- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 3, 2000

Washington Wizards president of basketball operations Michael Jordan met with NBA Hall of Fame coach and player Lenny Wilkens in Chicago yesterday. The two talked about the Wizards' coaching vacancy, according to Wilkens' agent, Lonnie Cooper.

"They talked some things over," Cooper said. "Lenny is very much interested in coaching in the league again. That's been his life's work for years now."

Meanwhile, a St. John's University spokesman denied reports men's basketball coach Mike Jarvis was scheduled to interview for the Wizards job later this week.

"There was no truth to the rumors," Jarvis said through university representative Mike Carey. Carey said "no one has contacted" Jarvis about the job."

Jarvis coached George Washington University's team from 1990 to 1998. When the Wizards job opened last year after Bernie Bickerstaff was fired, at one point Jarvis was considered a front-runner for the job, which ultimately went to Gar Heard. Heard was fired after 44 games. Darrell Walker took over the team on an interim basis and finished the year 15-23 despite season-ending injuries to starters Rod Strickland and Michael Smith.

Wilkens is the third candidate known to discuss the job with Jordan. Jordan already talked to Walker and Golden State assistant Rod Higgins. Both Higgins and Walker also are being considered for front office positions with the team, a league source said. Walker also is being considered by the New Jersey Nets, who fired Don Casey last week. It also has been reported that former Jordan teammate John Paxson, a broadcaster in Chicago, might be in the running for the job.

Wizards general manager Wes Unseld did not make the trip to Chicago. Neither Unseld nor Jordan was available for comment.

Wilkens, one of just two people in the Hall of Fame as both a player and coach, resigned from the Atlanta Hawks last month after seven seasons. Wilkens, 62, has won more games than any coach in NBA history with a record of 1,179-981 in 27 years. He won his lone championship with Seattle in 1979.

In the recently completed season the Hawks failed to make the playoffs for the first time since 1992, finishing 28-54. This season was particularly trying for Wilkens in part because of the presence of guard Isaiah Rider. Rider was traded to the Hawks from Portland last season in exchange for veteran guard Steve Smith. After a series of missed practices and games and late arrivals, the Hawks released Rider outright.

It would be interesting to see how Wilkens would deal with Strickland, who was suspended for missing a home game near the end of the season and has a history of poor practice habits.

Wilkens had two years and $10.4 million left on a contract extension he signed in 1997. The Hawks will honor the contract until Wilkens finds a job.

Wilkens was unavailable for comment yesterday.

League sources say Jordan might speak with Paxson this week while in Chicago. Paxson played with the Bulls from 1985 to 1994, many of those seasons alongside Jordan. He spent one season with Phil Jackson as an assistant coach in 1995-96. That season the Bulls won an NBA-record 72 games on the way to a championship.

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