SuperSonics Fire Westphal

Paul Westphal was fired today as coach of struggling Seattle SuperSonics, who were expected to be a power this season with the acquisition of Patrick Ewing.

Nate McMillan will be the interim head coach, taking over a team that is 6-9.

The dismissal came less than a week after Westphal got into a shouting match on the court with star guard Gary Payton in a game in Dallas. The team initially suspended Payton but lifted the suspension before it took effect.

Offered to Resign Earlier

The SuperSonics did not immediately say why they fired Westphal, who had been criticized this season by several of his players.

Westphal, who was in his third year with the team, is the first NBA coach to be fired this season.

Westphal offered to resign Nov. 6 — just four games into the season. Sonics President and General Manager Wally Walker said Westphal was frustrated by his team’s bickering and insubordination but that players had talked Westphal out of quitting.

With the addition of Ewing, the Sonics were expected to be one of the top teams in the Western Conference this season.

Instead, Seattle has struggled with inconsistency through its first 15 games.

Ewing is Seattle’s first legitimate center since Jack Sikma left after the 1986 season.

In his 16th season, Ewing was averaging 32.9 minutes, 10.6 points and 8.8 rebounds with the Sonics going into the Dallas game. He averaged 15.0 points and 9.7 rebounds for the Knicks last season.

Besides Ewing and Payton, the Sonics also feature Vin Baker as well as young-and-improving Rashard Lewis and top draft choice Desmond Mason. Ruben Patterson and Brent Barry are key players, too.

In 1993, Westphal coached Phoenix to the NBA Finals. Three years later, after 33 games that season, he was fired by the Suns.