Bob Hill, fired after less than one year as the coach of the New York Knicks, is back in the NBA, replacing Dick Versace as head coach of the Indiana Pacers.
"I feel for Dick. I know how he feels. I've been through it." said Hill, an assistant to Versace until Wednesday who makes his debut tonight when the Pacers host Charlotte. "I hope he understands we all worked as hard as we could for him."It's the second time Hill has taken over following the firing of the head coach. He replaced Hubie Brown as the Knicks' coach 16 games into the 1986-86 season, compiled a 20-46 record and was fired when management brought in Rick Pitino.
Donnie Walsh, club president, said he decided to replace Versace after the Pacers' 114-112 overtime loss to the Washington Bullets Wednesday night. Indiana, which last season made the playoffs for only the third time since it joined the NBA in 1976, is 9-16 with only one road victory in 13 starts.
"The reason for the change is we don't feel the team is going in the right direction," Walsh said Thursday. "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."
The decision came only three days after Walsh returned from a road trip with the team and said he didn't plan a coaching change.
"I basically was trying to give every last chance to see if it could work out. But over the course of the last couple of days when I analyzed it, I just realized I didn't think it would," said Walsh, who hired Versace.
"I will always try to give people who work for us every benefit of the doubt and I tried to do that in this case," Walsh said of Versace, who compiled a 73-86 record since he was hired Jan. 5, 1989.
Versace is the second NBA coach fired this season. Stu Jackson was fired by the Knicks after 15 games and replaced by John MacLeod.
Walsh said the Pacers have been inconsistent.
"We are a professional basketball team," Walsh said. "We are here to win games, and when you're not doing that, you have to make a change."
Team co-captains Chuck Person and LaSalle Thompson both expressed optimism about the change, but both said the team's problems shouldn't be dumped on Versace.
"You can't blame it all on Versace. But some of the responsibility is definitely with the coach," Thompson said. "He must make sure that if we're not playing well that he does something about it."
Hill said the Pacers, last in the Central Division, are capable of turning their season around.
"I think it is a good one when it plays together," Hill said. "That's the biggest underlying problem we're attacking right at the beginning, to play together, make big sacrifices.
"We're going to focus on sacrifices, caring about one another in the locker room, in the huddles, on the floor. It's a team game, and that's the way it's going to be played."