Seeking new direction, Fever decline option on Winters
INDIANAPOLIS -- Brian Winters is out as coach of the Indiana Fever after leading the team to the WNBA Eastern Conference finals for the second time in three years.
The Fever declined their option on Winters' contract Friday. He was 78-58 in four seasons, with three playoff appearances.
"All I'll say is, hey, I had one year left on the contract. It was an owner option," Winters said. "They chose not to renew it. So I'll move on and they'll move on. I wish the Fever and the Pacers well. I enjoyed my four years there, but it's time to move on."
General manager Kelly Krauskopf said the decision to replace Winters, the winningest coach in the Fever's eight-year history, was based on a desire "to go in a different direction and get a new voice, new leadership. ... It involved a lot of discussion with everybody."
Indiana was 21-13 for the third straight season in 2007.
The Fever won 16 of their first 21 games, but then lost eight of 13 without star player Tamika Catchings after she partially tore the plantar fascia in her left foot. Catchings returned for the playoffs, but tore the Achilles' tendon in her right foot in the conference finals against Detroit.
"I can't say enough about the job that Brian did. He's a great person," Krauskopf said. "We tried to make a decision as quickly as we could because we wanted him to get going with what he needed to do."
Winters said he did not have a new job lined up, "but I'll be looking."
"I'd like to continue to coach, and we'll see where it goes. You just never know," he said. "It's not the most stable business in the world these days, but I still enjoy it. I still enjoy the game and I'd like to continue to coach if I can."
The job with Indiana was Winters' first in the WNBA.
He also was a head coach in the NBA for one season with Vancouver and parts of two other seasons with Vancouver and Golden State and turned down a chance to remain in the league as an assistant to take the job with Indiana, succeeding Nell Fortner in December 2003.
He was the third coach for the Fever since they joined the WNBA as an expansion franchise in 2000.
Krauskopf said Winters shouldn't have trouble finding another coaching job.
"He has a great basketball mind, knows the game," she said.
A first-round draft pick by the Los Angeles Lakers in 1974, Winters went to Milwaukee the next year as part of a blockbuster trade for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. He was a two-time NBA All-Star guard with the Bucks, where one of his teammates was Catchings' father, Harvey Catchings.
Winters averaged 16.2 points during his nine-year NBA career. His No. 32 jersey was retired by the Bucks in 1983.
He later was an assistant with Cleveland and Atlanta before becoming coach of the then-Vancouver Grizzlies, where he compiled a 23-102 record in 1995-97. He also was an assistant with Denver and Golden State before replacing Dave Cowens as interim coach of the Warriors, where he went 13-46 in 2001-02.
Krauskopf wouldn't say what the Fever would be looking for in a new coach.
"When I say a different direction, I just mean a different voice, new leadership," she said. "We want somebody that's going to keep us at the top of the league and understands how to beat Detroit, Connecticut, and can keep a strong leadership style that will push us to the top of the league."
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press