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Blazers fire Carlesimo, newspaper, radio station report

May 8, 1997

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) _ The Portland Trail Blazers have fired coach P.J. Carlesimo, who had two years left on a five-year contract, a newspaper and radio station reported today.

Team officials would not comment on the reports but scheduled a 4:30 p.m. EDT news conference.

The Columbian newspaper in Vancouver, Wash., said the coach was fired after a lengthy meeting with Blazers’ president Bob Whitsitt on Wednesday night.

The Columbian quoted a source close to the team as saying that the main reason for the firing was Carlesimo’s style.

``He refused to double team, press, trap,″ the source said. ``And the young guys are going to have to play if the team is going to keep them in the future.″

Carlesimo had a 137-109 record in three seasons with the Blazers, but was just 3-9 in the playoffs. His teams never advanced past the first round.

Portland radio station KFXX also reported that Carlesimo had been fired. It will cost the Blazers about $3 million to buy out the final two years of his contract.

Carlesimo had been head coach at Seton Hall for 12 seasons when he was hired by the Blazers after an extensive search. But Whitsitt did not hire him. The Blazers’ president got his job several months later, and from the start there were consistent reports that he was not satisfied with the coach.

Carlesimo’s intense style alienated some players, most notably Rod Strickland, who said he despised the coach and was traded at his own request.

But this year, after Whitsitt assembled a talented but sometimes troubled group of young players, there was little grumbling publicly about the coach, even though several players swore at him during games.

Carlesimo has been mentioned as a possible candidate to replace Rick Pitino at Kentucky. Carlesimo reportedly turned down the Wildcats’ job while he was at Seton Hall.

Possible successors at Portland include Mike Dunleavy, who resigned as Milwaukee Bucks general manager, saying he wanted to return to coaching.

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