- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 26, 2006

The Washington Wizards announced yesterday afternoon that they have promoted assistant Mike O’Koren to associate head coach.

O’Koren and Jordan, assistant coaches in New Jersey from 1999 to 2002 before Jordan took the job in Washington, sat side-by-side at a press conference following the team’s practice at Verizon Center and talked about the latest front office move by the franchise in the offseason.

“We’ve had some success here and we’ve had things happening in our organization that call for stability and continuity,” Jordan said. “The fact [is] that we’re going in a successful direction and that we’re all on board from the front office to the coaching staff to our staff to our players. We all share the same sort of focus and vision. It just solidifies that we’re a close-knit group. We help each other and that extends from the top to the bottom.”

It’s unclear how the promotion changes O’Koren’s responsibilities.

“It probably doesn’t change my role all that much,” said O’Koren, who averaged 8.2 points in eight seasons as a player, which included 15 games for the Bullets during 1986-87. “I’m just grateful to Eddie and I’m happy to be here with him.”

Over the summer the Wizards, who begin the regular season Wednesday in Cleveland after going 4-4 in the preseason, took steps to solidify the front office. They extended the contracts of both Jordan and president of basketball operations Ernie Grunfeld, and they promoted Tommy Sheppard to vice president of basketball administration and Milt Newton to vice president of player personnel.

Before Jordan received his extension, he made it clear to the Wizards that he wanted his coaching staff taken care of as well. Along with O’Koren, that includes Phil Hubbard, Jordan’s friend who starred at Michigan, and Tom Young, Jordan’s coach when he starred at Rutgers in the 1970s.

Wes Unseld Jr. and Bill Berry — an advance scout the last two years — also have been on staff since Jordan was hired in 2003.

O’Koren already has handled head-coaching duties once for the Wizards. In late November 2004, he stepped in for Jordan when the coach missed two games with a blood clot. The Wizards went 1-1.

Forward Antawn Jamison believes the promotion is justified.

“It’s just a matter of time before someone comes at him about being a head coach in this league,” Jamison said. “A couple of years ago he coached us and he fit right in. I thought it [was] a smart move. He’s somebody who can definitely be a successful coach in the league some day.”

O’Koren wouldn’t mind receiving a call from a general manager or owner some time in the future.

“You pay your dues and you do your homework and you learn from people like Eddie, who is the reason why I got into coaching,” O’Koren said. “Obviously all assistant coaches have aspirations to be head coaches one day and there are a lot of steps involved in this part of the journey.”