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No Parting Shot Taken by Webster : Kings: Fired coach avoids controversy in first interview since his dismissal.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Tom Webster, King coach until his firing Monday, had some advice Tuesday for his successor, whoever that might be.

“Do your best negotiating when you first come in,” he said. “Get what you can while you’re still in demand. Because once you’re here, you’re not so bright and you’re not so good.”

Webster was both bright and good at times during his three years on the job, but the luster faded as the playoff losses mounted.

“When I first got the job, even though I had limited experience, I got a three-year contract,” he said. “Then, even though we won our division last year, I was lucky to get a one-year extension.”

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Talking for the first time since his firing, Webster made an obvious effort to avoid controversy or bitterness.

Noticeably missing in his comments, however, was General Manager Rogie Vachon, the man to whom owner Bruce McNall left the decision of keeping or firing Webster.

“I’m not going to say very much, but I’m very appreciative to the organization for giving me the opportunity,” Webster said. “I want to personally thank my (assistant) coaches (Rick Wilson and Cap Raeder), who had to put up with all my illnesses and suspensions. I want to thank the players and Mr. McNall.”

McNall, also commenting for the first time on Webster’s demise, said: “I thought he did a good job the first year. But, in the second year, it just didn’t click, for whatever reason. He did not have the elements others thought were necessary.

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“But, in fairness to Tom Webster, when you have this many stars, it’s a tough, tough job. It’s hard to teach old dogs new tricks.”

McNall said he will take his time picking another coach.

“I’m like a fan,” he said. “Your first reaction is to get rid of everybody--players, coaches and the general manager. But then you say, ‘Wait a minute. Let’s not overreact.’ ”

Webster said that when he received a call to meet with Vachon at the Forum Monday morning, he knew what was about to happen. Ever since the Kings were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs last week by the Edmonton Oilers, Webster was waiting for the other skate to drop.

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“When you’re in the avenue of fire, you’re always under scrutiny,” he said.

“But everybody in the whole organization has to be held accountable for the lack of success. It got me fired, but everybody has to take a look at themselves.”

Webster said he was under no illusions from the day he took the job.

“The first thing Rogie Vachon told me was that this was going to be the most difficult job I’d ever be faced with,” Webster said. “With the limited ice time, you can only please so many people. You can’t only worry about your stars’ demands because there is only so much ice time. You have to get a special mix, and I felt we were on our way toward that.”

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Webster was concerned with balancing the playing time of Wayne Gretzky and Jari Kurri with that of some of the lesser names. “I think the players who were most successful with the extra time were John McIntyre, Dave Taylor and Jay Miller,” Webster said. “I was also pleased with the development of Peter Ahola and, of course, Rob Blake.”

Webster leaves with some unfinished business.

“If there is one regret I have as a coach, it’s that I didn’t get a coaches’ association started, like I wanted to,” he said. “We, as coaches, have to do something to protect ourselves. A lot of coaches don’t know what they are getting themselves into. We need standardized contracts and more information on our pension plans. I still don’t know what the hell I’m getting.”

“I want to coach again, whether it’s as an assistant, in the minors or in junior hockey. It doesn’t matter. I will not let my pride stand in the way of something I love to do.”

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Nor does he buy the idea that firings are an integral evitable part of his profession.

“They say coaches are hired to be fired,” Webster said. “I disagree. I was hired because I was the best person for the job.”


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