- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 24, 2000

After Michael Jordan agreed to save the Wizards last winter, Washington erupted in joy.

If you believed the hype at the time, Jordan would save the Wizards in short order and then use his considerable talents to revitalize the city.

D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams attended Jordan's first news conference with the Wizards to lend significance to the proceedings.

Jordan saving the Wizards was considered a foregone conclusion, if only because he hit a lot of game-winning shots for the Bulls and sold a lot of shoes for Nike.

After he completed the two- or three-month transformation of the Wizards, Jordan was expected to go around the city to keep hope alive.

He would improve the public-school system, eliminate the drug trade and increase the efficiency of city services.

Of course, it hasn't worked out as well as expected for Jordan. The Wizards are proving to be a stubborn project. It seems Jordan's predecessors in the front office were not as misguided and limited as originally believed.

Rod Strickland was as incorrigible for Jordan as he was for the previous regime. Ike Austin stayed consistent from his seat on the bench.

No one around the NBA appeared to be in a hurry to rescue Jordan from the rest of the $105 million debt owed Juwan Howard. Mitch Richmond did not get younger under Jordan's tutelage.

Jordan's pursuit of a coach also became problematic. His competitors, if not the prospective coaches, did not swoon in his presence.

Jordan tapped the CBA to get Darrell Walker after the Warriors told him to get lost. Now he has been told the same by Mike Jarvis, who had every reason to join the Wizards and the NBA after his ludicrous go-around with the NCAA's Third Reich last season.

The Wizards went through this last year. All kinds of interesting candidates surfaced, including everyone's favorite, Isiah Thomas, who has been rumored for nearly all 29 head coaching positions in the NBA. Thomas, it seems, has three jobs: CBA owner, NBC talking head and eternal head coaching candidate.

Even the Zen master's name was tossed out a year ago, as if the Zen master could not evaluate the situation and see that his application of Zen would have some serious limitations in Tony Cheng's neighborhood.

Strickland probably would not have been impressed if the Zen master had burned incense in the team's locker room. Strickland probably would not have been willing to commune with Cochise and Geronimo, two of the Zen master's pals.

The Wizards ended up with Gar Heard, an old-school, no-nonsense type, the antithesis of glad-hander Bernie Bickerstaff.

The selection of Heard was not considered an especially artful stroke, only an inexpensive one, largely because he did not practice Zen and lacked panache. Heard probably was smart enough to coach the Lakers to 60 victories this season, but that is not really the point.

So now, a year later, even with Jordan pushing the buttons, even with his aura, the Wizards are not too far removed from where they were.

They have financial considerations, as Jarvis discovered, and they are an opportunity if only there is a certain level of desperation in a coach's career path. They are mostly a sentence in the short term, and Jarvis, understandably, wanted certain contract terms to ease the aggravation and heartburn destined to go with the position.

Another season with the NCAA's Third Reich apparently looks good compared to a season with Strickland.

This is not to suggest Jordan can't eventually change the fortunes of the franchise. But it's going to be at a far more deliberate pace than assumed last January. Even when Jordan reaches that critical point in his tenure, probably in two or three years, he'll need to be lucky, too.

After making the playoffs in 1997, the Wizards believed they were a team of the future. They had it on the say-so of the leading player from the winning team.

People took notes and concurred. The evaluation was not necessarily inaccurate.

How could Jordan know in 1997 that Chris Webber would wind up being the victim of a massive police conspiracy?

That's just bad luck.

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