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Sunblasters fire coach, release Lee

The Suncoast Sunblasters fired coach Curtis Pickering and released 6-foot-10 post man Keith Lee on Tuesday. It was the team's second head-coaching change since the beginning of the young United States Basketball League season. Pickering was fired two days before the June 5 opener, but was rehired within a matter of hours.

This time, said Suncoast general manager Scott Barrett, it's the real thing.

"It was a difference of opinion," he said. "Basically, he (Pickering) wanted to keep Keith Lee and I didn't."

Pickering said later Tuesday night that he had not been officially notified of his firing and assumed he was still the coach.

Barrett said he was disappointed with the team's 1-3 start, which placed it at the bottom of the Southern Division, and with the play of Lee, the former Memphis State All-American.

"Keith Lee is a big name, big-time player, and we wanted him to play like one," Barrett said. "The chemistry just wasn't right. We are in last place, the coach isn't winning, and the player isn't producing. Somebody had to do something."

Lee was averaging 11 points and six rebounds for the Sunblasters.

Clearwater Central Catholic coach Gary Zimmerman, who stepped in for Pickering after the first firing, is now assistant general manager and will not move in as head coach, said Barrett.

Scott Adubato will assume the coaching duties while the Sunblasters interview replacement candidates.