Things have gotten so bad for the New Jersey Nets that even former coach John Calipari is beating them, with a little help from Allen Iverson.
Iverson scored 37 points and made a key late steal to lead the Calipari-coached Philadelphia 76ers to a 100-96 win on Saturday night over the team that fired him in March.
The loss was the sixth straight and ninth in 10 games for the Nets, who are off to their worst start in franchise history. It was made even more embarrassing with Calipari taking over after coach Larry Brown was ejected for picking up two technical fouls with 1:29 left in the first quarter.
The sudden promotion even seemed to catch him off guard.
"I went to Larry at halftime and asked him if he did it on purpose," Calipari said before heading out to the parking lot.
The way Iverson was playing, it didn't make a difference who was coaching Philadelphia. The NBA's leading scorer hit 12 of 18 shots from the field and scored 26 points in the first half to help the 76ers build a 55-49 lead. He added seven points more in an 18-5 run that pushed the lead to 15 in the third quarter.
When the Nets made a late run to cut the deficit to 92-87 with 5:13 to go, Iverson hit a 3-pointer after Calipari called a time out. He also stole the ball from Keith Van Horn with New Jersey trailing 99-95 with a minute to go and he capped his night with a free throw with 4.4 seconds to go.
Iverson finished 15 of 32 from the field, including 2 of 6 from 3-point range.
"It was cool," Iverson said. "He (Cal) coaches us anyhow. He did a great job under the circumstances. We're just happy for him because we know he's the ex Nets coach and you knew there wre people yapping at him in the stands."
Calipari spent two-plus years coaching the Nets, leading them to the playoffs in 1998. The former Massachusetts coach was fired after a 3-17 start in the lockout-shortened season. Brown hired him as an assistant in the offseason.
"We knew Cal would take over, but everything happened so fast I'm still not sure what happened," added Aaron McKie. "It didn't really have much effect on the team. It's not like our team is going to change when another coach takes over like that. It's just good to get a win over road."
Larry Hughes added 16 points for Philadelphia, which ended a two-game losing streak by shooting 49 percent from the field.
Stephon Marbury had 22 points and Van Horn added 20 and 13 rebounds to lead the Nets, whose previous worst start was 1-8 in 1977-78.
"I don't give a damn about Cal," Nets forward Kendall Gill said. "Cal is gone and there is nothing left to be said about him."
It's not clear why Brown was ejected by referee Marc Davis in the closing minutes of the first quarter. He said something to Davis as he walked past the 76ers bench and got called for a technical. Davis turned and started walking to the end basket but he quickly turned and gave Brown another.
"All I heard him say to the ref was that foul did not effect the play," Hughes said. "I've heard him say a lot worse."
Brown added he didn't say anything to get himself ejected.
"I don't feel good that I put him in a tough position," Brown said. "But I'm happy for him the way it turned out."
NotesAn MRI on Nets F Scott Burrell showed a possible tear to the meniscus in his left knee. He will be re-evaluated Sunday.
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