Sports Briefs

Posted: Thursday, December 11, 2003

Reeves fired by Falcons

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. Dan Reeves was fired abruptly by the Atlanta Falcons on Wednesday with three games left in a disappointing season marred by star Michael Vick's injury.

Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips will take over as head coach for the rest of the season.

Falcons owner Arthur Blank told Reeves the sixth-winningest coach in NFL history that he would be fired at the end of the season but wanted him to coach the rest of the way. Reeves asked to be let go immediately.

''When Arthur told me he had made the decision about the end of the year, I knew it had to come to a fullness today,'' Reeves said. ''I'm an eternal optimist, so yeah, it was a surprise. But I'm also realistic enough about coaching to understand this is how it is in the NFL.''

Reeves, 59, is in his 23rd consecutive season as an NFL head coach, by far the longest tenure in the league, and he had one year left on his contract. Reeves led the Denver Broncos to three Super Bowls, losing each time.

The Falcons fell from the playoffs a year ago to one of the worst teams in the league after Vick was hurt in the preseason. Reeves was let go after the Falcons (3-10) defeated Carolina 20-14 in overtime in Vick's first start of the season.

As Blank answered questions from reporters in one of the team's meeting rooms Wednesday, Reeves stood outside in the hall and exchanged handshakes and hugs with some of the players, including Vick. Afterward, Vick and the others walked to the locker room to prepare for practice.

''Dan is a sweet guy, very sweet,'' Vick said. ''He's a guy that really cares about his players. I think he went the extra mile for us, and a lot of guys are going to miss him.''

Suns fire Johnson, D'Antoni promoted

PHOENIX Frank Johnson was fired as coach of the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday after an 8-13 start to the season.

The Suns promoted assistant Mike D'Antoni, who was coach of the Denver Nuggets in the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season and had a 14-36 record. He joined the Suns as an assistant last season after coaching Benneton Treviso to the Italian championship.

''Generally we were not content with where we were,'' said Bryan Colangelo, the Suns' president of basketball operations. ''We weren't necessarily content with the direction we were getting.''

Johnson replaced Scott Skiles as the Suns' coach late in the 2001-02 season, going 11-20 the rest of the way.

Last season, Johnson guided the team to a 44-38 record and a surprising playoff berth. The Suns lost to the eventual NBA champion San Antonio Spurs in the first round.

Phoenix just returned from a road trip on which it went 1-3, including a loss against the Orlando Magic a team that had dropped its previous 19 straight games.

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