- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 19, 2000

Michael Jordan called the search for the Washington Wizards' coach for next season "wide open" yesterday and said he expects to have someone in place by the May 21 draft lottery.

Still, Jordan, part owner and president of basketball operations of the Wizards, praised interim coach Darrell Walker for his performance this season and said he will get full consideration.

"Darrell has done exactly what I've asked," Jordan said. "He came in and has focused on the defense, and he's motivated the players. He's done a good job. He's gotten the respect of the players."

However, Jordan again made it clear Walker would not simply inherit the job at season's end.

"I haven't thrown any curveballs to Darrell," Jordan said. "I told him when he came in that his job is going to be from now until the end of the season, and at the end of the season we're going to evaluate that job and then make our decision. But I will say that Darrell had done a lot to fall in his corner."

Walker has guided the Wizards to a 15-21 record despite injuries to starters Rod Strickland and Michael Smith since replacing Gar Heard in late January. As a result, he is a strong contender for the job.

Jordan did not name any other candidates, but he likely remains interested in former teammate Rod Higgins, an assistant with the Golden State Warriors. Higgins was Jordan's first choice to replace Heard, but the teams could not reach an agreement on compensation.

Walker and Higgins are not Jordan's only candidates.

"At the moment it's pretty wide open. But we're going to trim it down," Jordan said.

Jordan also said he wanted a coach in place soon.

"I'd like to have it done within the next 30 days," Jordan said. "As soon as the season is over we'll start working on it. If we can get a coach in place and start getting his philosophies, then we can begin looking at the players who are a possibility for this team.

"We want to get the infrastructure of the basketball situation together. That's the first and foremost about any franchise, getting the base solid enough so that we can start to grow.

"Right now it's not as stable as I want it to be. But I want to get a coach in place and add some new positions to strengthen the infrastructure of this team and start to build from there."

Jordan and general manager Wes Unseld already have discussed adding an assistant general manager, someone well versed in the intricacies of the salary cap.

"We need a third guy to bounce ideas across, a guy who'll be more of an assistant GM," Jordan said.

He also intends to add a full-time nutritionist to "make sure the players are prepared to go out and perform physically."

When the season is over, Jordan said he plans to meet with each player. If a player wants to be traded a wish center Ike Austin already has made public then Jordan wants that player to let him know. However, Jordan said he will not trade a player just to make him happy, particularly if it is at the expense of the team.

"If they have the desire to move, when we have those meetings will be the time to tell me," Jordan said. "Other than that, I'm not going to say whether or not we will trade or stand pat. But I don't want to change this team too much. I want to add rather than subtract. However, I don't believe in subtracting if we don't get anything that is going to help us. Right now I want to benefit the organization, and the players are going to have to understand that. That's why I will meet with all of them. I want to make sure that we are all on the same page, leaving and coming back next year."

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