OAKLAND, Calif. - The Golden State Warriors fired coach Dave Cowens on Saturday after just 105 games with one of the NBA's most downtrodden franchises.
Cowens will be replaced on an interim basis by assistant coach Brian Winters, a team spokesman said. Winters, one-time star at the University of South Carolina, coached the Vancouver Grizzlies in their first two seasons.
Golden State (8-15) has lost four straight and eight of nine entering Saturday night's game against Memphis. It has missed the playoffs the last seven seasons - the longest current streak in the NBA.
Cowens, a Hall of Famer who was promoted from an assistant's job before last season, went 25-80 with the Warriors.
Winters becomes the 20th coach of one of the NBA's original franchises. He is the Warriors' seventh coach since 1995, when Don Nelson left the team after seven seasons and owner Chris Cohan assumed control of the club.
Golden State had the NBA's second-worst record at 17-65 last season, and after a strong start this fall, the team again has sunk to the bottom of the Pacific Division.
After leading the league in man-games lost to injury during Cowens' first season, the Warriors appeared to be turning the corner this year. But Cowens has struggled to find a consistent rotation for his players and has kept $24 million center Marc Jackson on the bench.
Cowens played 10 of his 11 NBA seasons with the Boston Celtics, who have retired his No. 18. He was the league MVP in 1973 and won two championships.
He previously coached the Celtics for 68 games during the 1978-79 season, then led the Charlotte Hornets to consecutive 50-win seasons from 1996-98. He resigned in Charlotte 15 games into the 1998-99 season.
Cowens was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1990.
After the Warriors began the season 5-3, their best start since the 1994-95 season, they dropped 12 of 15 games, and Cowens' frustration was becoming more apparent. On Friday, he kicked point guard Mookie Blaylock out of practice, saying he "wasn't ready" to practice and "didn't respond" to instruction.
Cowens threw a clipboard toward the bench after Wally Szczerbiak made a 3-pointer just before the halftime buzzer of the Warriors' 107-86 loss at Minnesota on Tuesday. Eight days before, Cowens was noticeably despondent on the sidelines during the Warriors' 110-93 loss to the Phoenix Suns at America West Arena.
After the loss to Phoenix, Cowens said the Warriors' talent level paled in comparison with other teams' and suggested the team try to make a trade. He also said it was difficult to watch his team play at times because "sometimes we're just really stupid."
But while Cowens expressed frustration with his players, his players sometimes expressed frustration with him. Even while the team was experiencing early-season success, there apparently was trouble under the surface - even right from the start. After the team's season-opening loss to Portland, co-captain Chris Mills said afterward the team should have been double-teaming the Blazers' Bonzi Wells, who equaled a career high at the time with 33 points.
Shortly thereafter, Blaylock complained about the way Cowens was utilizing him off the bench, one of the first early indications of a rift between Blaylock and Cowens, which surfaced again on Friday.
There have been other issues, however. Over the course of the first six weeks of the season, several players quietly complained about Cowens' inability to establish any kind of set rotations. Shooting guard Bob Sura went public with that gripe after the Warriors blew a 21-point second-quarter lead and eventually lost to the Dallas Mavericks 116-106 on Nov. 27.
After that game, Sura said he didn't know his role or what Cowens expected of him and that he wanted out of Golden State. On Wednesday, forward Antawn Jamison said he was "lost" on the court, suggesting he was playing too much out on the perimeter rather than closer to the basket, where he is more comfortable.
The Associated Press and the Walnut Creek, Calif., Contra Costa Times contributed to this report.
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