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Warriors fire Dave Cowens

Dec. 16, 2001 at 1:10 AM   |   Comments

OAKLAND, Calif., Dec. 16 (UPI) -- The Golden State Warriors fired coach Dave Cowens Saturday, one day after he kicked point guard Mookie Blaylock out of practice.

Cowens was replaced by assistant Brian Winters, who was named interim coach and likely will guide the team for the remainder of the season. Golden State has not made the playoffs since 1995, matching the longest current postseason drought.

"We have a good team here," Winters said Saturday night prior to a 93-84 win over Memphis. "We have some good players. Obviously, we've got to change some things we've been doing of late and being a more consistent basketball team."

"We've got to get back to that energized game," Warriors general manager Garry St. Jean said. "We've got to get back to committing to defense and playing a solid brand of basketball."

Since beginning the season 5-3, the Warriors have dropped 12 of 15 games, with Cowens becoming increasingly frustrated. Golden State suffered a 105-100 home loss to the Orlando Magic on Friday.

Star forward Antawn Jamison and reserve guard Bob Sura both have publicly questioned Cowens' substitution rotations.

"I don't think guys knew their roles at all," Jamison said. "Guys didn't know what was asked of them. When you're losing, all that stuff comes out. We just weren't what we were in the first three weeks (of the season), including training camp."

"You have to have a pulse of the team and feel how it's going with the players in (the locker room)," St. Jean said. "It wasn't at the level it needs to be to be successful in this league."

The Contra Costa Times reported Saturday that Cowens kicked Blaylock out of practice Friday because he "wasn't ready" to practice and "didn't respond" to instruction.

Cowens is the second NBA coach in a week to be replaced. Last Saturday, New York Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy resigned.

After three months as an assistant under St. Jean, Cowens was named coach on April 18, 2000. In parts of two seasons, he posted a 25-80 record, including a 17-65 mark in 2000-01.

The Warriors were ravaged by injuries last season, when they used 23 different lineups and led the NBA with 414 player games lost to injury.

However, the team has been relatively healthy this season and has added first-round picks Jason Richardson and Todd Murphy, both of whom have played well at times.

"Dave Cowens is as competitive and driven as anybody I've known in this business," St. Jean said. "We just weren't getting it done at the level we think we need to."

"For some reason, guys weren't doing things they were when the season started and it got a little difficult at times with the offensive and defensive schemes," Jamison said.

A Hall of Famer, Cowens guided the Charlotte Hornets to a pair of 50-win seasons in 1996-97 and 1997-98, but was fired early in the 1998-99 campaign after a 4-11 start.

He has a career coaching mark of 161-191, including a 27-41 mark as a player-coach with Boston in the 1978-79 season.

Winters was the first coach of the Vancouver Grizzlies and was fired midway through his second season, going 23-102. Prior to that, he had worked as an assistant for nine years under Lenny Wilkens in Cleveland and Atlanta.

"I've been a head coach before as you know and it wasn't a pleasant experience where I was," Winters said. "I'm hoping this will be a much better experience."

The 20th coach in franchise history, Winters, 49, was hired as an assistant on Dec. 27, 1999.

© 2001 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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