Sixers fire Ayers, promote Ford on interim basis

Posted: Wednesday, February 11, 2004

PHILADELPHIA Randy Ayers lost his job after less than a season as the Philadelphia 76ers' coach. If the team doesn't turn things around, others might be on their way out, too. And star guard Allen Iverson would like to have some input.

The 76ers fired Ayers on Tuesday with the team 21-31 and 1 1/2 games behind the Boston Celtics for the Eastern Conference's final playoff berth. Assistant Chris Ford takes over on an interim basis.

''Some things I was looking at, I just was not comfortable with,'' general manager Billy King said. ''We're going to be aggressive and see if we can do something to change the roster. We still expect every player to play hard, be professional and play the right way.''

He said he is willing to make trades that could help the 76ers make the playoffs. The deadline for deals is Feb. 19.

King thinks some players have not put forth a full effort every game something Iverson said aloud recently.

Iverson was surprised and upset by Ayers' firing. He said he would have liked to have heard the news from King first. Now the NBA's leading scorer (27.5-point average) wants to have a say in whatever changes might come next.

''Just being called the franchise player, for being here as long as I've been here, I definitely feel like someone should have said something,'' said the league's MVP in the 2000-01 season. ''I feel like I'm supposed to be involved with a lot of stuff. ... I've earned the right to know some of the things that are going on.''

Iverson, in his eighth season, agreed with King that a shakeup could be needed, but he says he wants to finish his career with the team he led to the 2001 NBA Finals with coach Larry Brown.

Ayers became the Sixers' head coach when Brown resigned after last season. Brown is now coaching the Detroit Pistons.

''I'm crushed,'' Brown said before Detroit's game at New Jersey on Tuesday night. ''He was an assistant for me for six years and he was wonderful. I was proud of him when he got the opportunity. You hate to see it happen.''

All but one of the Eastern Conference's 15 teams (Atlanta, with Terry Stotts) changed coaches since the end of last season.

''You have to win at all costs,'' Brown said. ''When they give you a five-year plan, it's really a five-month plan.''

Now the 76ers have changed coaches twice in that span, asking Ford to reach the postseason.

''It's not going to be easy. With everyone doing their job, hopefully we'll have a chance,'' he said.

Ford already put his stamp on the team by admonishing forward Glenn Robinson over complaints about playing time something Ayers never publicly did.

''What Glenn did was not the right way of doing things,'' said Ford, whose first game in charge will be at home Wednesday against the Washington Wizards.

He joined the 76ers' staff last summer after two seasons as the coach at Brandeis. Ford led the Boston Celtics to division titles in 1991 and 1992, and he also coached the Bucks and Clippers, going 311-358 in a total of nine seasons.

His best season was his first, when the Celtics went 56-26 and reached the second round of the playoffs. Ford won NBA championships with the Celtics as a player (1981) and an assistant coach (1984, 1986).

The 76ers' troubles in the weak East could be attributed at least in part to injuries. Iverson missed 14 games, Robinson 18, and Derrick Coleman 22.

''I hate to use excuses, but we haven't really played together a lot,'' said Robinson, who doesn't want to be traded.

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