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Deal to acquire defensive stopper backfired

WHITEFISH BAY, Wis. -- George Karl says he's still trying to
figure out why he was fired as coach of the Milwaukee Bucks with
one year and $7 million left on his contract.

But he thinks he can pinpoint where things started to go wrong:
Oct. 25, 2001.

The Bucks were coming off a season in which they'd missed the
NBA Finals by a jump shot, and Karl had signed a two-year, $14
million extension that made him the highest-paid coach in
basketball.

Karl thought Anthony Mason would catapult the Bucks to the top
of the Eastern Conference, so he persuaded owner Herb Kohl to trade
away Scottie Williams and sign Mason to a four-year, $21 million
deal.

It backfired, starting the Bucks on a slide that led to the
departures of stars Ray Allen, Sam Cassell and Glenn Robinson along
with general manager Ernie Grunfeld and Karl.

"Scottie Williams was probably better for this basketball team
than Anthony Mason. Now, when we evaluated it, we never evaluated
that," Karl said Tuesday during break at his youth basketball camp
in suburban Milwaukee. "It changed our look, it changed the way to
play us. And in a lot of ways, that was a mistake.

He added: "Mason's a great defender, and I thought we needed
that at that point."

In his first comments to reporters since his firing July 20,
Karl said he wants to coach in the NBA next year after catching up
with friends across the country.

"I'm already going to hang out with some guys X'ing and O'ing
before camp, then you've got the NBA, then you've got college and
by then maybe I'll be lucky to have a job doing some type of
broadcasting," Karl said.

Karl said he still doesn't understand all the reasons for his
ouster, which came three weeks after Kohl suddenly took his team
off the market after negotiating to sell it to Michael Jordan.

"The last couple of months for this organization has been very
difficult, just a combination of the sale, Ernie leaving, I don't
understand exactly what the decision was. I was ready to coach,"
Karl said. "I'm disappointed I'm not coaching."

Karl described his departure as amicable _ the Bucks are paying
him his $7 million salary plus compensation for his 1 percent slice
of the team, an estimated $1.7 million.

Karl said he wasn't blindsided by the move because he otherwise
would have been entering a lame-duck season.

"I don't know if that's their reason or not, but it might have
been," Karl said.

Bucks general manager Larry Harris wasn't available for comment
Tuesday, a team spokeswoman said. Harris has said he won't speak
publicly until he has hired a new coach.

Karl said he hoped one of his former assistants, Terry Stotts or
Don Newman, gets the job. They are among eight known candidates.

Karl, who was 205-173 in five seasons in Milwaukee, said his
biggest regret was not having a better relationship with Allen. But
he said he never has regretted calling out his stars publicly, a
tactic Robinson, Allen and Cassell all suggested backfired.

Karl said he has changed his stance over the years and only
calls out players when they refuse to play hard.

"I can live with a guy maybe not practicing hard, but I can't
live with a guy that cheats the game," he said. "And if that's
how I've got to lose my profession, OK, I'm not going to change
that."