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Nets Fired Coach Butch Beard

April 22, 1996 GMT

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) _ Butch Beard was fired today as coach of the New Jersey Nets, just two days after the team finished its second straight dismal 30-win season.

General manager Willis Reed confirmed this firing this afternoon.

The outspoken Beard almost guaranteed his dismissal two weekends ago, criticizing his bosses and calling his team a bunch of ``second-line players″ who might never get better.

Nets president Michael Rowe said that the comments didn’t bode well for Beard’s future last Monday, and the new executive fired his coach after a meeting Monday morning.

Reed said the decision to fire Beard was his.

Beard was not immediately available for comment. He has said in recent days that he did a good job with the talent available.

A source close to the team owners said that Beard had a three-year contact, the final year being an option year at the team’s discretion. In letting Beard go, the team chose not to pick up the option.

Beard is owed no money, the source said.

``Comments the last couple of weeks that the players were second line, that they didn’t know how to win and some private comments the coach made that some people would not get better were unacceptable,″ the source said. ``We felt a change was necessary.″

But Reed said he didn’t feel the comments were a big factor in his decision to fire Beard.

``I thought Butch had taken the players as far as he could,″ Reed said.

The source said that the team hoped to hire a replacement in less than a month, but Reed said there is no timetable.

``I want the best coach possible, whether that’s an NBA coach or a great college coach, I can’t say at this time,″ Reed said.

Reed commented on speculation that the Nets want Kentucky coach Rick Pitino to head the team.

``I think we’ll try to talk to all of the people I feel are great coaches and that won’t be limited to Pitino,″ Reed said. ``I just read a story where he said he wanted to stay at Kentucky and win another NCAA title.″

The Nets had a 30-52 record in each of Beard’s two seasons, missing the playoffs each year. New Jersey, which traded troublesome All Stars Derrick Coleman and Kenny Anderson in the first half of this past season, lost 23 of its final 30 games.

A former Nets assistant, Beard got the New Jersey job after Chuck Daly resigned after two seasons as coach.

Daly, who won 43 and 45 games and made the playoffs each year, left in part because he was having trouble dealing with Coleman and other players. That same problem and injuries haunted Beard in his tenure, which ended with a 60-104 overall record.

Beard also had problems dealing with Coleman and the atmosphere around the team became more onerous after Anderson turned down a $40 million contract offer earlier this season.

Faced with a troublesome Coleman and the threat of Anderson leaving via free agency, the Nets traded both players in separate multi-player deals with Philadelphia and Charlotte, respectively.

Rowe said Beard called for the trades.

The deals, which brought Shawn Bradley and Kendall Gill, among others, to New Jersey, left the Nets with a hard-working but less-talented team that faded down the stretch.

``I told you a long time ago that I think we’ve done a hell of a job,″ Beard said Saturday night after the Nets closed the season with a loss to Atlanta.

``I’m proud of the players because they gave us everything they had until they ran out of steam physically and mentally,″ he added. ``What went on last year and what went on this year is like a 360-degree turn.″

Beard worked his players hard in practice, and it seemed to pay off. Armon Gilliam, Chris Childs and Jayson Williams all had career years.

However, the team also had its share of injuries with shooting guards Kevin Edwards (knee) and Gill (broken hand) each missing almost half the season.

``Butch is paying an unfair price and we have injuries to thank for it.″ Williams said this past weekend. ``If Kevin and Kendall are healthy, we make the playoffs. It’s that simple. People have been dropping down off us all year. When you don’t have any shooters in basketball, you can’t win.″

Beard started his coaching career as an assistant with the New York Knicks. After a stint as a television analyst, he became an assistant in New Jersey for two years before getting his first head coaching job at Howard University in 1990, leading the school to an NCAA Tournament appearance in 1991-92.

A point guard who played on an NBA championship team with Golden State in the mid 1970s, Beard got the Nets job in 1994.