Hawks tied for league's fourth worst record

ATLANTA -- The Atlanta Hawks are starting over.

Terry Stotts has been fired by the Hawks' new owners, ending
the longest current coaching tenure in the Eastern Conference after
just 1½ seasons.

The move, first reported by ESPN's David Aldridge and the Atlanta Journal-Consitution on Thursday, was announced Friday.

A source told the paper that Stotts was informed of the club's decision Thursday night.

Stotts went 52-85, the third-worst winning percentage in
franchise history. The Hawks finished 28-54 this season, missing
the playoffs for the fifth straight year.

"It was obvious there was a lot of speculation after the
season, but honestly, I didn't know which way it was going,"
Stotts told The Associated Press. "Having new ownership, there's
always the possibility of change."

The Hawks and the NHL's Atlanta Thrashers were sold to a
nine-person group of investors in March by Time Warner Inc., which
took over the teams through mergers that gave it control of Turner

"We believe it is important to change the direction of the
Hawks' franchise," general manager Billy Knight said. "Our new
ownership group is committed to building a winning product that
contends for the NBA championship, and they have placed me in
charge of hiring the best candidate possible to accomplish that."

The Hawks traded away stars Shareef Abdur-Rahim and Theo Ratliff
in the middle of the season, leaving Stotts with a lineup of mostly
journeymen players. Atlanta has only four players under contract
for 2004-05 -- Chris Crawford, Jason Terry, Alan Henderson and Boris
Diaw -- and the team will be more than $20 million under the
projected salary cap.

The Hawks also have two first-round picks in June's draft.

Asked if the Hawks are starting over like an expansion team,
Knight said, "It's fair to say that to a degree."

Knight said he hadn't talked to any potential replacements for
Stotts, and didn't have any timetable for hiring a new coach.
Knight also said he would be "shuffling" the team's front office,
though he didn't provide specifics.

One of the team's new owners, Boston businessman Steve Belkin,
said Knight already has a short list of candidates and could make a
hire before the free agency period begins July 1.

"I think the new coach that we would be naming, if we do it
before July 1, would be a significant draw to many of the free
agents," Belkin said in a telephone interview. "I think the free
agents will see our commitment to really build a strong franchise

Doc Rivers, a former Hawks player, might have been a candidate had he not taken the Celtics job.

Other names mentioned by the Journal-Constitution: Byron Scott, Mike Fratello and Lionel Hollins, currently an assistant coach with the Memphis Grizzlies. Knight was formerly the Grizzlies GM.

In another NBA coaching firing Friday, Tim Floyd was dismissed
by New Orleans.

Five NBA coaches -- all in the Eastern Conference -- have lost
their jobs since the regular season ended less than a month ago.
Boston (Doc Rivers) and Philadelphia (Jim O'Brien) have hired
replacements; Toronto is still looking for a new coach.

Stotts, who replaced Lon Kruger as coach in December 2002, said
he was informed of the Hawks' decision Thursday night.

"There's no easy head coaching job in the NBA, every job has
its own challenges," Stotts said. "You just do the best job you

"I think Billy Knight has the franchise in a great position to
go forward, because there are so many possibilities with regard to
the roster. It should be an exciting time around here, and I'm just
disappointed I won't be a part of it."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.