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Original Issue

Slooooooow Starters

Nets coach Lawrence Frank was fired on Sunday (page 42), two days after confessing that his team had "cheated the game" in a miserable 109--96 loss to the mediocre-at-best Kings. The defeat ran New Jersey's record to 0--16. Don't feel too bad for Frank, though. Being fired meant he didn't have to watch New Jersey tie the 1988 Heat and the 1999 Clippers for the worst start in NBA history by losing to the Lakers on Sunday night; interim coach Tom Barrise had that (dis)honor.

Here's how the Nets stack up with the worst starters in the other major sports leagues.


1988 Orioles(0--21)

The streak began in front of a franchise-record 52,395 fans, who saw their O's tie a major league mark for the worst Opening Day loss, 12--0 to the Brewers. Like the Nets' Frank, manager Cal Ripken Sr. wasn't around at the end of the record run of defeats. He was fired after six games, leaving Frank Robinson to oversee the next 15 losses. Things were so bad that outfielder Larry Sheets got rid of his mustache—not to change the team's luck but to punish himself. "I didn't shave it," he said. "I plucked it out. I'm into pain." Baltimore finished April at 1--22. The cruelest month indeed.


1943--44 Rangers(0-14-1)

Four years after hoisting the Stanley Cup, the Blue Shirts learned that war is hell—five key players were serving in World War II. Alas, New York proved to be an even worse finisher than starter. The Rangers were winless in their last 21 games, totaling only six victories in 50 games for the season.


1976 and '77 Buccaneers(0--14, 0--12)

The 2008 Lions went 0--16, but Tampa Bay's abject play as an expansion franchise lasted nearly two full seasons. Coach John McKay told the players staying in Tampa after the '76 season to "stop by my office tomorrow and pick up some fake noses and mustaches so no one recognizes your sorry asses." The Bucs finally won, beating the Saints 33--14 on Dec. 11, 1977. Tampa Bay followed it up with a second W in the season finale the following week, 17--7 over the Cardinals. Coaches Hank Stram of New Orleans and Don Coryell of St. Louis were summarily fired.







DON'T LOOK NOW The Nets joined the Orioles and the Bucs in an inauspicious club.