NEW ORLEANS -- The New Orleans Hornets' disappointing season wasn't the reason general manager Bob Bass retired Wednesday.
It just made his decision easier.
"I coached two years in high school, 17 years in college, then spent 36 years in the ABA and NBA - that is a hell of a long time any way you look at it," the Texas native said. "It's time to take a permanent leave and go back to Texas and enjoy whatever I have left."
The Hornets were eliminated from the playoffs Tuesday night by the Miami Heat, losing Game 7 85-77.
Bass' retirement is expected to be the first of many changes for the Hornets, who move next season to the tougher Western Conference.
"There's going to be a trickle down effect," said Hornets forward P.J. Brown, one of several players who attended Bass' goodbye news conference. "We all know there's going to be substantial changes and we're just going to have to wait and see."
"Coming into training camp we all thought we had a team assembled to reach at least the Eastern Conference finals and we didn't get it done."
Bass did not appear to be pushed out the door.
Hornets majority owner George Shinn sat with Bass on Wednesday, and when Bass choked up while reflecting on his career, Shinn patted him on the shoulder and interjected: "You know, you don't have to go."
Shinn said Bass was the "most knowledgeable basketball mind I have ever been around."
The Hornets never had a losing season during Bass' nine-year tenure and made the playoffs seven times. Shinn said Bass would help the team through the NBA draft next month and have a hand in picking the next general manager. Shinn also said he hopes to retain Bass as a part-time consultant.
Bass was noncommittal - with a sense of humor.
"I know what I'm not going to do. I'm not going to rent an RV and drive to Canada. I'm not going to put on a running suit and running shoes and go down the aisles of Wal-Mart and look around," he said.
Bass was instrumental in the hiring of coach Tim Floyd before this season. The Hornets were riddled with injuries to key players, hurt by inconsistent shooting and hampered by defensive lapses. They started fast, but finished 41-41.
Jamal Mashburn, the team's leading scorer in the 2002-2003 season, played only 19 games and missed the entire playoffs. Bass allowed Mashburn to spend much of his absence at his home in Miami, which some players felt undermined team unity. As the playoffs began, Mashburn said the Hornets had mishandled his injury, prompting Bass to banish him from the team.
Now the Hornets will have to figure out what to do with Mashburn, a former who has a season left on his contract, plus a player's option for two more. If they can't trade him, they may have to buy him out and ask the league for a salary-cap exception.
"I struggled with a few things this year," Bass conceded, but tersely declined to elaborate.
Floyd's future is uncertain. Shinn said everything is up for review. Floyd, who first coached the post-Michael Jordan Chicago Bulls, is now 90-231 in four-plus seasons in the NBA.
"If somebody would have told me at the beginning of the season: 'Mashburn would not play, Courtney Alexander (Achilles' tendon) would not play, would you settle for breaking even?' I'd probably have said yes," Shinn said. "But I didn't expect that to happen. So who knows."
"I hate to lose. ... It's terrible and I want it to end and I know what it takes to get there and we're going to do everything we can to make it happen."
Floyd attended the Bass news conference, but stood in back and skipped out without making himself available to reporters.
Bass' deals brought Mashburn and Brown to the Hornets and he drafted All-Stars Baron Davis (1999) and Jamaal Magloire (2000), as well as David West (2003), a productive rookie this season.
Bass' career dates to the early 1950s, when he coached Oklahoma Baptist College. He coached Denver, Miami and Memphis in the ABA and spent 20 years with the San Antonio Spurs, most of that time as general manager.
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