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Schuler Fired as Clippers' Coach : NBA: He was the team's sixth coach in the last 10 years. Calvin takes over on interim basis.

February 03, 1992|LARRY STEWART | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Clippers fired another coach Sunday night. This time it was Mike Schuler, the team's sixth coach in 10 years.

General Manager Elgin Baylor said assistant coach Mack Calvin will take over on an interim basis until a new coach is hired, probably during the All-Star break next weekend.

"We feel we will have it done by then," Baylor said.

Calvin is not a candidate for the long-term position, according the Baylor, although Calvin doesn't see it that way.

"I think I'm the best candidate for the job, if that's the direction they decide to go," Calvin said. "I've been in the NBA for 21 years as a player and coach, and my goal is to become a head coach in this league."

There has been speculation for some time that Schuler's job was on the line.

"The Times first speculated that my days were numbered in November and said it again just a week ago," Schuler said. "When you continue to read such speculation you begin to believe it.

"I was very disappointed this occurred, but management decided to make a coaching change so there's not much I can do about it."

Said Baylor: "The level of tension and general uneasiness on the team has progressed over a period of time to the point that our performance on the court has suffered.

"We're not playing up to our capability. It has not been a relaxed, comfortable or enjoyable situation for anyone. For these reasons, we find it necessary to make a coaching change."

The troubled organization has been a revolving door for coaches. The roster for the past 10 years includes Paul Silas, Jim Lynam, Don Chaney, Gene Shue and Don Casey.

Baylor would say only that he had several candidates in mind.

One possibility is Mike Fratello, the former Atlanta Hawk coach who is now a television commentator for the Clippers and NBC.

Fratello worked Sunday's Laker-Chicago Bull game for NBC and was flying home to Atlanta when the Clippers made their announcement.

Dick Enberg, who worked the NBC telecast with Fratello, said he wouldn't be surprised if the 44-year-old Fratello goes back to coaching, but didn't think he would want to pick up a team in midseason.

Calvin, 42, joined the Clippers in September as their top assistant after four seasons as an assistant for the Milwaukee Bucks.

"The first thing we will do is have a meeting (this morning)," he said. "I have some of my own thoughts of how to do things, particularly defensively."

Calvin, a five-time All-Star, played for the Lakers, the San Antonio Spurs, Denver Nuggets, Utah Jazz and Cleveland Cavaliers.

Schuler was hired in May of 1990 to replace Casey, who was fired at the instigation of team members.

One sign that Schuler's days were numbered came when the Clippers defied the coach by refusing to practice on the holiday honoring Martin Luther King's birthday.

There have been other signs, as well.

Polynice, who said Sunday night that Schuler "forgot about people's feelings at times," earlier complained about the difficulty of playing for a coach who probably wouldn't be around much longer.

"It's the not knowing," Polynice said. "You wake every morning not knowing if he is still the coach or not. It's a tough situation for the players."

Baylor and team owner Donald Sterling met Thursday, ostensibly to discuss Schuler's status.

The 51-year-old Schuler's contract runs through the end of next season. Reportedly, it pays $300,000 per year.

Schuler began his 26-year coaching career at Army, working under Bobby Knight. The next season he was an assistant at his alma mater, Ohio University, where he remained until 1969.

He later was the head coach at VMI, an assistant at Virginia and the head coach at Rice before entering the NBA in 1981 as an assistant with the New Jersey Nets.

He later worked under Don Nelson with the Milwaukee Bucks and became the Portland Trail Blazers' head coach in 1986.

He rejoined Nelson as a Golden State assistant in 1989.

Schuler was 52-75 with the Clippers, including 21-24 this season.

"We appreciate Mike's efforts and hard work on behalf of the Clippers' organization and wish him success," Baylor said.

Schuler was the 13th coach in the 20-year history of the franchise, which began as the Buffalo Braves in 1972.

The Clippers haven't made the playoffs since 1976, when the franchise was still in Buffalo, and haven't finished with a winning record since 1978-79, the team's first season as the San Diego Clippers.

Before the All-Star break, the Clippers play host to Dallas Tuesday night and face the Lakers at the Forum Wednesday night.

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