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Kim Hughes, the Clippers fired the last honest coach

Apr 16, 2010, 11:27 PM EDT

Even before it was clear that Wednesday night was his last night as a head coach, Clippers interim Kim Hughes was honest.

I was there his first game, when he jokingly called Chris Kaman emotionally retarded (well, half joking anyway) and after the game admitted that he may not have the ball handlers to run the open offensive style he wanted. TrueHoop’s Kevin Arnovitz penned a brilliant ode to Hughes the other day.

But now Eric Pincus of Hoopsworld has posted large parts of Kim Hughes last press conference as head coach — before the Lakers game last Wednesday — when the brutally honest coach had nothing left to lose or hide.

“With free agency, when you have nine guys who are looking for number one (that’s human nature), their objective is to get a contract for next year first,” said Hughes.  “It’s unfortunate that it’s that way but that’s reality.”

“Do free agents listen to you?  I don’t know about that one,” said Kim.  “I don’t think it’s the interim [tag] as much as the free agency that stops the process of entering their ear drums and going to the synapses in their brain.  I think sometimes it short circuits where they’re free agents because their agents are telling them ‘You’ve got to score points’ – and coach says ‘You’ve got to guard and defend.'”

“They’re thinking ‘Who should I listen to?'”

“I understand that it’s not a good system but it’s our system here in the NBA.”

“It’s our fault as coaches and GM’s.  It’s [Commissioner David] Stern’s fault,” continued Hughes.  “I’ve told them if they want to have a good product, you take the base related income and you kick in say $1.5 million per player for winning the title.  You’ll see guys play balls out.  That’s the way you’ll get guys to play hard because right now there’s no inducement to win the NBA Finals other than for the ring because they’re taking a pay-cut.  But If you have some of these eight, ninth, tenth players playing for $1.5 million?  Their girlfriends and wives will be beating the crap out of them to say you play I don’t care if you’re hurt, you play.  You’re playing for something.  Right now players aren’t playing for enough.  They’re playing for salaries and that doesn’t make it.  Back when it was the way it should be you’re playing to win because when you’ve got $200-300k playoff money – that was big.  Now it’s nothing.  It’s not comparable enough to their salaries.  It doesn’t work.”

The night before Baron Davis had said the next year he wanted to be the leader of the Clippers. Hughes called him out on that.

“To be a leader you’ve got to be the first one to practice and the last one to leave.  You can’t talk it.  You’ve got to walk it.  If you truly are the leader, and right now we really don’t have one, you’ve got to be there every day in practice – compete every day through minor injuries, minor illnesses,” said Hughes.  “It’s not a job description that you pick and choose when you want to be a leader.  You’re either a leader every time or you’re not.  [Baron] may not be the leader next year, I don’t know.”

I’m going to miss Kim Hughes

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