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Archive for Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Rivers dismissed as Magic coach

November 19, 2003

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— The worst start in the 15-year history of the Orlando Magic cost Doc Rivers his job, the first coaching casualty of an NBA season that barely has begun.

Only a few hours after Rivers talked to reporters about how management had stuck behind him, he was fired and replaced by assistant coach Johnny Davis.

"We need to start making some progress," Orlando's chief operating officer, John Weisbrod, said before the team's workout Tuesday in Phoenix. "We don't have a team that should be lapping the field or leading the East, but we certainly feel we have a group that is better than 1-10, and we need to get more out of our guys."

General manager John Gabriel delivered the news late Monday night in a meeting at the team's hotel in Salt Lake City following the Magic's 90-88 loss to Utah. Assistant coach Dave Wohl also was fired.

Rivers flew home to Florida, and the Magic traveled to Phoenix, where they will play the Suns Thursday.

"It is part of sports," Rivers said. "I thought I had a good run here. Things just didn't work out in the end. Maybe the players need to hear another voice."

The Magic won their season opener but then lost 10 straight games, the NBA's worst record this season.

"I pretty much had an idea that it was going to go down, I just didn't know when," Orlando's Tracy McGrady said. "For the most part, it's a pretty sad day for me because over the years I've grown close to Doc. He came in and did a tremendous job of helping me become the player that I am, the person that I am."

Still, McGrady indicated the team needed the changes that Davis will bring.

"J.D. is a laid-back coach. He teaches the game from an individual standpoint, one-on-one," McGrady said. "If you make a mistake, he's real calm about it. He's not the kind of guy that really yells and screams at the top of his lungs.

"He's been around awhile. He's been around longer than Doc, so we're happy with the decision."

Juwan Howard had been one of Rivers' most vocal supporters on the team.

"Of course it hurts me personally because he was a big reason I came here," Howard said. "The coaches will always be the ones who have to go first. We're the ones who are out there performing. We didn't get the job done. I feel we let him down."

Much of the Magic's troubles stem from the loss of Grant Hill, limited to just 47 games in three-plus seasons because of a stress fracture in his left ankle.

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