- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 26, 2001

As a player, Michael Jordan was unparalleled on the court. Somewhat more surprisingly, though, he was perhaps more adept as a basketball executive than most thought he would be.
As president of basketball operations, it was Jordan who unshackled the Wizards from Juwan Howard's grossly inflated contract, and it was Jordan who orchestrated the buyouts of aging Mitch Richmond and malcontent Rod Strickland. Jordan also acquired rising star Courtney Alexander in the Howard swap with Dallas. And, coincidental or not, under Jordan the Wizards secured the top pick in the draft lottery and selected Kwame Brown, the first high-school player ever to go No. 1.
But yesterday, when Jordan officially ended his second retirement to play for the Washington Wizards, NBA rules forced him to abdicate both his ownership percentage (estimated to be between 5 and 10 percent) and his title as president of basketball operations. It is against NBA rules for Jordan to have any input on personnel decisions regarding the day-to-day operation of the team. The move leaves a big vacancy in the front office, as the Wizards search for someone to take over Jordan's role as the top personnel man.
"That is still somewhat up in the air," a high-ranking member of the Wizards staff said yesterday. "It's something that will have to be ironed out very soon."
The NBA did not mince words yesterday when the subject of Jordan's role as a decision maker in personnel moves came up.
"He can't be involved in any negotiations, it's that simple," said a league representative. "As a player, he can lobby for something to be done in particular, but he can't be involved in the cutting of any deals."
As of yesterday, it had not been determined who would be calling the shots. However, initially it appears as if those duties will be handled by general manager Wes Unseld, assistant general manager Rod Higgins and Doug Collins, handpicked by Jordan to coach the Wizards.
None would comment yesterday, preferring to discuss the subject at a later date.
Before Jordan took over personnel duties in January 2000, majority owner Abe Pollin ultimately had final say in such decisions. Pollin made most of those decisions such as the disastrous Chris Webber-for-Mitch Richmond trade with the close consultation of Unseld.
Unseld has drawn criticism as a general manager, largely due to the huge contract that Howard was awarded ($105 million) under his watch. He also drew heat when he awarded Strickland with a $30-million deal when most considered him to be past his prime. However, at the time most fans seemed to favor both of those moves.
Higgins came to the Wizards before the start of last season after six seasons as an assistant coach with the Golden State Warriors. Higgins, who has been close to Jordan since Jordan entered the league in 1984 with Chicago, has worked closely with him and is still making the transition from coach to front office figure. Higgins still wanted a head coaching job when he was hired by the Wizards and still has something to prove when it comes to gaining recognition as a talent evaluator.
Collins' main job is to coach the Wizards, but Jordan welcomed his input in the decision-making process, specifically when the team decided to draft Brown.
At the moment the new pecking order has not been established. However, that will be determined soon. As it is now, Pollin, entering his 37th season as the team's owner, will once again have final say on any decision.

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