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Raptors Fire Coach Brendan Malone

April 22, 1996 GMT

TORONTO (AP) _ Citing philosophical differences, general manager Isiah Thomas of the Toronto Raptors fired head coach Brendan Malone today.

Malone led the expansion team to a 21-61 record in its first season. Thomas said Malone will be replaced by assistant coach Darrell Walker.

``Brendan was a tireless worker,″ Thomas said. ``Everything he did was based on winning.

``Unfortunately we had philosophical differences about where the organization was heading.″

Walker, 34, takes over after spending just one season as an assistant in his first coaching job. He came to the Raptors after a 10-year career as an NBA player.

``Darrell understands what we’re trying to accomplish here,″ Thomas said.

The long-expected firing of Malone came one day after the Raptors finished their first NBA season, a year in which they beat some top teams and turned some heads with their gritty play.

Malone, who turned 54 on Sunday, was fired because he and Thomas differed throughout the season on the use of the younger players on the roster.

``Clearly, we’re not on the same page,″ Thomas said Sunday.

Malone, who had been an assistant coach with Detroit and New York for nine seasons, was in the first year of a three-year contract reportedly worth $300,000 annually.

He said after Sunday’s season finale he was proud of the job he did.

``This season was a smashing success for the Toronto Raptors,″ he said. ``Looking back, I’m very proud to have been part of this team and coaching it.″

Walker was a teammate of Thomas with the Detroit Pistons in 1991-92. He also won an NBA championship with the Chicago Bulls during the 1992-93 season, then retired.

In a 754-game NBA career, the University of Arkansas guard averaged 8.7 points, 4.4 assists and 1.49 steals.

Malone said after Sunday’s final game he expected to find another job.

``Either I’ll be a candidate for an open head coaching job or I’ll be an assistant again,″ he said. ``I’ll be in the NBA somewhere.″

Malone also was proud of the way he handled the public conflict with Thomas.

``I think I handled myself extraordinarily well throughout the turmoil,″ said Malone. ``I think I’m mentally tough and I can take a punch.

``I want Mike Tyson.″