DETROIT (AP) – Dave Lewis will not return as the Red Wings’ coach, paving the way for former Anaheim coach Mike Babcock to come to Detroit.

Lewis, whose contract expired at the end of June, will not be behind the Red Wings’ bench for the first time since 1987.

General manager Ken Holland, who announced the decision Friday at a news conference at Joe Louis Arena, said he broke the news to Lewis a day earlier.

“He was obviously very disappointed, but I also think he understood,” Holland said.

In Lewis’ two seasons, the Red Wings were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by Babcock’s Mighty Ducks in 2003 and in the second round the following year.

“Initially, it was a bit of a surprise when I talked to Kenny … about this, but I’ve changed my perspective since I was told of the final decision yesterday,” Lewis said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.

“I have to thank the Ilitch family because they brought me here as a player, and they allowed me to be a head coach in the NHL.

“My philosophy is the only things you take with you to your deathbed are your memories and experiences. With three Stanley Cups in four trips to the finals, four President’s Cups, being an All-Star head coach and being with a great bunch of guys and a storied organization, I couldn’t ask for anything more.”

Lewis worked as an assistant from 1987-02 under Jacques Demers, Bryan Murray and Scotty Bowman. With Bowman, the Wings won Stanley Cups in 1997, 1998 and 2002. After the final Cup win, Bowman stepped aside, and Lewis took control.

“I worry that Dave has made the transition as much as he could from assistant to head coach,” Holland said. “Of course, how could Dave grab their attention? He’s been here forever. I think he did an unbelievable job of making the transition, but you can only go so far.”

Babcock, who on Wednesday rejected an offer to remain coach of the Ducks, has been considered a prime candidate to replace Lewis. Babcock’s contract also expired June 30.

“I have had conversations with Mike Babcock and his adviser over the past week,” Holland said. “He is not hired. I expect to have further conversations with him and/or his adviser. I have other people in mind that I have not talked to.”

Holland offered Lewis a chance to stay with the team in the scouting department.

“It was nice to be asked to stay with the organization, and I’m considering it, but there are openings in Phoenix and Anaheim,” Lewis said. “I’d like to see what opportunities are out there for me to still be a head coach in the league.”

The 42-year-old Babcock led the Ducks to the Stanley Cup finals two years ago during his first season in Anaheim. They didn’t make the playoffs in 2003-04, and last season was canceled because of the lockout. The Ducks were 69-76-19 in two years under Babcock.

Before being hired as the Ducks’ coach by Murray, who then was the Anaheim GM, Babcock coached at Cincinnati of the AHL, an affiliate of both Anaheim and Detroit. He guided the team to the playoffs both his years there, and to a franchise-high 41 wins and 95 points in 2000-01.

Ducks general manager Brian Burke said Thursday he hadn’t been contacted by Detroit, and although Babcock’s contract had expired, he would regard Babcock’s hiring by the Red Wings as a “shocking breach of etiquette.”

Lewis led Detroit to a 96-41-21-6 record in two seasons, but won only one playoff series with a postseason mark of 6-10. Both years, the Red Wings lost to the Western Conference champions. They were swept by Anaheim in the first round in 2003 and beaten in six games by Calgary in the second round in 2004.

AP Sports Writer Larry Lage contributed to this report.

AP-ES-07-08-05 1653EDT

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