Celtics coach O'Brien quits

Posted: Wednesday, January 28, 2004

WALTHAM, Mass. (AP) Jim O'Brien quit as coach of the Boston Celtics on Tuesday, after half a season under new boss Danny Ainge.

Ainge said O'Brien told him he wanted to resign at a meeting Tuesday morning, one of their regularly scheduled sit-downs to discuss ''philosophical differences'' on running the team.

''The philosophical differences, I thought, were much smaller than Jim thought,'' said Ainge, who announced O'Brien's departure at a news conference at the team's practice facility.

Assistant coach John Carroll will take over for the rest of the season, Ainge said. Another assistant coach, Dick Harter, was let go. Ainge said that he took a more long-term view of building the team, while O'Brien was more concerned with short-term results.

''Jim did not see that long-term vision that I saw,'' said Ainge, who took over as the team's director of basketball operations during last season's playoffs.

Ainge, who appeared at the news conference with one of the team's owners, Wyc Grousbeck, was also trying to add more offense to the team, while O'Brien had always placed a heavy emphasis on defense.

''He was not sure he's the man for that job ... he didn't want to take our money and our time under false pretenses,'' Grousbeck said.

Ainge, who said he was surprised by O'Brien's decision, also said he had had differences with O'Brien over whether to play some of the older players on the team.

''We felt that there was a ceiling on the success of the old players ... so we did not always agree on the players who should be on the court,'' Ainge said.

A call placed to O'Brien's agent, Lonnie Cooper, wasn't immediately returned.

The Celtics are 22-24 after reaching the playoffs the past two seasons.

O'Brien's resignation came one day after Byron Scott was fired as coach of the New Jersey Nets, the only team ahead of Boston in the Atlantic Division.

The Celtics lost five of their last seven games, including a 110-91 setback at New Jersey on Sunday. Boston trailed by 17 at halftime and sank just 36 percent of its shots for the game. In those last five losses, star Paul Pierce, who hasn't gotten much offensive help, made just 27 percent of his shots.

Since being hired, Ainge has made numerous changes, trading Antoine Walker to Dallas before the season and Eric Williams and Tony Battie to Cleveland on Dec. 15. The first deal deprived the Celtics of a second scoring threat to go along with Pierce. The second took away two veteran leaders and keys to O'Brien's defense-oriented approach.

Ainge, hired May 9, gave O'Brien a two-year contract extension running through the 2005-06 season. Before granting the extension, however, Ainge met with O'Brien and considered potential replacements among current college coaches, pro assistants, retired players and former NBA coaches.

O'Brien became coach when Rick Pitino resigned in January 2001. He took the Celtics to the Eastern Conference finals in 2002 and the conference semifinals in 2003. They lost both times to New Jersey.

The Celtics' next game is at home on Wednesday night against the Detroit Pistons, who are second in the Central Division with a 29-16 record.

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