Seattle SuperSonic Coach Paul Westphal was fired Monday, 15 games into a season marked by discord and losses.
Seattle was expected to be stronger this season with the acquisition of center Patrick Ewing, but the team is 6-9. The dismissal comes days after an on-court shouting match between Westphal and star guard Gary Payton during a game in Dallas.
Nate McMillan, an assistant under Westphal and well liked by the players, was made interim coach. McMillan, a former Seattle guard, coaches his first game tonight at Portland.
"I think we have to focus on the defensive end of the floor," McMillan, 36, said. "I believe defense wins games."
Westphal, in his third year with the team, is the first NBA coach to be fired this season. He was in the final year of his contract.
Owner Barry Ackerley said Wally Walker, team president and general manager, made the decision to fire Westphal.
Walker said Westphal was frustrated by his team's bickering and insubordination.
Westphal, 49, had a 76-71 record with the SuperSonics, who failed to make the playoffs in the lockout-shortened 1999 season and were eliminated in the first round by the Utah Jazz last season.
Vince Carter, the NBA's scoring leader, will miss at least two games because of an injured tendon in his left knee.
The Toronto Raptor star was hurt on a fadeaway jumper during the first quarter of Sunday's game against the Chicago Bulls and did not return.
He had played in a club-record 145 games in a row.
The New York Knicks put starting point guard Charlie Ward on the injured list after he underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee. He is expected to be sidelined at least eight weeks.
The Knicks also claimed guard Rick Brunson off waivers and released center Jonathan Kerner.
Pete Carril, 70, an assistant coach with the Sacramento Kings, will have heart bypass surgery today.