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Monday, January 26, 2004
Updated: January 27, 12:01 PM ET
Scott fired by division-leading Nets

ESPN.com news services

Nets coach Byron Scott, one year removed from taking New Jersey on a second consecutive trip to the NBA Finals, was fired Monday.

"It happens to almost every coach eventually: Your message isn't well received and taken onto the court," team president Rod Thorn said at a news conference announcing the change.

Assistant coach Lawrence Frank will take over on an interim basis and will stay at least through the end of the season, Thorn said. The Nets also hired Brian Hill as an assistant coach. The Nets play Tuesday night at Philadelphia.

Byron Scott
"Sometimes change or a different voice is good. And in this case, with Coach Frank we all feel confident," said Nets guard Jason Kidd, whose relationship with Scott has been heavily scrutinized.

"He has absolutely no resentment or anger," Scott's agent, Brian McInerney, told The Associated Press. "He's going down as the winningest coach in Nets' history."

The Nets hadn't reached the NBA Finals or won a division title in their 24 seasons before Scott became coach. In 3½ seasons under Scott, the Nets had a winning percentage of .517 (.401 pre-Scott) and were 25-15 (9-30) in the playoffs with six series victories (one).

Thorn said he thought about firing Scott for more than a month and finally decided Sunday night that the time was right. He delivered the news to Scott on Monday morning after giving the job to Frank late Sunday night.

"They discussed the situation and both concluded that the timing of the move is to the benefit of the team," McInerney told AP. "They decided another voice needed to be heard in the locker room."

The Nets, an unspectacular 22-20 with the All-Star break approaching, lead the 22-24 Celtics by two games in the Atlantic Division but have only the fifth-best record in the Eastern Conference.

The game that sealed Scott's fate was Friday's loss at 18-26 Miami, in which the Nets were routed 85-64, sources told ESPN.com's Marc Stein.

Scott wasn't around for the final 14 minutes Sunday of what turned out to be his final game as New Jersey's coach -- a 110-91 victory over Boston that halted a five-game losing streak. He was ejected late in the third quarter by referee Luis Grillo for saying something that earned a one-technical ejection. Frank finished up.

The last year of Scott's four-year deal was to pay him between $2.6 million and $3 million.

Despite leading the Nets to back-to-back Finals appearances, management had refused to give Scott an extension while the team was for sale.

Scott's status was made even more tenuous by persistent reports that he lacked the support of Kidd, who berated Scott after an embarrassing 110-63 loss in Memphis on Dec. 13.

A source in the Nets' front office told AP that Kidd spoke to management Saturday and said the team need a change in leadership.

Thorn said he didn't consult with any players before making the move.

Kidd said he didn't know a change was imminent.

"I had nothing to do with this," Kidd said. "Coaching changes happen all the time. I'm a player here, I'm an employee. I have no control over who's the coach or what trades are made."

Thorn considered other candidates from inside and outside the organization but settled on Frank because of his familiarity with the Nets' offense and his rapport with the players.

"Lawrence is a lot like Jeff Van Gundy, who I think is one of the best coaches in pro basketball," Thorn said.

Scott was ejected during the third quarter of Sunday's 110-91 victory over the Boston Celtics, which ended a five-game losing streak and kept New Jersey (22-20) from dropping to .500.

"I felt it would turn itself around, and for a while it did. But it became evident to me that it wasn't going to turn around," Thorn said. "We have not played to the level we anticipated playing."

Kidd, and forward Kenyon Martin, also took issue with Scott's coaching moves during last year's Finals, including how the coach used former Net Dikembe Mutombo against San Antonio and his reluctance to call for double teams on center/Finals MVP Tim Duncan.

In the series' decisive Game 6, the Spurs went on a 19-0 second-half run that ultimately finished New Jersey.

In the offseason, Kidd was being hotly pursued in free agency by the Spurs, and there were reports claiming that Kidd would not consider re-signing with the Nets unless Scott was fired. Despite their differences, Kidd re-signed with New Jersey for $103 million over six years.

On Friday, the Nets were officially sold to Brooklyn developer Bruce Ratner, who is intent on moving the Nets across the Hudson River to the borough. The rest of the NBA owners must approve the deal as well.

Scott holds the franchise record with 149 coaching victories. After a 25-56 record in his first season, the Nets went 52-30 in 2001-02 and 49-33 in 2002-03 -- losing to the Lakers and the Spurs in the finals.

Scott is the fifth head coach replaced this season and 16th since the 2002-03 season. Two weeks ago, the Knicks fired Don Chaney and replaced him Hall of Fame coach Lenny Wilkens.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.