[BASKETBALL]Slamer benches flagging coach

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[BASKETBALL]Slamer benches flagging coach

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In an unprecedented move, less than halfway into the Korean Basketball League season, the last-place ET Land Black Slamer last week relegated head coach Jay Humphries to what management said is an advisory role on the team.
The former National Basketball Association guard was the first non-Korean to be assistant coach here with the TG Xers (the predecessor to the Dongbu Promy), and became the first foreign head coach in the nation when he signed with the Black Slamer prior to this season.
Lee Ho-geun, who had previously been assistant coach, will be the interim head coach. Humphries will help out players during practices and do scouting work, but will not attend the games.
In an e-mail interview with the JoongAng Daily, Humphries said the team told him that the move was temporary and that he would be back at the end of the third round of play in the KBL, which comes on Jan. 1, 2006.
Park Hyung-sik a senior official on the Black Slamer, said the word “firing” is too strong of a word to describe the move, and added the team does not plan to bring in a new head coach from outside.
Humphries lasted 20 games, with his team going just 3-17. An injury to the team’s top player, Albert White, didn’t help matters, especially given this was Humphries’ first head coaching job, and the language barrier would be even more of a hindrance than when he was assistant.
Humphries admitted things have been difficult at times because of the language.
“The injuries were unfortunate for me, and Albert was a key factor in what I wanted to do on the floor,” Humphries said. “With the language barrier, I needed a guy like Albert to handle the ball and he would understand the things I wanted at crucial times of the game.”
Any head coach who can’t get his team to win more than three games out of its first 20 should be on a short leash, but the Black Slamer’ roster is so depleted that it’s highly doubtful any head coach would have led this team to even a .500 record.
“He took over a last place team [from last season], and there’s a lot of work to be done when you do that,” said Mo McHone, the U.S.-born assistant coach for the Samsung Thunders. “Do I think the team should have let him finish out the year? Yes.”
The Xers won a championship with Humphries as assistant, so he must have done something right.
But this is a league where foreign players are usually the first ones to go if losing creeps in. For the very players who come here for second chance in their basketball career, there isn’t even a first chance.
When asked if he felt he was given a fair chance, Humphries took the high road, saying “I’ve had some bad luck.”


by Yoo Jee-ho
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