Pistons fire head coach Irvine
Updated: Thursday April 19, 2001 2:15 PM
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) -- The Detroit Pistons fired coach George Irvine on Thursday, a day after the team closed out a season in which it finished 18 games under .500.
"This was a very difficult decision for me to make," team president Joe Dumars said in a statement. "I want to thank George and his staff for their hard work and dedication. However, at this time, I have decided to make a change.
"I plan on beginning a search immediately for a new coach."
Irvine had said that he believed he'd be back next season, and he insisted that he would not resign - even if the team asked him to.
"I'm a little surprised, and I'm certainly disappointed," Irvine said Thursday. "I thought the guys had worked hard and gotten better toward the end of the season.
"But it's their choice. There's no better owner in the league than Mr. Davidson. And Joe's going to be a great GM. I disagree with the decision, but that doesn't change my respect for them."
The Pistons' next coach will be their sixth since 1992. Five coaches have come and gone since Chuck Daly resigned after nine seasons in 1992.
Irvine took over the Pistons late last season after Alvin Gentry was fired. The team was swept from the playoffs in the first round and has been out of contention this season.
Irvine had two years remaining on his contract.
"I'm surprised," rookie Mateen Cleaves said. "I certainly got a quick whiff of this business this season. [Dumars] told us he was proud of how hard we worked, but that the expected us to be a little bit better."
Forward Ben Wallace said, "George is gonna bounce back. He's a good coach, and he'll get another job. Before the season, we felt that we would do a lot more than people expected of us. But that never really happened."
Irvine was appointed interim coach after the Pistons fired Gentry on March 6, 2000. The team finished last year at 14-10 under Irvine, who was endorsed by stars Grant Hill and Jerry Stackhouse.
The Pistons floundered this year, relying almost exclusively on Stackhouse for offense. They finished 32-50, good for tenth in the 15-team Eastern Conference.
Shortly after taking over from Gentry on an interim basis, Irvine said he wasn't interested in the head coaching job. But by the time the season ended, with a first-round playoff loss to Miami, it was apparent Irvine was reconsidering.
Irvine agreed last June to a multimillion-dollar deal.
Michigan State coach Tom Izzo's name has been mentioned as a possible replacement, but he has repeatedly denied any interest in leaving East Lansing.
"I have not talked to the Pistons," Izzo said Thursday. "And I have never talked to the Pistons about their coaching situation."
Irvine, who compiled a 46-60 record with Detroit and 98-192
overall, was an assistant with the Golden State Warriors for two
years and worked for 16 years in the Indiana Pacers' front office.
He also played in the ABA.