OAKLAND, CALIF. The Golden State Warriors fired coach Dave Cowens on Saturday after just 105 games with one of the NBA's most downtrodden franchises.
Cowens was replaced on an interim basis by assistant coach Brian Winters, who coached the Warriors in Saturday night's game against Memphis. Winters coached the Vancouver Grizzlies in their first two seasons.
Though reluctant to directly criticize Cowens, Golden State general manager Garry St. Jean strongly hinted Cowens had lost the respect of a large portion of his roster during the Warriors' recent slide following a strong start.
St. Jean said he moved swiftly in an attempt to prevent the team, which has had seven straight losing seasons, from wasting yet another campaign. At the very least, competence was expected this season from a roster that was finally healthy after two injury-plagued seasons.
"You have to have a pulse of a team and how it's going," St. Jean said. "It wasn't at the level it needs to be to succeed."
Cowens, a Hall of Famer who was promoted from an assistant's job before last season, went 25-80 with the Warriors.
Cowens clashed publicly and privately in recent weeks with several players, including Mookie Blaylock, Bob Sura and Marc Jackson. Many were unhappy with the coach's substitution patterns, while Cowens questioned his team's effort and intelligence.
Golden State (8-15) had lost four straight and eight of nine entering Saturday night's game. The Warriors, 3-12 after a 5-3 start, have missed the playoffs in seven straight seasons the longest current streak in the NBA.
"We have a lot of faith in those guys in the locker room," said St. Jean, who coached both Cowens and Winters in Milwaukee. "We feel like under Brian's direction, we're going to get back to where we were three weeks ago."
Winters becomes the 20th coach to pass through the revolving door at one of the NBA's original franchises. He is the Warriors' seventh coach since 1995, when Don Nelson left the team after seven seasons and owner Chris Cohan assumed control of the club.
"I'm hoping they will respond to my coaching," said Winters, who was 23-102 with Vancouver. "We've got to get better. You learn to win at home, and then you learn to win on the road."
The players were surprised at the swiftness of the move, but none seemed terribly disappointed to see Cowens leave.
"Brian understands the game," said Antawn Jamison, the Warriors' leading scorer. "He really knows the mismatches and the strategies, and how to use guys."