- The Washington Times - Friday, June 20, 2003

The Washington Wizards formally ended one aspect of their front office search yesterday with the introduction of District native Eddie Jordan as the team’s coach. Meanwhile, the search continues for a president of basketball operations, the position formerly held by Michael Jordan.

At the beginning of the team’s search, the plan was to hire the president of basketball operations first, then find a coach. But the Wizards, who had already missed out on hiring Larry Brown, Jeff Van Gundy and Paul Silas, opted to grab Jordan after one meeting rather than allowing the pool of available coaches to dwindle further.

“When we started this process, we decided that I would hire a president of basketball operations or general manager and then he would hire the coach,” Wizards owner Abe Pollin said at a news conference on the main court at MCI Center. “But the process has changed for one reason, and the reason is this gentleman here. I have an opportunity to hire Eddie Jordan as coach of the Wizards, and I was not going miss out on that opportunity. I talked to a lot of people, general managers, people in the league, and I was impressed with everything I heard about this guy.”

Jordan had spent four seasons as the lead assistant coach in New Jersey, where he was credited with designing the Nets’ offense and helping to mold Kenyon Martin into one of the best young power forwards in the game.

In his only previous stint as an NBA head coach, Jordan took over a bad Sacramento team for the final 15 games of the 1996-97 regular season. The following season, Jordan coached the Kings to a 27-55 record.

Jordan originally joined the Kings as an assistant in 1992. A first-round pick by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 1977, Jordan played seven seasons in the NBA before retiring in 1984.

Jordan, who also was being eyed by the Philadelphia 76ers for their vacant coaching job, got the Wizards’ offer over his cell phone while driving through Philadelphia on the way to his New Jersey home. After a brief conversation with Pollin, the former player from the District’s Carroll High School accepted.

“I can speak from my heart saying this is one of the happiest days of my life, to coach the team that I have admired and the organization that I have watched since I was a little kid,” Jordan said. “The success Mr. Pollin has had here, just to know that there is a nice group of young talent, that has a very big upside to it. There is a direction and it is going to be fun, competitive and the outlook is going to be an NBA championship. That is what we are striving for.”

Added Jordan, who is believed to have signed a four-year deal as the Wizards’ seventh coach since 1999: “There is going to be some patience involved, but the excitement is immediate.”

Patience is something not often associated with the Wizards, who have not been in the playoffs since 1997, haven’t won a postseason game since 1988 and haven’t won a playoff series since 1982.

As far as finding a president of basketball operations is concerned, the Wizards have interviewed former Maryland star Len Elmore and are believed to be interested in talking to Bob Lanier, presently working for the NBA.

The Wizards have requested but so far have been denied the opportunity to speak with Milwaukee Bucks general manager Ernie Grunfeld.

One possibility whom Jordan no doubt would endorse is New Jersey chief scout Eddie Stefanski. As of yesterday, however, the Wizards had not made contact with Stefanski, who also is being considered as GM in Portland.

Jordan said that he will work with whomever the Wizards hire.

“Dealing with people has never been a problem of mine,” Jordan said. “Certainly it’s a business process and there is a chain of command, but I’m a people person. I know the NBA, and I’m sure the person we hire will know the NBA. We’ll be on the same page.”

The Wizards had hoped to have both positions filled by Thursday’s draft. Pollin said he is not ruling that out but will not allow the draft to dictate his decision.

“We are still actively interviewing people and will continue to interview people until we find the right one,” Pollin said. “I’m not going to rush — I’m going to take my time. But I was not going to take my chances and lose this guy.”

Jordan will return to his home in New Jersey and then expects to be in his office in Washington to begin preparations for the draft. After that, the business of coaching the Wizards will become interesting.

As of 12:01a.m. on July1, Jerry Stackhouse, the Wizards’ leading scorer, can opt out of the final two years of his contact, valued at just under $15million.

“There are a lot of interesting scenarios here,” Jordan said.

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