- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Eddie Jordan began his Monday morning by handing out holiday turkeys to the poor. Before 9 a.m., he was among the unemployed.

The head coach of the Washington Wizards and his wife, Charrisse, stood outside the Verizon Center at 7:30 a.m. to take part in one of the team’s community-outreach programs, a typical holiday effort to provide food for the less fortunate.

About 45 minutes later, Jordan was fired by team President Ernie Grunfeld, who cited a need for change in the wake of the Wizards’ 1-10 start to the season - a mark that matched the club record set in 1966, when the team was located in Baltimore and known as the Bullets.

Ed Tapscott, the team’s director of player development, will replace Jordan for the remainder of the season.

“Our record is 1-10. That’s an unacceptable record, obviously,” said Grunfeld, who also said he wasn’t aware that Jordan was doing community work for the team just before he fired him. “We felt a change needed to be made, that we needed to do some things a little bit differently. … We have two All-Stars and some talented young players and some savvy veterans, and we have to get them to play at a higher level, so I felt like we needed to make a change.”

The Wizards have been without two of their key players. Gilbert Arenas, the All-Star guard whom the Wizards in July signed to a six-year, $111 million contract, underwent a third surgery on a knee and has not played this season.

Brendan Haywood, the team’s starting center, injured a wrist in training camp and will miss most, if not all, of this season.

The short-handed Wizards lost to an even more short-handed New York Knicks team on Saturday night that was playing back-to-back games, and Grunfeld had seen enough.

He said that the team was headed in the wrong direction and that things “had grown stale.”

Tapscott was completely caught off-guard by the firing of Jordan.

Tapscott reported to the Verizon Center on Monday morning, planning to break down game tape and help Jordan run practice. Then came word that Grunfeld wanted to speak with him, and in their meeting, Tapscott was told Jordan had been fired and that he had been promoted.

“Because I’ve known Ernie for a long time, he allowed me to give my global view and what I thought,” Tapscott said. “Then he said, ‘Here’s what I want you to do, and I think it’d be foolish to pass up an opportunity of a lifetime.’ So, I said, ‘OK, if that’s what you want me to do, I’ll do it to the best of my abilities.’”

Tapscott, a D.C. native and a former coach at American University, served the past two years as the Wizards’ director of player development. He previously held executive positions with the Charlotte Bobcats and New York Knicks.

Jordan, also a D.C. native, who was in his sixth season with the club, guided the team to its fourth straight playoff appearance last season despite the absence of Arenas, who missed 69 games because of knee surgery.

The Wizards fell in the first round of the playoffs for a third straight year, losing in five games to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Still, the string of playoff appearances marked a vast improvement for a franchise that had reached the playoffs only once in the 15 seasons before Jordan arrived.

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