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Butch Carter brought a rap star into training camp. He made a pitch for his boss's job. He battled his ex-wife, the league and his players, and he tried to sue an opponent who had labelled him a liar.

By the time rising star Tracy McGrady said he'd had enough of the whole mess, so had the Toronto Raptors organization.

After helping to nurture Mr. McGrady and teammate Vince Carter to near superstar status in the National Basketball Association and directing the Raptors to their best-ever season, Butch Carter was abruptly fired as the Raptors' head coach yesterday morning.

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The news was delivered to Mr. Carter during a meeting at Toronto's Air Canada Centre by Raptor general manager Glen Grunwald, Mr. Carter's friend of 20 years. Mr. Grunwald told reporters later that he is intent on restoring a sense of stability to the franchise.

"The off-court distractions were disconcerting to fans and the organization and there was no other alternative," a visibly uncomfortable Mr. Grunwald said. "This was the final option."

Mr. Carter, who addressed the media later in the day, said he could see his job in danger even before the season had ended.

"I did not want out of Toronto," said Mr. Carter, who got a three-year, $6-million contract extension and has just completed his first full season on the Raptors bench. "I wanted out of a bad situation. I think that I've given this city and Raptor fans a lot to be proud of." "I don't want out of Toronto," Mr. Carter said. "It's been a wonderful place for me, the best place I've ever lived in my life. But I did not want a bad situation [to spoil]everything that has been created."

For Mr. Carter, much of the bad situation was of his own making as his often bizarre off-court manoeuvrings brought unwelcome attention to the franchise.

It began in training camp, when Mr. Carter invited Percy Miller, better known as rapper Master P, to try out, even though the former college player was clearly out of his element. Mr. Carter said at the time he wanted Master P at the camp to deflect some of the media interest away from team star Vince Carter.

During the season, Mr. Carter created another stir when he charged that the National Basketball Association was orchestrating a plan to spirit Vince Carter out of Toronto so that he could play in a big-city U.S. market and help lift the league's sagging TV ratings.

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Mr. Carter also said that some in Maple Leaf Sport & Entertainment, which also owns the Toronto Maple Leaf hockey club, favoured the Leafs over the basketball team.

Heading into the Raptors' first-ever playoff series against the New York Knicks, Mr. Carter's book, Born to Believe, was released and it contained a controversial chapter where he accused Bobby Knight, his old college coach at Indiana, of racist behaviour.

And just days before Toronto's first playoff game, Mr. Carter filed a $5-million defamation lawsuit against former Raptor Marcus Camby, now a member of the Knicks, who had called Mr. Carter a liar in a newspaper article.

After the move was widely condemned, Mr. Carter withdrew the suit but then drew the ire of some of his players when he openly denounced the team's lack of leadership. The Raptors were swept from the playoffs in the minimum three games by the Knicks.

Two weeks ago, Mr. Carter made headlines again after he made a move for Mr. Grunwald's job as general manager. Then, last week, with free agent Mr. McGrady saying he is probably through as a Raptor because of all the unrest, Mr. Carter's fate appeared to be sealed.

Here at the NBA Finals it was difficult, if not impossible, for Canadian-based reporters to go anywhere within the basketball setting and not be asked what was happening with the Raptors and their coach.

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Even NBA commissioner David Stern, at a league-sponsored function on Monday night, casually inquired as to the recent goings-on with the troubled coach.

"There was no real last straw," Mr. Grunwald said. "It became apparent to me there was no solution other than this one."

The decision to fire Mr. Carter was approved by the team's board of governors at an emergency meeting yesterday morning. Details of compensation for ending the contract were not disclosed.

Mr. Grunwald said that Mr. Carter was clearly troubled in his position and came to him late in the season and asked if he should consider leaving. Mr. Grunwald said he told Mr. Carter that he should remain and that they'd try to work things out.

"I wasn't troubled," Mr. Carter said. "I just could see trouble coming for the group. And one thing I'm pretty good at is understanding what's going to happen to the group."

Mr. Carter, who plans to take time off to spend with his children in Cincinnati, refused to be more specific.

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Mr. Grunwald said the search for a coach will begin immediately.

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