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This Jordan rules
There is an oft-quoted, purportedly Chinese curse that goes, “May you live in interesting times.”
These are interesting times for Washington Wizards coach Eddie Jordan.
Jordan is in Las Vegas to coach the Eastern Conference in Sunday’s NBA All-Star Game. He earned the honor because the Wizards owned the best record in the East at the cutoff point two weeks ago. It’s a testament to the work Jordan, his staff and players have done this season.
But the Wizards have dropped four of their last six games — all since forward Antawn Jamison’s knee injury Jan. 30. A productive scorer and tough rebounder, Jamison is one of the “Big Three” along with All-Stars Gilbert Arenas and Caron Butler. He also is the captain and, according to Jordan, the team’s only true leader.
Jamison’s injury and the current mini-slump interrupted the Wizards’ smooth passage Sunday. Washington played one of its worst games of the season, losing 94-73 to the Portland Trail Blazers, and afterward Arenas questioned Jordan’s methods and blamed them for his own poor performance.
Jordan, as expected, reacted brusquely and angrily. He also offered a few volleys at his team’s lack of leadership given Jamison’s absence. Such noise — coupled with the home loss to Portland, which featured the Wizards’ worst offensive output of the season — led to a players-only meeting Monday. Then followed a heart-to-heart between Jordan and Arenas, and Jamison also had a few well-chosen words for Arenas.
Supposedly all is well now, the Gilbert moment having passed. Jordan called Verizon Center “Happyville.” Arenas called the outburst “a little bump.” The two will get to bond even more in Vegas.
Jordan’s flash of anger posed a marked contrast from his upbeat personality and, until lately, an upbeat season.
So positive and promising was the season that last week, before the fireworks, Jordan refused to downplay (as many coaches would) how well things were going.
“I’m in awe of where we are,” he said after a practice at Verizon Center. “We’re first in the Eastern Conference. That blows my mind, in a good way. For the Washington Wizards to be first in the conference and to coach in the All-Star Game? I’m in awe. That’s incredible.”
Little bumps aside, the Wizards’ success would seem to have much to do with Jordan’s management style and his apparently strong relationship with his players.
Those who know Jordan describe him as patient, measured and willing to listen. His approach is much more Tony Dungy than Tony Soprano. Jordan has, in fact, met the even-keeled Dungy, who guided the Indianapolis Colts to victory in the Super Bowl, and professes admiration for him.
“I really appreciate that style, and I’m glad he won the big game,” Jordan said. “I saw all these coaches who are supposed to be good, yelling and screaming, and I said, ‘That’s now how you treat people — grabbing guys and getting in their face and showing how displeased you are.’ I can see it once in a while. It’s gonna happen, but I don’t think it’s right.”
Jordan, a graduate of Archbishop Carroll High School, learned his laid-back approach from his mother, Marguerite, who opened their Southwest home to the neighborhood children.
“She kept the kids all day,” he said. “I saw how she would manage nine or 10 different personalities. She managed them in a manner that was calm, yet she always said there are nine ways to skin a cat. There are different ways for different people. There are different ways to handle one person sometimes. I learned that from her. To have a calmness about yourself and to know you can’t think clearly when you’re angry or upset. … NBA players want to be treated like professionals.”
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