- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 4, 2000

WILMINGTON, N.C. Washington Wizards assistant John Bach has worked with a number of coaches in the 49 seasons he has tutored basketball.
He brings with him a wealth of basketball knowledge that immediately attracted president of basketball operations Michael Jordan's attention when Jordan was looking for guys to work alongside new coach Leonard Hamilton, who is making the transition from college coaching.
In those 49 seasons 21 of which have been spent in the NBA Bach, 75, has seen coaches come and go. However, Bach does not hesitate to say Phil Jackson, to whom Bach served as an assistant from 1991 to '93, is the best he's ever worked with.
"Phil had a special way with players," Bach said of Jackson, Jordan's coach on six championship teams and the coach of the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers. "He had a special way of getting to players. He knew how to reach them, what buttons to push, and when to back off. That's one of the qualities that immediately came to my mind in watching Leonard Hamilton work with the guys today."
Yesterday morning, at the team's first practice at the Student Recreation Center at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, the Wizards got their first taste of what it will be like to play under Hamilton. And although it is going to be a feeling out process, the early returns were positive.
"I'm impressed with him as a person," forward Juwan Howard said. I think he's a great guy. I think everyone you ask about him says that first. He believes in unity, in us doing this together. Those are the things we try to enforce here. We know the history around here. In the past those things haven't been all that good. But those years are behind us and I'm glad coach Hamilton is taking that approach. I give him a thumbs up."
Third-year forward Gerard King agreed.
"No question he is impressive," said King, who started 28 games for the Wizards last season. "You respect him as a man. But it's easy to see that he'll be respected as a coach, too."
Hamilton downplayed the first day of practice.
"We have been preparing as a staff to be ready for this day," Hamilton said. "If you make the preparations going in, then you shouldn't have any problems. I know I'm not going to win these guys over in one session. The key is that we get better with each practice. My impression of them today is that that is what they want to do."
Although the players agreed that they can't make a judgment on what kind of coach Hamilton will be after one practice, Bach has enough experience around the league to make an educated guess. Along with his experience with the Bulls, Bach has worked as an assistant in Charlotte, Detroit and Golden State. Although he has never been a head coach, he is easily the most experienced member of the Wizards coaching staff, and he has worked with all types of personalities.
He speaks of how Doug Collins, who coached the Bulls before Jackson, was very hyper, which is just the opposite of Jackson's more cerebral and laid-back approach. However, the one common thread that Bach said all of the coaches had was a desire and a willingness to work extremely long hours.
But Bach said none of them is in the same league with Hamilton when it comes to pure work ethic.
"There were times this summer when you thought you might be getting into the office a little early by getting there at 7," Bach said. "You would look up and there he was, already at it. I've already warned him about working too hard and burning himself out. That happens in the NBA. I suspect he'll back off by the time he's coached 35 games. You can't keep working 14-hour days, which is exactly what he does."
At one point during the summer, Hamilton became a little frustrated that NBA rules prevented him from lending instruction to the players who gathered regularly at MCI Center's practice facility. Hamilton would be in his office which is separated from the practice court by a hallway and agonize over not being able to instruct the players who were working out.
So one day Hamilton wrote a letter to all of the players telling them exactly what he expected of them from Day One of training camp. Most important, Hamilton wanted the players to be ready to work as hard as he was working.
At the end of yesterday's morning session, many of the players were bent over in exhaustion following a long series of sprints.
"He warned them in that letter that they had better come to practice in shape right from the start," Bach said. "And most of them look like they are in pretty good shape."


Notes Once again Lorenzo Williams is hurt. Williams did not accompany the team to training camp because he is scheduled to have arthroscopic surgery on his right knee tomorrow. Williams has had three doctors evaluate his right knee, and all have said it is a case of jumper's knee, an injury many NBA players play with. Williams played just 76 minutes last season. Over the last four seasons, Williams has appeared in 41 games. Williams is still owed more than $4 million over the next three seasons. When and if he will play this season will be determined after his recovery from surgery.

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