Thursday , Dec , 28 , 2006 C.Y. Ellis

Grizzlies axe Fratello

Memphis, TN (Sports Network) – The Memphis Grizzlies relieved head coach
Mike Fratello of his coaching duties on Thursday after the team struggled to
the worst record in the NBA.

Memphis has a 6-24 record while playing most of the season without All-Star
forward Pau Gasol.

“I would like to thank Michael Heisley and Jerry West for the opportunity to
come to Memphis and be a part of the Grizzlies organization,” said Fratello.
“I came here a little more than two years ago, and in my first season
inherited a 5-11 team that we turned around to win 45 games and advance to the
playoffs. We built on that record the following year to win 49 games and
return to the playoffs for a second consecutive season. Unfortunately, this
season has been one of disarray starting this past summer. I am sorry I have
not been able to find a way up to this point to turn things around, and I
understand why a change needs to be made.”

Fratello, who took over for Hubie Brown, was hired on December 2, 2004 and
guided the team to a 40-26 record and a playoff berth.

In his first full season with the franchise, Fratello, who is the winningest
coach in franchise history, finished 49-33 and secured a first-round matchup
against the eventual Western Conference champion Dallas Mavericks.

“I’d like to thank Mike for the contributions he made to the Grizzlies
organization,” said West, who is team president of basketball operations. “He
is a great coach and friend, and he did an outstanding job guiding this team
to two playoff appearances in Memphis. We just felt it was time to make a
change and move in a different direction based on our record and future
goals. We wish Mike the best in his future endeavors.”

Fratello ranks 17th on the all-time wins list with 667 victories and 17th on
the all-time games coach list with 1,213. He has led his teams to the playoffs
in 11 of his 16 seasons as a head coach.

He earned his 600th career win on March 4, 2005, becoming only the 19th coach
in NBA history to accomplish the feat.

“I would like to thank the many wonderful people I have met while in Memphis,
both in basketball and around the community,” continued Fratello. “I’d like to
thank my staff and players for their hard work over the last two seasons. I
wish them nothing but the best.”

He was named interim coach of Atlanta at the end of the 1980-81 season,
replacing Brown, going 0-3. In 1983 he was named the head coach for the Hawks
and spent the next seven seasons with the team, leading them to the playoffs
five times.

In 1993 he joined the Cleveland Cavaliers and was there for six seasons,
missing the postseason twice.

Fratello has a 20-42 career postseason record, never making it beyond the
second round of the playoffs.

Tony Barone Sr., who has spent the past seven seasons as director of player
personnel with the Grizzlies, has been named interim head coach. This is his
first head coaching experience.

“We are excited to have a person of this caliber serve as our interim head
coach,” said West. “Tony is not only familiar with our veteran players, but
also with our young players having been an integral part of their scouting and
drafting process. We give Tony our full support and know the remainder of the
season will be productive under his guidance.”