After going from a playoff last season to an 8-13 start to this one, the Phoenix Suns’ front office had seen enough.
The Suns fired head coach Frank Johnson nearly 20 months after hiring him as the 11th coach in franchise history.
Phoenix will play its first game without Johnson when the New Orleans Hornets visit America West Arena.
After returning home from a 1-3 roadtrip that included a loss to the Orlando Magic— a team that had dropped its previous 19 games—Suns president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo felt a change was necessary.
Just 20 games into this season, Colangelo’s Suns joined Orlando and the Chicago Bulls as teams firing its head coach.
Phoenix promoted assistant Mike D’Antoni, who coached the Denver Nuggets in the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season and had a 14-36 record.
“Generally we were not content with where we were,” said Colangelo, whose team has dropped six of seven. “We weren’t necessarily content with the direction we were getting.”
Consider it a bad week for the Suns, who on Sunday learned reigning NBA Rookie of the Year Amare Stoudemire was expected to miss the next month with an ankle injury.
On Tuesday, Phoenix suffered a 92-72 setback to the lowly Miami Heat—in the team’s lowest point total since an 84-70 loss to Seattle on April 16.
“It wasn’t a letdown, more like frustration,” Suns guard Stephon Marbury said of possible aftereffects from the loss to the Magic.
Unfortunately for D’Antoni, his first challenge will not be easy.
New Orleans has the second-best record in the Eastern Conference and has won four of its last five.
Magloire, averaging 11.8 points and 8.9 rebounds per game, hit three 5-foot jump hooks late in the final period and made three of four free throws to seal the win.
“I feel comfortable stepping up whenever the team needs me and this was just one of those times,” Magloire said.
Davis, the league’s fourth-leading scorer with 23.4 points per game, posted his 10th double-double this season but shot just 6-for-15 from the field.
STANDINGS (through Dec. 9): Hornets - 2nd place, 2 GB, Central Division. Suns - 6th place (tied), 10 GB, Pacific Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Hornets - Davis, 23.4 ppg and 8.6 apg; Magloire and Brown, 8.9 rpg. Suns - Marbury, 19.7 ppg and 8.2 apg; Marion, 9 rpg.
2002-03 SEASON SERIES: Hornets, 2-0.
LAST MEETING: March 1; Hornets, 97-92. At Phoenix, Jamal Mashburn scored 23 points as the Hornets outrebounded the Suns 56-38 to win their sixth in a row.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Hornets - 7-4 on the road; Suns - 6-6 at home.