BOSTON — The Boston Celtics fired Coach Jimmy Rodgers Tuesday, two days after the team was eliminated by the New York Knicks in the NBA playoffs.
"This has been a very difficult and trying time for all of us," General Manager Jan Volk said. "We felt that we needed to make a change, and in the interest of all concerned we felt it necessary to do so as quickly as possible.
"Jimmy has been an integral part of our success throughout the '80s, and hopefully this parting will not diminish recognition of his contributions."
Rodgers, 47, said that he was shocked and declined further comment.
Assistant coach Lanny Van Eman was also fired. Chris Ford, an assistant and former Celtic player, was retained and will be considered as a replacement for Rodgers, Volk said.
The firings came after the Celtics were ousted from the NBA playoffs in Game 5 at Boston, the first time since 1952 they were eliminated in the first round in successive seasons. It also was the first time the Celtics had lost at home to the Knicks in 27 games spanning more than six years.
The Celtics were swept in the first round last season by the Detroit Pistons.
Earlier in the season, Larry Bird had been critical of Rodgers' offensive strategy. But Sunday when Bird was asked if there might be a shakeup, he told the Hartford Courant: "They ask me that question every year when we lose. The people you'd better ask are Jan and Red (Auerbach). I have no control after that."
Bird could not be reached for comment after the firing Tuesday.
Volk said the team would take some time to look at its options. "We don't have a precise timetable for naming a successor, but Chris Ford will be a very serious candidate," Volk said.
Ford, a Celtic assistant since 1983, was head coach for four victories in Rodgers' absence during the season.
"I'm interested, of course," Ford said of the job. "At least I wasn't fired today. I just don't know what they want to talk about yet."
Both Robert Parish and Kevin McHale said the firings surprised them, although Parish said he had expected some player changes.
McHale told WCVB-TV in Boston: "I feel bad for Jimmy. I knew that they were going to do something, but I didn't expect anything this soon."
In two regular seasons under Rodgers, the Celtics were 94-70, but were 2-6 in playoff games. Rodgers joined the Celtics after Bill Fitch's departure in 1983, assisting K.C. Jones for five years until he became coach in May, 1988.
In Rodgers' last victory, 157-128 over the Knicks April 28 in Boston, the Celtics set an NBA playoff record for points and shooting accuracy (67%).
Knick Coach Stu Jackson was taken aback by the firing. "It stinks. It says winning 52 games in the regular season doesn't mean a thing," Jackson said. "He's an excellent coach. Not a good coach, an excellent coach. I'm not a part of Boston management, but I have a suggestion for them. Maybe if they got some younger legs and see how things could go, they might have gone in a different direction."
Knick assistant Paul Silas said: "It's the worst thing I've ever heard."