- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 17, 2003

The Washington Wizards are scrambling to fill the two lead positions of their basketball operations while preparing for the June26 NBA Draft.

Wes Unseld, the team’s outgoing general manager, yesterday worked out four players at MCI Center: point guards Reece Gaines of Louisville, Troy Bell of Boston College and Brandin Knight of Pittsburgh and shooting guard Willie Green of Detroit Mercy.

The Wizards are desperate for a point guard because of the deficiencies of Juan Dixon and Larry Hughes and because Tyronn Lue is a free agent.

The 6-foot-6 Gaines, the Cardinals’ fourth-leading career scorer, showed his ability as a scorer and playmaker for coach Rick Pitino last season. He averaged 17.9 points and 5.0 assists. Bell and Knight each has been named Big East player of the year, and all four tend to be scorers first and playmakers second.

Meanwhile, as the pool of potential coaches continues to change each day, John Lucas, who has three previous coaching stops on his resume, sits by the phone in hopes of receiving a call from the Wizards.

“I would definitely listen,” said Lucas, fired by the Cleveland Cavaliers in January. “I look at Washington, and I see a team that has a pretty good nucleus of young players to work with. I think I’d have a pretty good chance at being successful there.”

Although the Wizards have not contacted him, they have interviewed his former University of Maryland teammate Len Elmore about the vacant president of basketball operations job. Lucas was a two-time All-American when he played for the Terps from 1973 to 1976.

Elmore is expected to be interviewed again by the Wizards. Calls placed to him yesterday went unreturned.

If the Wizards did consider Lucas for the vacant head coaching job, he would come cheap, at least in the first year of his contract.

When Cleveland fired Lucas — at the time the Cavaliers were 8-34 — he was still owed $4.5million and had a little more than a year remaining on his contract. The Cavaliers would have to contribute the difference for the first year of his salary.

Lucas, who spent the previous three years as an assistant in Denver before replacing Randy Whitman in Cleveland, has an uneven track record. His career coaching record is 173-258 and he has only two winning years in six-plus seasons.

However, the odds were stacked against him when he took over the Cavaliers because nine of his players were under the age of 25.

Lucas, who played 14 seasons, also coached in San Antonio (1992-94) and Philadelphia (1994-96), where he was the team’s general manager as well.

Lucas is just one on a lengthy list of potential candidates with proven records: broadcaster Mike Fratello, Mike Dunleavy, Spurs assistant P.J. Carlesimo, deposed Pistons coach Rick Carlisle and Nets assistant Eddie Jordan.

One of the more intriguing rumors around the NBA has Carlisle going to Denver to replace Jeff Bzdelik, who did a competent job in his rookie season as coach of the Nuggets.

Bzdelik cut his NBA teeth in Washington, serving as an assistant coach with the Bullets for six seasons.

The Wizards now are free to talk with Jordan.

Jordan had been off-limits to other teams because the Nets were in the finals. But now that the Spurs won the championship, the Wizards are likely to begin their pursuit of him.

Jordan also is being considered by the 76ers, who have yet to replace Larry Brown after he stepped down last month. No long thereafter, Detroit fired Carlisle, whose name also has been mentioned in connection with the Wizards, and the Pistons promptly hired Brown.

One New Jersey official, speaking anonymously, said he would like to see Jordan and chief scout Eddie Stefanski, whom some teams are eyeing as a potential general manager, go somewhere as a package if the Nets are not going to keep them.

The Wizards are the only team looking to fill both jobs simultaneously. Atlanta, which is in the process of changing ownership, eventually could be in a similar situation.

However, it appears as if Portland is the leader for Stefanski’s services.

One name not on the lips of Wizards owner Abe Pollin and president Susan O’Malley is Wayne Embry, the former general manager in Cleveland and Milwaukee. Embry’s Cleveland teams made the playoffs nine times during his tenure. However, the 66-year-old Embry was not asked back by the Cavaliers following the 2000 season.

“No one has contacted me,” Embry said. “I’m willing to listen.”

Over the years Embry has drafted players like Marques Johnson in Milwaukee and Brad Dougherty and Zydrunas Ilgauskas in Cleveland.

Note — Former Wizards coach Doug Collins joined NBC as the men’s basketball analyst for the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece, said David Neal, an executive vice president with NBC Olympics.

“I would not have any problem being an assistant coach and going to an organization where you could teach and do those things and be a right-hand man for a head coach,” Collins said in a conference call. “You see that a lot in the NBA right now. I’m not going to rule out that. That could be a possibility for me. You don’t have to be head coach in this league to be able to enjoy the teaching.”

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