Ex-Sonics coach signs 4-year pact with MilwaukeeThe Milwaukee Bucks hired former Seattle SuperSonics coach George Karl on Saturday to replace Chris Ford, who was fired last week.

Karl was signed to a four-year deal."When the opportunity here came about, I was very excited," Karl said at a news conference at the Bucks' training center in St. Francis. "I love coaching, and I wanted to coach this team."

Karl, said to be seeking a contract worth between $3 million and $5 million per year, had been mentioned as a candidate for the Denver Nuggets and Los Angeles Clippers jobs earlier this summer.

When Ford was fired Wednesday, team owner Herb Kohl said money wouldn't be an object in hiring a new coach.

Over the past six seasons, Seattle won more games than any NBA team except the Chicago Bulls. Still, owner Barry Ackerley was disappointed by his team's lack of playoff success despite a trip to the NBA Finals in 1996.

Karl has strained relations with Ackerley and Sonics general manager Wally Walker, and the team cited its inability to trust Karl with sensitive information when announcing that he would not return.

Paul Westphal has been named Karl's replacement in Seattle.

Ford, 49, a former Boston Celtics coach, joined the Bucks in June 1996 with a three-year contract.

The Bucks were 33-49 in Ford's first season and 36-46 last season.

This decade, the Bucks have been unable to parlay lottery picks into a playoff berth. They were expected to end their playoff drought last season, with a nucleus of forwards Glenn Robinson and Tyrone Hill and guards Ray Allen and Brandon. But all four lost significant playing time to injury, dooming the team to a seventh straight season of missing the playoffs.

Ford was shocked by his dismissal, saying he and his family had their airline tickets ready to return from New Jersey to Milwaukee on Labor Day so his boys could start school this week.

But his phone rang Wednesday morning and general manager Bob Weinhauer informed him his two-year tenure as the Bucks' coach was over.

Ford said he was moving his family back to Boston and would have appreciated it had his dismissal not come just before the start of school.

Ford said he would have liked to have had another year, too - a healthy year - with this team because his 1996-97 team was still Dunleavy's and last year's squad was decimated by injuries.

He agreed the new coach would inherit a team on the brink of making the playoffs.

The Bucks missed the post-season by seven games last season, although things might have been different had Brandon been available for more than 50 games, Robinson for more than 56 or Hill for more than 57.