Elgin Baylor's first move as the Clippers' director of basketball operations was swift and decisive.
Tuesday afternoon, Baylor announced that Coach Don Chaney, whose contract expired Sunday, had been rehired for another season.
"There's no doubt in my mind Chaney is the man for the job," Baylor said at a press conference at the Sports Arena, where it was also announced that Baylor was replacing ousted General Manager Carl Scheer. "It was my decision to make, but (team President) Alan Rothenberg and (owner Donald) Sterling were all for it. Don deserves another season to see what he can do."
Terms of Chaney's contract, which he said he has yet to sign, were not disclosed.
"But I'm very happy with those terms," Chaney said, smiling.
If Chaney is happy, that's a good deal more than can be said for free-agent guard Derek Smith.
Smith, attending the press conference, said he is offended at the Clippers' first contract offer. Smith also said that, as of today, he does not want to play for the Clippers next season.
"I'm not happy with the way I've been treated," Smith said after the press conference. "I'm leaving L.A. tomorrow for Louisville and I'm taking all my clothes and everything with me. The sun is nice, but I'm not crazy about the idea of playing here."
Baylor has been given control of the club's basketball decisions and will decide on trades and draft choices, but contract negotiations with players will be handled by Rothenberg.
Smith said that Rothenberg recently had made him a long-term offer that breaks down to about $700,000 a season, which would rank him below Marques Johnson, Benoit Benjamin, Norm Nixon and Cedric Maxwell on the club's salary scale. Smith made $375,000 last season.
Smith said the offer also included stipulations concerning his health. Smith, the team's leading scorer two seasons ago, missed all but 11 games after suffering a torn knee cartilage Nov. 13 and then contracting a rare form of mononucleosis. He did not specify the terms of those stipulations.
"They're offering me just under $700,000, and I feel I should be paid what the other top players on our team are paid," Smith said. "The Clippers have publicly said I'm their best player. I should be paid like it. I guess I'm going to have to get an offer sheet (from another team), and (the Clippers) can decide (whether) to match it."
Said Rothenberg: "Derek is wrong on those numbers. The only thing I'll say is that we will sign him."
Otherwise, optimism flowed at Tuesday's press conference.
Rothenberg said he is confident that Baylor will lead the Clippers into the playoffs for the first time in 10 seasons. Baylor said the same thing of Chaney. And Chaney said that no major overhauls are needed on a Clipper team that had a 32-50 record this season.
"I'm happy to be back in basketball," said Baylor, who has been vice president of a package delivery firm since being fired as coach of the New Orleans Jazz in 1979. "With the experience and knowledge of basketball I have, and working with Donald Sterling and Alan, we can turn this franchise around."
Said Rothenberg, about Baylor's lack of experience as an NBA executive: "I think Elgin knows what he's doing. He's been in this game 30 years. In terms of knowledge of basketball, I don't think there is anyone better."
Rothenberg said that the Clippers shortly will hire a director of business affairs to handle the administrative duties that previously were Scheer's responsibility.
Sources said that the Clippers asked Scheer to resign a week ago but he refused because he wants to be paid the balance of his contract, which will run out at the end of June. Tuesday, the Clippers described Scheer's departure as "mutual."
Scheer was not at the press conference but said Tuesday from his Santa Monica home that he has reached a contract settlement with Sterling.
Baylor said that after he settles into his new role, he will meet with Chaney and Rothenberg to discuss possible trades.
"I don't feel the necessity (to make major changes)," Baylor said. "I'll have to work with Don Chaney to decide how best to improve this team. Any trade we'd make would be a quality one. We'll have to sit down and discuss the roster."
Said Chaney: "You can't put together a team of strangers and expect to win. I'd like to see a good portion of the team stay. I feel we're in a position to make the playoffs and be a strong team."