Lakers Fire Coach Del Harris

The Los Angeles Lakers, mired at .500 12 games through the abbreviated NBA season, fired coach Del Harris Wednesday.

Jerry West, the team's vice president of basketball operations, said that one of two assistants -- Kurt Rambis or Larry Drew -- will handle the coaching duties for the rest of the season.

The team, which has lost three consecutive games, made the announcement as it was adding Dennis Rodman to what on paper is one of the more talented teams in the league.

West said longtime assistant Bill Bertka would handle the head coaching duties Thursday night against the winless Los Angeles Clippers before a decision is made on Drew or Rambis, both former Laker players.

"Particularly for me, the thing that makes it so awkward is that Del has been a friend for many years," West said. "The direction of a team is very important. We do feel like we have the talent here."

"I just feel the last two games we've played have not been acceptable. We just felt like there was a deterioration. I talked to (owner) Jerry Buss this morning and we just felt like the time was right now."

"I will accept all the blame. No one should look any further than me," West said, but he also had a message for the team's players.

"If I were our players, I would take a very long look in the mirror."

The Lakers lost three games in three days in three different cities.

The were beaten 92-89 Sunday at Seattle; 117-113 in overtime at Denver on Monday night, and 93-83 at Vancouver on Tuesday night. Denver's victory was only its second in 10 games this season and the Grizzlies had never beaten Los Angeles in 12 previous games between the teams.

The three losses left LA with a disappointing 6-6 record.

Most of a team that reached the Western Conference finals before being swept by the Utah Jazz last spring is back, but the Lakers have been on-again, off-again since the start of the campaign.

Harris, 61, was in his fifth season as Lakers head coach and has been under criticism from many directions. However, as recently as Tuesday night Lakers star Shaquille O'Neal said the team's problems weren't the coach's fault.

Harris has 556 career victories to rank among the top 20 coaches of all time. He previously coached the Houston Rockets and Milwaukee Bucks.

When asked if he had spoken with former Chicago coach Phil Jackson or anyone else as a long-term successor, West replied, "We have not talked to anyone. This happened o quickly."

Only two days before the firing, former Lakers point guard Nick Van Exel, traded to Denver following last season, called Harris a "cancer on the Lakers." Harris and Van Exel had a stormy relationship over the last four seasons.

© 1998 CBS SportsLine USA, Inc. All rights reserved