Thursday, April 17, 2008
With new GM at helm, Bucks dismiss Krystkowiak as coach
MILWAUKEE -- Larry Krystkowiak showed up at the Milwaukee Bucks' practice facility early Thursday morning, sweating through his T-shirt during a rigorous workout as Neil Young music blared in the background.
A few hours later, he was gone for good.
Krystkowiak might indeed have a heart of gold, as his choice of workout music would suggest. But as new Bucks general manager John Hammond attempts to make a championship contender out of an organization seemingly happy just to sneak into the playoffs every few years, that wasn't enough.
Larry Krystkowiak's future as Bucks coach was pretty much determined when Larry Harris lost his job as GM.
"The bottom line on this decision is that this is a results-driven league," Hammond said. "Sometimes it comes down to wins and losses. Once again, the man that Larry was and the effort he put forth had little to do with the decision."
The Bucks fired Krystkowiak a day after completing his first full season as an NBA head coach. The move didn't come as a surprise. It was widely assumed that Hammond would bring in his own coach after Bucks owner and U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl hired him to replace ousted general manager Larry Harris last week.
Kohl then signed off on Hammond's first major decision, and Krystkowiak was out.
Touted as a potential playoff contender going into the season, the Bucks finished a dismal 26-56 and were one of the league's worst defensive teams.
Hammond praised Krystkowiak's hard work and character, and was careful not to go into detail on the characteristics he would be looking for in a new coach because he didn't want it to be interpreted as an indictment of Krystkowiak's shortcomings.
But Hammond, who left his job as one of the Detroit Pistons' top basketball executives to take over in Milwaukee, made it clear that the Bucks have to get tougher.
"The Pistons, what are they known for right now? They're known for winning," Hammond said. "But you know what? It kind of started out as, 'Let's put a tough, competitive team out there.' "
Hammond has ties to several veteran coaches, including Rick Carlisle, Larry Brown and Alvin Gentry. Former Chicago Bulls coach Scott Skiles also could be considered for the job.
Hammond began his coaching search "immediately" and expected to move quickly.
"There's no reason not to react quickly," Hammond said. "That doesn't mean there's a timetable, but we're going to react as quickly as possible."
Hammond said the Bucks had potential, despite their record.
"We have some things to work with within this team," Hammond said. "I don't know how quickly we can get better, but we're going to get better."
Players cleaning out their lockers at Bucks headquarters before Thursday's announcement seemed to be working under the assumption that their coach wouldn't be back.
"It's just a situation that didn't work out," guard Michael Redd said. "I'm sure he tried his best, no doubt about it. We tried our best. It just didn't work out."
Center Andrew Bogut suggested a house-cleaning might be in order.
"I think the group of guys we have just need to work hard and be committed to the team and put team before 'I' and we'll be all right," Bogut said. "But if we come in looking for individual accolades again, and guys trying to be All-Stars and so on, it's not going to work out."
Forward Charlie Villanueva said Krystkowiak shouldn't take the fall.
"Put the blame on us," Villanueva said. "Coach K did the best he can do."
Clearly aware he might be fired, Krystkowiak said before Wednesday's season-ending overtime loss at Minnesota that facing the end of the season was difficult.
"Disappointment is one of the emotions that I am feeling," he said. "It's just kind of a culmination of a bunch of stuff. And I am an emotional guy. I would be lying if I said other things weren't creeping into my mind, too. You go through a lot of things."
Krystkowiak became a favorite of Kohl during his days as a player in Milwaukee, where he gained a reputation for gritty determination. He left his job as the University of Montana's head coach before the 2006-07 season to become an assistant under Terry Stotts and took over as head coach after Stotts was fired in March 2007.
But Krystkowiak's toughness never carried over to the present-day Bucks, who had plenty of players willing to take shots on offense but few reliable defenders.
Earlier this week, Krystkowiak said he wasn't always allowed to coach the team the way he wanted. But he declined to elaborate on what pressures Harris or others in the front office might have placed on him.
"When you're in the midst of it, it's not a whole lot of fun, and I know coming out the other end of this that I'm going to be stronger for it," Krystkowiak said. "But right now I'd be lying if I said it was enjoyable."