AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Trying to motivate a slumping club for a playoff run, the Detroit Pistons on Monday fired coach Alvin Gentry.
Gentry, who succeeded Doug Collins a little more than two years ago, was replaced on an interim basis by assistant George Irvine. Irvine, a former head coach of the Indiana Pacers, inherits a team that is 28-30, fourth in the Central Division and seventh in the Eastern Conference.
He coaches the Pistons for the first time on Wednesday night, at home against Denver.
"I think we've watched these slumps, we've said just give it more time, just give it more time," general manager Rick Sund said. "Well, time is running out."
The Pistons have lost seven of 10 games and are on an 11-game road skid. Detroit has repeatedly blown leads, having led in the fourth quarter in 10 of its last 13 losses.
Grant Hill, one of the NBA's best players, called the firing a "tough, unfortunate" decision for a coach who "did the best job he could."
Joe Dumars, the former Pistons star and now the team's vice president of player personnel, said management wanted to "give the team a jolt."
"The status quo is not acceptable any more," Dumars said. "That's got to change."
Irvine, Gentry's top assistant, has spent 10 years as an assistant with four teams. He was in California on Monday on personal matters and will rejoin the team Tuesday.
Gentry's unexpected ouster and could suggest that Hill had become concerned about the team's chances of making the playoffs under Gentry.
Gentry always appeared to have the support of Hill, whom the Pistons desperately hope to re-sign when he becomes a free agent after the season. Hill said Monday he'll evaluate his situation at that time.
Hill said Gentry addressed the team Monday and appeared jovial, relaxed and professional in telling players he was out.
"This is the nature of the beast, this is the nature of the business," Hill quoted Gentry as saying.
"It's pretty evident (management) ... deemed being below .500 unacceptable, Hill added. "Ultimately, I think we're all responsible -- players, coaches, trainers, everyone in this organization. There's a lot of would'ves, could'ves, and should'ves. It's time to move forward."
This is the sixth NBA coaching change this season. The other changes were at Washington, Golden State, the Los Angeles Clippers, Phoenix and Vancouver.
Irvine's debut Wednesday night marks the opener of a six-game homestand, with four of the opponents having losing records. The Pistons are 8-21 away from the Palace. The 110-97 defeat at Washington on Saturday left Jerry Stackhouse describing the team as "snakebitten."
Detroit finished 29-21 in last year's lockout-shortened season, only to lose to Atlanta in the first round of the playoffs.
The year before, Detroit missed the playoffs and finished 16-21 under Gentry, who took over Feb. 2, 1998, after Collins was fired. Gentry was hired as permanent coach for the next season.
In 1995, Gentry finished out the season as Miami's interim coach after the Heat fired Kevin Loughery. He guided the Heat to a 15-21 record but was not offered the job at the end of the season. He joined the Pistons as an assistant for the 1995-96 season.
Irvine, a former player, coach and executive with several teams, has been an assistant with the Pistons since 1999.
He played six seasons in the ABA before a knee injury forced him to retire at the start of the 1976-77 season. He then worked four seasons as an assistant with Denver.
Irvine was an assistant at Indiana for five seasons, coached the Pacers for two years and was vice president of basketball operations for eight seasons. He also was a Golden State assistant for two seasons.
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