Floyd returning as Hornets assistant

Struggling to stay competitive just two seasons after reaching the Western Conference semifinals, the New Orleans Hornets fired coach Byron Scott and replaced him with general manager Jeff Bower on Thursday.

The Hornets said Bower will be the full-time coach and there won’t be a search for a replacement. Bower has never been a head coach on any level, but previously worked as an assistant for the Hornets.

Former Hornets coach Tim Floyd also is returning as an assistant coach. Floyd coached the Hornets during the 2003-04 season, going 41-41 before losing in the first round of the playoffs. Bower was an assistant on Floyd’s staff that season.

Floyd will be with the Hornets on Friday for their game against the Portland Trail Blazers.

Scott was fired after the Hornets started the season 3-6. Four of the team’s losses were by at least 16 points.

The Hornets also suffered a 58-point loss to the Denver Nuggets in the first round of last season’s playoffs, the biggest sign yet that the franchise had fallen from the ranks of the Western Conference’s elite.

Scott did not know of his impending dismissal when the Hornets flew back from Phoenix following Wednesday’s 124-104 loss, but had privately expressed concern to friends and peers about his job when the team struggled during the preseason. He also was concerned about the team’s overall talent level and some chemistry issues within the roster.

Hornets president Hugh Weber made it clear team officials disagreed with Scott’s assessment of what was ailing the team.

“This isn’t about rebuilding, this is about recommitting,” Weber said during a news conference in New Orleans to announce the change. “We’ve known we’ve had confidence in our plans, we’ve known we’ve had confidence in our players.

“The way the problem was defined we don’t agree with. This isn’t an issue of trust or commitment. This is an issue of execution.”

Weber said Hornets officials and Scott targeted areas for improvement during the offseason. The team also traded oft-injured center Tyson Chandler for Emeka Okafor to help stabilize the roster.

“We found the players we felt would help us compete at an elite level,” Weber said, “and yet the team is broken.”

The Hornets had, Weber said, “very specific, tactical goals that weren’t being achieved.”

Hornets forward David West told reporters in New Orleans there were “philosophical differences” between Scott and some players, and hinted that Scott might have become stubborn in his beliefs.

“Pride is a dangerous thing,” West said. “Amongst the team there was a sense of a few guys not trusting what we had in terms of our system and our ability to know what we were going to get every single night from our system.”

West played under Floyd during the 2003-04 season and said there would be a “dramatic difference” in transitioning from Scott to Bower and Floyd.

“We were way too predictable,” West said. “We worked way too hard to get simple stuff accomplished.

“What we had wasn’t working – the philosophy, the way we approached things just wasn’t working.”

Hornets officials told the players of the coaching change during a team meeting Thursday. Paul Pressey, Scott’s lead assistant, was demoted with the change. Floyd will be the top assistant under Bower.

Scott was the NBA’s Coach of the Year in 2008 when he helped guide the Hornets to a 56-26 record. The Hornets came within a game of reaching the West finals that season.

League sources say Hornets owner George Shinn had encouraged Bower to take over as coach as far back as the summer.

Bower has been with the Hornets since 1995, serving as everything from an advance scout to assistant coach to general manager. He was promoted to GM in June 2001 then returned to the bench as an assistant under Floyd during the 2003-04 season.

Weber said accountability was one of the biggest factors in deciding to have Bower coach. Bower built the Hornets’ roster and is now tasked with getting it to win.

“I told Jeff the genie is out of the bottle,” Weber said. “There’s no way he can say he doesn’t have the right players for the right reason. Jeff has hand-selected this team and we like the idea that now Jeff will be held accountable for results.”

Weber said the Hornets expect those results to improve – sooner rather than later.

“Our expectations are high, our sense of urgency is high,” Weber said. “Our patience is low.”

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Updated Thursday, Nov 12, 2009