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November 22, 2008

First Coaching Change

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Pelton @ 2:24 pm

In the last week, the indignities have piled up for the 1-12 Oklahoma City Thunder. On Wednesday, the team heard boos at the Ford Center for the first time during a 20-point loss to the equally-lowly Clippers (who were so encouraged by blowing out the Thunder they decided to make a major trade). Last night, OKC’s former residents the Hornets came in and blew out the Thunder by 25 points on national TV. The contrast between the two teams who have called the Ford Center home could not have been much more dramatic.

Apparently, that was all Oklahoma City GM Sam Presti needed to see, as he fired head coach P.J. Carlesimo late Friday night after the game. Carlesimo’s status was already shaky when the team made the move; Presti’s unwillingness to provide a definitive statement on Carlesimo’s future at the end of the regular season made some headlines last April in Seattle.

More telling might be that Paul Westhead, Carlesimo’s lead assistant, was fired as well. (Fellow assistant Scott Brooks, considered an up-and-comer in coaching circles, takes over as interim head coach, with just two nominal assistant coaches–Ralph Lewis and Mark Bryant–left on his staff at the moment.) While I noted in yesterday’s coaching trees article that Carlesimo’s philosophy largely matched that of Gregg Popovich, who could be considered Presti’s mentor, the one exception is Carlesimo’s desire to play at a fast pace. Of course, Westhead, nicknamed the “Guru of Go,” has had teams play faster than anyone in NBA history. That Westhead is out of the picture may be a sign the Thunder plans to slow things down considerably, which if nothing else should help the team keep things somewhat more respectable.

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