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Tuesday, February 10, 2004
Brown: Ayers had Iverson's support

By Joe Lago
ESPN.com

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- You won't find Allen Iverson's thumbprints on the firing of Philadelphia 76ers head coach Randy Ayers.

Iverson's former coach and Ayers' ex-boss can attest to that.

"He would never do anything (like that). He competes and wants to win," Larry Brown said of Iverson. "I read his comments; he was loyal to Randy."

Iverson's performance wasn't the problem for Ayers, who spent the previous six seasons as an assistant under Brown. It was the lack of intensity from the rest of the Sixers. The team's uninspired play prompted tirades by Iverson in the locker room and in front of the media last week to create more unrest around a disappointing 21-31 squad.

"Everybody talks about my issues with him, and he (Iverson) was loyal to me," Brown said. "I wanted him to be perfect in a lot of ways, some of them he tried and some just didn't work out, but he always competed and tried to win and I thought he was playing better than he ever played, under Randy. I thought he was phenomenal."

Brown, whose offseason move to the Pistons angered Sixers fans since Detroit eliminated Philadelphia from the playoffs last year, said he continued to speak with Ayers and 76ers general manager Billy King "every day."

In fact, Brown spoke to Ayers and King on Monday and detected "no sign" that a coaching change was about to happen. He spoke to them again Tuesday after King decided to replace Ayers with assistant Chris Ford, and invited Ayers "to spend some time" with the Pistons.

"You hate to see it happen," Brown said. "I feel bad for Billy and the players. That was not an easy decision to make. I'm just hopeful that he (Ayers) can land on his feet and that Philly can get this thing going in the right direction. They have a lot of people hurt and it was a very difficult situation."

The firing of Ayers continued the ongoing upheaval in the NBA's head coaching ranks, particularly in the East, where there has been a firing and hiring by all 15 teams since last season.

"I think that's the nature of our profession right now," Brown said. "That's something we all understand when we get a job. You know you're going to be judged on wins and losses. That's just the way it is."

Joe Lago is the NBA editor at ESPN.com.