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Nets Fire Calipari


John Calipari, his once-promising team saddled with a 3-17 record, was fired Monday as coach of the New Jersey Nets.

The dismissal was confirmed by Nets swingman Kendall Gill after Calipari met with the team in Toronto, where the Nets play the Raptors on Tuesday.

Asked about Gill's comment, Nets spokesman John Mertz said the team did not yet have any announcement.

Calipari agent Craig Fenech was not taking calls from reporters, his office said.

A broadcast report, citing unidentified sources, said the Nets made assistant Don Casey interim coach. The report added that Calipari was also dismissed as team vice president.

Newspapers reported Monday the Nets were courting former Chicago Bulls coach Phil Jackson to coach the team.

Calipari, in his third season with the Nets, arrived at the team hotel in Toronto on Monday afternoon and met with his players.

Calipari has two years and $6 million remaining on his five-year, $15 million contract.

The Nets, who traded for star guard Stephon Marbury four days ago, have lost seven straight and 13 out of 14. Only the Clippers have a worse record in the NBA this season.

He and his players went separate ways after a loss to the Miami Heat on Sunday. After conferring with Nets owners after the 102-76 thrashing in Miami, Calipari left in a car with one owner while the team flew to Toronto.

Todd Musburger, Jackson's agent, has said he did not know if Jackson was leaning toward returning to coaching yet. A message left today was not returned.

Calipari met for 34 minutes after the Miami game with Nets owners Finn Wentworth and Lewis Katz.

Psst: Anybody got a job for a former Nets coach?
Psst: Anybody got a job for a former Nets coach? (AP)

"He wanted to talk and I said, 'Let's talk,'" said Calipari, referring to Wentworth. "It's confidential. He wanted to know where we go from here."

Asked if he would remain to guide the Nets through the process of adjusting to Marbury, Calipari said: "I believe so. Nothing was said in there to make me believe anything different."

A longtime NBA assistant, Casey, was the head coach of the Clippers during the 1988-89 season and has spent the last three seasons as Calipari's top assistant.

The Nets failed to build on the success of last season when they made the playoffs for the first time since 1994. Although the Nets were swept by title-bound Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls, they played well.

With Jordan's retirement, the Nets were seen as a potential successor as Eastern Conference champions.

They featured an up-tempo style anchored by Keith Van Horn, ll-Star center Jayson Williams, point guard Sam Cassell and shooting guard Kerry Kittles.

Last week's trade for Marbury was expected to lift the sagging team. Marbury made a strong debut Sunday with 21 points and five assists, but it was not nearly enough.

Calipari was hired as the Nets' coach on June 7, 1996, taking over a team regarded by many as the worst in the NBA. The Nets had gone 30-52 the previous two seasons under Butch Beard.

In two-plus seasons as Nets coach, Calipari had a record of 72-112. After a 26-56 record in his first season, he guided the Nets to a 43-39 record last year.

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