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Members of the Atlanta Hawks said Thursday they were...

ATLANTA -- Members of the Atlanta Hawks said Thursday they were not surprised that Coach Hubie Brown was fired but several said they hated to see him go.

Brown was fired Thursday afternoon in a unanimous vote at a meeting of the team's board of directors in West Palm Beach, Fla.

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'It's hurting. It's a hurting thing,' said Hawks guard Charlie Criss. 'It's a sad thing to see it happen to anybody like that, especially the type man he is. He's a winner, he's a fighter. It's a sad situation.'

Atlanta's Steve Hawes said, 'It's something that's been coming for a long time so it's no surprise at this time. But I'm sorry to see it happen.'

Assistant Coach Brendan Suhr, who along with Mike Fratello was named to take over the coaching duties for the last three games, said, 'He was my idol in coaching and still is. He brought me here. I played for him in high school in New Jersey as a sophomore before he went into college coaching. The man is like a father to me.'

Brown's firing was announced by Hawks president Michael Gearon, who said the vote was unanimous and 'effective immediately.'

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Hawks owner Ted Turner attended the board meeting but referred all inquiries about Brown's dismissal to Gearon.

Gearon said, 'We appreciate Hubie's contributions to the Atlanta Hawks during his five-year tenure but feel a change at this time is important to the future of the Hawks.'

He also announced coaches Suhr and Fratello would replace Brown for the Hawks final three games and the search for a new head coach would begin immediately.

Without Brown Thursday night, the Hawks lost 115-107 to the Indiana Pacers.

Brown, recognized among his peers as one of best technicians in the pro basketball coaching ranks, had only three games to go in his fifth season as Atlanta coach. His 1979-80 team, which posted a 50-32 record, won the NBA Central Division.

But this year's team, riddled with injuries -- especially to its tallest players -- was only 31-49 after Thursday night's loss to Indiana and in fourth place, 27 games behind division-leading Milwaukee.

Brown, believed to be one of the highest-paid coaches in the NBA, reportedly will receive $420,000 in cash and $270,000 in deferred money as settlement for the three years remaining on his contract.

Brown, 47, joined the Hawks in 1976 after two seasons as coach of the now defunct Kentucky Colonels of the American Basketball Association, winning the ABA championship in 1975.

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Starting out 31-51 in his first season with Atlanta, the Hawks showed constant improvement (going 41-41 in 1977-78 and 46-36 in 1978-79) before declining this season when at times Brown had as few as eight players healthy enough to use.

Brown, who played basketball at Niagara University in the mid-1950s, started his coaching career at the high school level in 1956; served as a college assistant, at William & Mary and Duke; then joined the pro ranks as an assistant at Milwaukee in 1972.

According to reports, Brown and Gearon had been at odds over Brown's allegedly harsh coaching tactics. Gearon gave Brown permission in January to talk to the New Jersey Nets about their coaching job and later called Brown back from a west coast trip for a three-hour meeting.

After that meeting, Gearon announced Brown would remain as coach but the reports persisted that the stay was only temporary.

A poll taken by an Atlanta newspaper earlier this week showed about 70 percent of the people who participated wanted the Hawks to keep Brown as their coach.

The Hawks' Dan Roundfield said following the Thursday night game Brown did 'great things' with the team and said he was 'kind of sad to see him go.'

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