All bad things must come to an end, and Wednesday it was the Clippers' search for a coach, when Bob Weiss was announced as Larry Brown's successor.
Weiss, the former coach at San Antonio and Atlanta, had considered himself a longshot almost all along, starting before he interviewed for the job during a pre-draft camp in Chicago the first weekend of the NBA finals.
In the weeks that had passed, as the Clippers, already having been spurned by Lenny Wilkens, pursued Rick Pitino, Hubie Brown and others, little happened to change his opinion. He was the safety valve in case the other plans broke down.
When they did, when Hubie Brown withdrew from consideration over the weekend, Weiss was, at last, the choice. His patience was rewarded with a three-year contract worth about $1.8 million and a fourth season at the team's option.
"Well," he said, smoothly handling what could have been an awkward announcement, "my wife had a couple of dates before she asked me to marry her. That marriage has worked out well, and I don't see why the same thing won't happen here.
"It's been an exciting time. My hopes went up, then down, up and down, and then I said to myself I won't worry too much if I don't get the job. Then, when it worked out, the feeling is you realize just how much it meant to you."
He plans to get to work immediately, spending time looking at films from last season to evaluate his new players. Of more pressing matters, Weiss might stop in Kansas on the way home to Atlanta to meet with disgruntled Danny Manning in hopes of persuading him to reconsider his desire to leave the Clippers.
But at the same time, the new coach is planning to meet with Kendall Gill and agent Arn Tellem Friday in Los Angeles as the Charlotte guard visits while considering agreeing to a new contract that would pave the way for the Clipper-Hornet trade still on the table.
Weiss had a 12-year playing career with six teams, once having put together a streak of 538 consecutive appearances. Upon retiring, the Nazareth, Pa., native, who played at Penn State, became an assistant coach to Gene Shue with the San Diego Clippers. That predates everyone still in the organization except announcer Ralph Lawler, a close friend.
When Shue was fired, Weiss went to Dallas in 1980 and became the Mavericks' first assistant. He stayed until being named head coach at San Antonio, where he went 59-105 in two seasons. When the Spurs changed ownership after 1987-88, they also changed coaches, bringing in, ironically, Larry Brown.
Weiss became an assistant with the Orlando Magic. After one season, he got a three-year deal to replace Mike Fratello in Atlanta, taking over a team with poor chemistry and its best days in the past. The Hawks went 43-39, 38-44 and, last season, 43-39 again. Soon after, team officials announced they would not offer him a new contract.
Unemployment did not last long--Weiss joined the staff of Don Chaney (another former Clipper coach) with the Detroit Pistons. Then, when Larry Brown resigned, the Clippers immediately put him on their list of possibilities. That was followed by an interview in the post-Wilkens portion of the search, which was followed by about six weeks of waiting, which was followed by Hubie Brown appearing destined for the job, only to withdraw and leave the Clippers empty-handed.
By Monday, Weiss and his future employers were back in contact. By Tuesday, two months after Larry Brown had resigned, they were heavily involved in contract talks. By Tuesday night, the deal was done.
So the Clippers got their man, or at least one of their men. Only Weiss and Del Harris were in the picture at the end, and the Clippers were not worrying about the ones that got away.
Why, it was asked, if Weiss was good enough to hire now, why not a month ago?
"I don't need to answer that question," General Manager Elgin Baylor said. "The fact is, we have Bobby Weiss and we're happy about it."
When the season opens Nov. 5, Weiss will become the Clippers' fifth coach in seven years, not counting interim Mack Calvin. None in that cycle--Shue, Don Casey, Mike Schuler and Larry Brown--lasted more than a season and a half, and Brown was the only one to leave on his own.
"I noticed that, yeah," Weiss said.
So what makes him think his fate will be different?
"I guess because I'm an eternal optimist," he said.
The Clippers, after two years in La Jolla, will move training camp this October to UC Irvine. . . . Bob Weiss said he will ask Johnny Davis, an assistant coach with the Hawks, to join his staff with the Clippers but that no other decisions have been made. Current Clipper assistant John Hammond, who has been running the summer league team after working under Mike Schuler and Larry Brown, is expected back in some capacity if Weiss does not retain him on the bench. . . . If the Clippers trade Danny Manning and don't re-sign Gary Grant, both real possibilities, only two players on the current roster will have been with the team for more than one season: Ron Harper and Loy Vaught. . . . LeRon Ellis, the Clippers' first-round pick in 1991 by way of Mater Dei High in Santa Ana, is playing for Milwaukee in summer league. The Bucks already have 13 players with guaranteed money, so his chances of sticking are not good.
NBA teams that have changed coaches for the upcoming season:
Team Former Coach New Coach Atlanta Hawks Bob Weiss Lenny Wilkens Cleveland Cavaliers Lenny Wilkens Mike Fratello Clippers Larry Brown Bob Weiss Dallas Mavericks Gar Heard Quinn Buckner Detroit Pistons Ron Rothstein Don Chaney Indiana Pacers Bob Hill Larry Brown Orlando Magic Matt Guokas Brian Hill
A look at San Diego and Los Angeles Clipper coaches, old and new:
Season Team W L Pct. Fin. 1986-87 San Antonio 28 54 .341 6th 1987-88 San Antonio 31 51 .378 5th 1990-91 Atlanta 43 39 .524 4th 1991-92 Atlanta 38 44 .463 5th 1992-93 Atlanta 43 39 .524 4th Totals 183 227 .446
Season Team W L Pct. 1988 San Antonio 0 3 .000 1991 Atlanta 2 3 .400 1993 Atlanta 0 3 .000 Totals 2 9 .182
Season Coach G W-L 1978-79 Gene Shue 82 43-39 1979-80 Gene Shue 82 35-47 1980-81 Paul Silas 82 36-46 1981-82 Paul Silas 82 17-65 1982-83 Paul Silas 82 25-57 1983-84 Jim Lynam 82 30-52 1984-85 Jim Lynam 61 22-39 Don Chaney 21 9-12 1985-86 Don Chaney 82 32-50 1986-87 Don Chaney 82 12-70 1987-88 Gene Shue 82 17-65 1988-89 Gene Shue 38 10-38 Don Casey 44 11-33 1989-90 Don Casey 82 30-52 1990-91 Mike Schuler 82 31-51 1991-92 Mike Schuler 43 21-24 Mack Calvin 2 1-1 Larry Brown 35 23-12 1992-93 Larry Brown 82 41-41