Here are some quotes from today’s news conference announcing the firing of Flip Saunders:
Team President Ernie Grunfeld on the same topic on whether he takes accountability for the move: I think everybody is responsible. Of course, we’re responsible. We take responsibility. We had issues that happened to us that were out of anybody’s hands the last two or three years. Then we had to go in a different direction and we’re trying to rebuild. Anytime you’re trying to rebuild, you have to go through some tough times and that’s what we’re going through right now, some tough times. As we’ve said before, we think our future looks very bright. Because we do have a lot of young players. We’ll see how it all turns out. They will tell us what to do by how they improve as we move forward, but we also do have a lot of flexibility moving forward and we’re going to be able to do some good things, but the process of doing this has been a tough process. It’s been difficult and of course this is a team thing and we’re very responsible, just like our players were and everything else.
Grunfeld on the goals going forward:We’ve said all along that this is not going to be about wins and losses for us. This is a very young team. We have six first round picks, first and second year players, two second round players. So eight of our players are first or second year players and a lot of them are getting a lot of playing time. So we’re trying to build a foundation moving forward. We told everybody that from the very beginning that that was our plan. That that’s what we wanted to do, developmental things were very important for us as we go along. I don’t know if the players were responding the way we thought they should’ve been the first quarter of the season and we felt a different voice was needed to do some things a little bit different and maybe to play a ltitle bit of a different style than we had been playing.
Grunfeld on why he made the move: I felt like at this time our players were not responding, that I think we needed a different voice. This doesn’t change our overall plan which has always been very transparent for us and that’s been to build through the draft, to get salary cap space going forward and one of the other things we really wanted to do is develop our players, and they’ probably haven’t developed as quickly as we’d like them to develop, that’s something that we need to continue to work on, and we also need to play a style that complement’s their abilities. We have a long, athletic team, a team that can maybe go up and down a little bit more, take advantage of some defensive pressure, we’ll have to rebound the basketball better so there’s lot of areas that we need to continue to work on, but the most important part is that we have to give a good, consistent effort on a nightly basis.
I think we’ve shown some real flashes, we’ve had some real good moments in certain games, but we have to do it over a longer period of time. I think we have some abilities, but we still have a lot of work ahead of us. We knew what we were getting into when we went with a lot of young players, and sometimes it can get frustrating, but its something that we have to continue to work on and we have to get consistency throughout the lineup, and everybodys’ responsible for this, including the players. The players have to also take accountability and we’re going to try to hold everybody accountable andwe’re going to try to continue to dvelope them as basketball players.
Grunfeld on the tipping point: I think it was cumulative. Last night, obviously, nobody was happy with, including the players and everybody, but we all felt like it was time for a different voice, and to maybe try to do some different things to take advantage of the talent of the players on the team.
Grunfeld on what changed in the past few weeks: It’s been cumulative, and I think the effort has to be there on a nightly basis, and palyers have to earn their minutes. I talked to Randy at length about this, and I think that it’s something that we have to do going forward.
Grunfeld on who made the call to fire Saunders: That was my decision. I gave my recommendation. Of course, the owner always has to approve everything, but I made my recommendation and we elected at this time, this was in the best interest of moving forward.
Grunfeld on why Saunders wasn’t the right coach for this team: Flip is a very good, outstanding basketball man. When we hired Flip, we had a completely different roster and a completely different makeup to our team. Things happened to us in the first couple of years, and we had to go in a different direction. We had to rebuild the team. We moved out a lot of veteran players. We moved out three all-star palyers and some other solid veterans, and to go in a different direction, rebuilding through the draft and accumulating salary cap space. And I think we put ourselves in a very good position moving forward. We’ve added some very solid players, and I think some of the players have shown what type of potential they have. Like most young players, they’ve probably been more inconsistent than we would like, but we have to continue to work with them, we have to be patient with them and we have to grow together witht them.
Grunfeld on the expectations for the future: I think it depends on how everything comes together. I think we have some very talented players on the team, but they are young, and young players are going to have their mistakes and it’s going to take them a little bit of time to learn what to do and what the NBA game is all about. But we think moving forward, if these players develop the way we think they can and they come together in a few years, we can be a very competitive team.
Grunfeld on his job security: I’m not really worried about that part of it. I’m just trying to do the best possible job, every single day. We have a plan and we’ve stuck to the plan and I think we’ve gotten exactly where the plan intended to take us. I feel very comfortable in what I’m doing and that’s not a concern of mine. I just want to do the best job I can on a daily basis.
Grunfeld on how this change will afffect the team: We don’t know how coaching changes affect anybody, we expect the players to give a good effort. As Randy said, everything starts with giving a good effort and trying to play the game the right way. You just can’t snap your finger and have a group of players play one way one day and completely different the other day. But as we move forward, we want to see progress, as the season moves forward.
Grunfeld on the change: I made the recommendation, it was my decision. I felt we needed a different voice, and to go in a different direction. I had hired Flip and I know the situation pretty well, and he said, if that’s your recommendation, then I’ll go with it.
Grunfeld on the affect the losing has had on the team: Half the young guys were not here last year. This is the process that most teams going through. Of course, everybody would like to come in and go to a winning situation. But there is a reason we have the No. 1 pick. So the better players go to the weaker teams, the ones that have less talent. So what we tried to do, again. we knew the situation we were getting into, trying to get these first round picks, and getting assests. Down the road, if these players develop for us, we can package them and get a much better player or you can sign a player in free agency. We didn’t expect this situation to be a championship contender overnight. We were in the playoffs four years in a row. We had some very talented players on this team. we had injuries along the way and we decided to change course because of certain events that happened. When we changed course that drastically, you can’t come out of it in one year. If you look at some of the teams that have done such things, it takes several more years, two years, there is no set formula for it. but the thing you have to do is prepare yourself from a salary cap standpoint and you have to accumulate as many assets as you can. And that’s what we’re in the process of doing right now.
Grunfeld on losing: Losing is hard. But we don’t want our players to get used to losing. And if they are upset by losing, we’re glad about that. we want them to be upset about losing, but you have to channel your energies in the right direction with that. but it can get frustrating. I’ve been on teams that we’re not as good as other teams. Nobody likes to lose, we’re all very, very competitive and it hurts you. And it’s supposed to hurt you. The day you feel good about losing is the day you should hang it up.
Grunfeld on if his team is filled with losers: I don’t think so, no. They are losing right now, but just because you’re losing, you’re not a loser.
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