Sacramento Kings Fire Coach Phil Johnson, Will Play the Lakers Tonight

Times Staff Writer

It took the Sacramento Kings five days to think about it, which is only slightly longer than it took them to score a basket against the Lakers last week in Los Angeles.

But Monday, the Kings' six-man committee of owners reacted to the humiliation of the team's National Basketball Assn.-record, basketless first quarter against the Lakers by firing Coach Phil Johnson.

Replacing Johnson as interim coach for tonight's game here against the Lakers, the first for both teams since the All-Star break, will be Jerry Reynolds, who had been one of Johnson's assistants.

Johnson's other assistant, Frank Hamblen, also was fired by the Kings, who were a surprise qualifier for the playoffs last season, their first in Sacramento, but are currently in last place in the NBA's Midwest Division with a 14-32 record.

The Kings have lost their last five games, and hadn't played since their Forum appearance, when they didn't start until the second quarter. The Lakers scored the game's first 29 points and were ahead, 40-4, after one quarter, all of the Kings' points having been scored on free throws.

Gregg Lukenbill, the team's managing general partner, said the firing was not a "knee-jerk decision" in reaction to that fiasco but rather an attempt to salvage the rest of the season.

Reynolds has the distinction of being the second-most famous resident of French Lick, Ind., to be employed by the NBA. The first, of course, is Boston's Larry Bird.

"I'm a country boy, and I can always go back and work in my piano factory in French Lick," said Reynolds, who is in his second season with the Kings. It would take a well-detailed road map to trace his previous coaching stops, all on the college level: Pittsburg State in Kansas, Rockhurst College in Missouri, and West Georgia State.

The Kings are the only NBA team Johnson has ever coached, but this was his second tour. He replaced Bob Cousy 24 games into the 1973-1974 season when the team was still based in Kansas City, and the next season coached the Kings to a 44-38 record, the franchise's best in nine seasons.

He was fired, however, in the middle of the 1977-78 season with a 13-24 record, before returning again on Nov. 18, 1984, when he replaced Jack McKinney, the former Laker coach, who retired after a 1-8 start.

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