On Thursday night, June 25, the Portland Trail Blazers fired general manager Kevin Pritchard after six seasons with the team, making for an undoubtedly awkward situation as he ran the Blazers' draft for the final time. In his final acts as a lame duck GM, Pritchard drafted Memphis guard Elliot Williams and traded for the draft rights to Nevada forward Luke Babbit. Here are some other awkward, messy firings through the years.
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After Kiffin ended his first season as Raiders head coach with a 4-12 record, it was reported that owner Al Davis gave him a letter of resignation to sign. The drama continued through the summer, and finally Kiffin learned through a team executive that he would likely be fired after Oakland's Week 3 game against Buffalo. Davis acted the next week, firing Kiffin after a 1-3 start to the season.
3 of 12Al Tielemans/SI
Billy Gillespie was fired after two years in Lexington with a 40-27 record. Gillespie signed a memorandum of understanding when he took the job, but a dispute over the wording of a formal contract led Gillespie to never formally sign, and he was never paid the $6 million buyout that was to be included in that deal, instead getting a $2.98 million settlement.
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Isiah Thomas was removed from his role as team president on April 2, 2008 when Donnie Walsh took over the job following a 23-59 season. Thomas was then fired by Walsh as head coach on April 18. Thomas' tenure with the Knicks was marred by a sexual harassment accusation, public feuds with his players, and compiling a number of salary-cap crippling contracts while trading away draft picks.
5 of 12Ed Reinke/AP
Knight was investigated in March 2000 after ex-Hoosier Neil Reed alleged that Knight choked him during a practice three years earlier. Indiana president Myles Brand found a similar pattern of improper behavior and suspended Knight for three games. Later that fall, Knight allegedly grabbed player Kent Harvey by the arm and swore at him after Harvey addressed Knight by his last name. He was fired three days later, on Sept. 10, after Brand said he violated a "zero tolerance" policy implemented by the university.
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Mike Leach was fired amidst allegations that he mistreated wide receiver Adam James after the player had sustained a concussion. The firing came just one year into a five-year, $12.7 million contract, and one day before Leach was due an $800,000 bonus. Texas Tech fired Leach with cause, meaning it would not owe Leach the money remaining on his deal, a claim Leach has challenged in court.
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Two hours after the Mets beat the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on June 16, 2008, the embattled Willie Randolph was axed in the middle of the night at the team hotel by GM Omar Minaya. A day after asking Minaya to fire him, on Father's Day, so he wouldn't have to make the cross-country trip if he was going to lose his job anyway, Randolph led the Mets to a 6-1 victory. Minaya hopped on a flight to California before the game ended and relieved Randolph of his duties at 12:14 a.m. PT.
8 of 12Chuck Solomon/SI
Inheriting a team with the lowest payroll in baseball as a 41-year-old manager in 2006, Girardi guided the surprising Marlins to a 78-84 finish, keeping them in wild card contention for much of the season. But Girardi's relationship with Marlins' owner Jeffrey Loria grew strained after a visible confrontation between the two on Aug. 6. As Loria criticized home plate umpire Larry Vanover in that game against the Dodgers, Girardi verbally confronted him and asked him to stop. Loria had to be talked out of firing Girardi that night, but he finally pulled the trigger after the season. Girardi went on to win the National League Manager of the Year award.
9 of 12David E. Klutho/SI
Sampson's time as Indiana coach was marked by scandal and rules violations. Two months after taking the Hoosier job in March 2006, he was reprimanded by the NCAA for making 577 impermissible phone calls while at Oklahoma. Then came a report in February 2008, in which the NCAA detailed five major rules violations and said he failed to adhere to the "generally recognized high standard of honesty." Indiana bought out Sampson's contract for $750,000 shortly after the report was released.
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In October 2009, Jamie McCourt, former CEO and co-owner of the Dodgers, was fired by her estranged husband, Frank McCourt, as the couple began a messy divorce process that has both parties claiming ownership of the team. The firing was included in the legal proceedings that are still playing out over who owns the team.
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Richardson had a legendary 17-year coaching career at Arkansas, the highlight of which came when the Razorbacks won the 1994 national championship. But in 2002, tensions started to build between Richardson and Arkansas administration after Richardson criticized the university for what he considered racial insensitivity toward African-Americans. Richardson's contract was bought out after he told reporters, "If they go ahead and pay me money, they can take the job tomorrow." Richardson filed a suit against the university later that year, but it was thrown out in 2004.
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Wally Backman was introduced as head coach of the Arizona Diamondbacks on Nov. 1, 2004. The next day the New York Times reported that Backman had been arrested for DUI and a domestic dispute with his wife, and had filed for bankruptcy the year before. Arizona admitted they did not do a criminal or financial background check on Backman before hiring him, and just four days after he was hired, he was fired. Who would you add to the list? Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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