Mike Kelly has been axed by the Cairns Taipans despite the reigning NBL coach of the year having another season left on his deal.
The dust was still settling on the Taipans' ninth defeat in 10 games - a 25-point thrashing from ladder leaders Melbourne United in Sydney - when Cairns announced Kelly would not be returning next season.
Kelly was contracted until the end of the 2021-22 campaign but is now set to sign off as Taipans mentor in their final game of this season - Wednesday night's clash with the New Zealand Breakers in Rotorua.
Kelly has held the Taipans reins for three years and was the toast of Cairns in 2019-2020 after bouncing back from a wooden spoon season and guiding them to the semi-finals.
However, the Taipans lost their patience with the team bottom of the ladder with an 8-27 record - not helped by a spate of injuries and the mid-season departure of import Cam Oliver.
Cairns' season was arguably best summed up by Monday night's game, with just nine players available against United after young gun Mojave King (ankle) and Venky Jois (personal reasons) became the latest casualties.
"It has been a difficult year for everyone, and our club has certainly had its own unique challenges over the past 12 months," Taipans president Troy Stone said in a statement.
"This was a hard decision for the board to make but it was identified as one of the necessary steps to take in order to project the club forward.
"We admire how positive Mike has been through some tough times in the last three seasons.
"Mike's contributions to the club and the Cairns community have been nothing short of excellent, and his values and integrity is, and has been, a real strength."
Cairns said they would begin talks with head coach candidates in the coming weeks.
Kelly gave no indication that the axe was about to fall when he addressed media aftee the United thumping.
"It's been a season of ups and downs, and of getting through adversity like every team," he said.
"Then not having Mojave and Venky not coming on the trip has added to that, but it was a chance to play basketball and make your own fun out there but they (United) are a really good team."