Sonics Make Move To K.C. -- Coaching Switch Moves Bickerstaff To Front Office

Only two years ago, K.C. Jones left the pressures of coaching the Boston Celtics, taking a front-office job that focused on player talent evaluation.

Like K.C., like Bernie.

The careers of Jones and Bernie Bickerstaff, longtime friends, have taken another turn along similar routes. As suspected for a year and expected for several days, the Seattle SuperSonics finally have made Jones their head coach and moved Bickerstaff into a role as vice president of basketball operations.

``It's a challenge, and I'm going to have to get after it,'' Jones said. ``I'll sit down with Bernie soon and see what we can do to the (team's) situation.''

Bickerstaff, 202-209 in five years of coaching the Sonics, concluded his ``most frustrating year in 17 years of coaching'' by taking the front-office role, which will consist partly of preparation for the college draft.

The Sonics, who should have either the 10th or 11th pick in the June 27 talent show, will find out exactly where they pick Saturday at the NBA draft lottery.

``I feel very good about the decision. I haven't wavered since I made up my mind,'' said Bickerstaff, who made his decision while visiting his daughter in the East.

``I'm pleased. It was good to have some options, and I had four: I could have coached here or somewhere else, I could have resigned, or I could have moved the way I did.''

``This was something we have talked about for two years, so it's not a surprise. This has nothing to do with my health. I feel fine.

``Seattle has been good to me, the town and the organization, and I wanted to stay here.''

Jones, who has the second-best all-time winning percentage (.706) of any NBA coach, steps into Seattle's top coaching job after one season as Bickerstaff's assistant. Jones joined the Sonics after one disenchanting year in the Celtic front office, where he found his duties as a talent evaluator were insignificant.

Jones, who will be 58 May 25, becomes one of the oldest coaches in the NBA. He reportedly signed a three-year contract with the Sonics worth $900,000, bringing him back up to the yearly salary he received in his front-office position with the Celtics.

Guard Dana Barros of the Sonics said he looks forward to the coaching change.

``Everyone's reaction will be a little different, but it was a change that had to be made. I'm sure everyone will feel positive about K.C.,'' Barros said.

``I've enjoyed playing for Bernie and am grateful for the opportunity he gave me. I'm sure we'll all miss him. But now I'm looking forward to getting back and playing for K.C.''

The past season was a rigorous one for the Sonics, who finished with a 41-41 record and missed the playoffs for the first time in four years. With injuries from an automobile accident keeping Dale Ellis sidelined 27 games, and Xavier McDaniel and Sedale Threatt also out with injuries for extended periods, the Sonics never were more than four games over .500 nor three games under that mark.

The mediocrity appeared to bother Bickerstaff, 46, but the fifth-year coach said he was not bothered by ulcer problems that forced him to miss six games the previous season.

Sonic President Bob Whitsitt said just before the end of the season that Bickerstaff's performance would be reviewed before the club committed to bringing him back for the 1990-91 season. Bickerstaff later said he wanted to return next year on the bench.

Whitsitt and Bickerstaff reportedly said yesterday that the decision to move upstairs was Bickerstaff's. Whitsitt said Bickerstaff is ``not being kicked upstairs. . . . His strength is evaluating talent, and his experience will be invaluable in decisions we make in the upcoming draft.''

When Jones joined the Sonics before last season, the club said there were no plans for him to eventually take over for Bickerstaff. But recent events obviously changed that scenario. Last Wednesday, Jones abruptly pulled out of consideration for the Atlanta Hawks' head-coaching opening.

With Bickerstaff on the East Coast until Sunday, no announcement was made as reports and speculation grew that Jones was to take over in Seattle.

Bickerstaff, one of only five NBA coaches who handled both the coaching and player-personnel decisions during his tenure, now will concentrate solely on the talent end. Whitsitt is likely to continue handling money issues such as the salary cap.




W L Pct. Fin

'73-74 Bullets 47 35 .573 1 ;

'74-75 Bullets 60 22 .732 1 ;

'75-76 Bullets 48 34 .585 2 ;

'83-84 Celtics 62 20 .756 1 ;

'84-85 Celtics 63 19 .768 1 ;

'85-86 Celtics 67 15 .817 1 ;

'86-87 Celtics 59 23 .720 1 ;

'87-88 Celtics 57 25 .695 1 ;

Totals 463 193 .706 ;



W L Pct. ;

'74 Bullets 3 4 .429 ;

'75 Bullets 8 9 .471 ;

'76 Bullets 3 4 .429 ;

'84 Celtics # 15 8 .652 ;

'85 Celtics 13 8 .619 ;

'86 Celtics # 15 3 .833 ;

'87 Celtics 13 10 .565 ;

'88 Celtics 9 8 .529 ;

Totals 79 54 .594 ;


Overall 542 247 .687 ;


# won NBA championship


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W L Pct. Fin ;

'85-86 Sonics 31 51 .378 5 ;

'86-87 Sonics 39 43 .476 3 ;

'87-88 Sonics 44 38 .537 3 ;

'88-89 Sonics 47 35 .573 3 ;

'89-90 Sonics 41 41 .500 4 ;

Totals 202 208 .493 ;



W L Pct. ;

'87 Sonics 7 7 .500 ;

'88 Sonics 2 3 .400 ;

'89 Sonics 3 5 .375 ;

Totals 12 15 .444 ;


Overall 214 223 .490