The Indiana Pacers, off to a 9-16 start, fired Coach Dick Versace today and replaced him with assistant Bob Hill.
Pacers President Donnie Walsh blamed Versace's dismissal on inconsistent team play that led to a dismal record so far this season.
The NBA club is 9-16 overall, with only one win out of 12 road games.
Team co-captains Chuck Person and LaSalle Thompson both expressed optimism about the change, but both said the team's problems weren't solely the fault of Versace.
"You can't blame it all on Versace. But some of the responsibility is definitely with the coach. He must make sure that if we're not playing well that he does something about it," Thompson said.
Walsh said he decided to replace Versace after the Pacers' 114-112 overtime loss to the Washington Bullets on Wednesday night.
"The reason for the change is, basically, we don't feel the team is going in the right direction. We had some problems going back to last year. We felt these problems could be resolved but, based on the first month and a half of the season, they weren't getting resolved," Walsh said during a news conference to announce the coaching change.
Versace joined the Pacers in January, 1989, replacing George Irvine. He compiled a 22-31 record with Indiana to close out the 1988-89 season, then led the Pacers to a 42-40 mark last season and a playoff berth.
Hill was assistant coach for the New York Knicks when he was promoted to head coach there midway through the 1986-87 season. He compiled a 20-46 record for the Knicks and was not retained.
Hill said the Pacers are capable of being a major force, but uneven team play caused by a lack of togetherness on the court had hurt the squad.
"Winning is very important. But more important right now is how we play the game," he said. "We're going to do everything we can to create the proper atmosphere for winning. . . . The team has to become more focused on what we're trying to do our there."
Hill said the Pacers would continue with the groundwork Versace laid for a faster running game.
"I want us to get in the habit of running and continuing to run, and when we do that we'll play better offense."
He said he plans no major lineup changes but intends to expand the player rotation.