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Bucs Will Ax Lamont Monday

Gene Lamont pirates
AP
Gene Lamont isn't talking about his firing as the Pittsburgh Pirates' manager - for now. He will on Monday, and he says it will be difficult.

The Pirates don't want Lamont discussing his dismissal Sunday, the last day of the season and his last day on the job, so as not to distract from ceremonies marking their final game in Three Rivers Stadium.

"I don't think that last day will be real easy," Lamont said.

Lamont will talk to reporters at 11 a.m. EDT Monday, an hour before owner Kevin McClatchy and general manager Cam Bonifay formally announce Lamont's firing.

"They want me to wait until the season is over. ... I'd just rather wait until all the festivities are over to talk about it," Lamont said. "I think that's the best way to handle it. It's going to be a big weekend here and nothing should take away from that."

Lamont has known for several weeks he would not be rehired as the Pirates move into PNC Park next season. It has been a foregone conclusion inside the organization that, after McClatchy refused to extend Lamont's contract last year, Lamont would not return unless the Pirates had a good season.

Still, Lamont said he never thought about quitting after learning from McClatchy on Sept. 12 that he would not return.

"It's a little bit of a difficult situation, but I think it's been best for everyone involved to finish up this way," Lamont said.

McClatchy predicted last winter the Pirates could win 90 games. Instead, they were 67-92 going into their season-ending series against the Cubs, their second 90-loss season in three years and eighth consecutive losing campaign.

Lamont, 53, was former Pirates manager Jim Leyland's third-base coach from 1986-90 until leaving to manage the Chicago White Sox, then returned to the Pirates in 1996. He was the AL manager of the year in 1993 as the White Sox went 94-68 and won the AL West, but was fired in 1995 amid complaints that he didn't communicate well with some players.

Several Pirates players have made similar comments about Lamont.

The Pirates hired Lamont in October 1996, after a cursory search in which Bonifay did not seriously interview other candidates. Leyland strongly recommended Lamont before leaving to manage the Florida Marlins.

Lamont is 293-351 as only the third Pirates manager in 20 years, and 551-561 overall with the White Sox and Pirates.

Despite gutting their roster for financial reasons for the second time since 1992, the Pirates contended for the NL Central title in 1997 despite a $10 million payroll that was less than White Sox outfielder Albert Belle's salary. Lamont was the runner-up to San Francisco's Dusty Baker for NL manager of the year.

The Pirates have not contended since. They lost 25 of their final 30 games their worst finish in nearly 40 years - while going 69-93 in 1998. They were 78-83 in 1999.

McClatchy and Bonifay have already begun discussing the process to choose Lamont's successor. They have a list of at least 10 candidates that apparently includes Oakland Athletics bench coach Ken Macha.

McClatchy, who grew up a Giants fan, has long respected Baker, who is not signed for next season. However, it is not certain if McClatchy would pay Baker's reported asking price of $1.5 million to $2 million a year, or whether Baker would leave a World Series contender to manage a team that hasn't had a winning season since 1992.

Also uncertain is the fate of bench coach Rick Renick, pitching coach Pete Vuckovich, first base coach Tommy Sandt, third base coach Trent Jewett, bullpen coach Spin Williams and hitting coach Lloyd McClendon.

Renick is a close friend of Lamont and is not expected to return. However, Vuckovich, a former aide to Bonifay; Sandt, Jewett and McClendon could return to the organization in some capacity. Jewett was the Triple-A manager at Nashville until third base coach Jack Lind was fired earlier this season.

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