cassell through trades over the last year and features Desmond Mason, Dan Gadzuric, Marcus Haislip, rookie T.J. Ford and Michael Redd instead.
"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."
Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press
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