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George Mason fires head coach Paul Westhead

March 5, 1997

FAIRFAX, Va. (AP) _ George Mason coach Paul Westhead was fired after the Patriots lost nine of their last 10 games to finish the season at 10-17.

``I did the best I could to raise the level of basketball at George Mason University,″ Westhead said in a written statement Tuesday. ``Our coaching staff worked very hard at turning a down program into a winner. Unfortunately, I was not able to complete the task.″

Athletic director Tom O’Connor said he fired Westhead because ``recent results are not indicative of the goals we have set for the program.″

``We want a better experience for our student-athletes and we want to be competitive in the Colonial Athletic Association,″ O’Connor said.

The Patriots were 38-70 in Westhead’s four seasons. They never finished higher than sixth in the CAA under Westhead, who replaced Ernie Nestor amid much fanfare following the 1992-93 campaign.

Westhead came to George Mason with impressive credentials. He won the 1980 NBA title with the Los Angeles Lakers and was 142-105 in nine seasons at LaSalle and 105-48 in five years at Loyola Marymount.

The Patriots started this season 6-2, including victories over Colorado and Long Beach State, then stumbled badly in conference play, losing four of their first five CAA games.

Fourteen players _ nine of them regulars _ either quit the team or were suspended for various reasons during Westhead’s tenure.

Last season, four players left after the season began. Guard Nate Langley and forward Kevin Ward were suspended for academic reasons, forward G.C. Marcaccini walked off the team following a trip to California and forward Mike Virtue returned to Australia a month later.

Langley and Ward were reinstated this season.

Two other players _ guards Curtis McCants and Jason Williams _ were dismissed after the season after being charged with criminal offenses.

``It was more than just wins and losses,″ O’Connor said. ``But I’d say it was mostly a basketball decision in the end. I have tremendous respect for Paul Westhead as a human being, but I felt the time had come to make a change.″

O’Connor said the search would begin immediately for a successor to Westhead. He said the selection process was ``wide open.″

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