- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 17, 2000

One thing's certain for the Washington Wizards: Darrell Walker and Rod Higgins won't be the team's next coach. What's uncertain and it could be for a while is who will.
Wizards president of basketball operations Michael Jordan named Walker, who had been the team's interim coach, director of player personnel. Jordan named Higgins, a Golden State Warriors assistant coach, assistant general manager. Both were considered prime candidates for the coaching job, which Jordan now said may remain vacant past Sunday's NBA Draft lottery.
The Wizards also added Fred Whitfield as assistant president of basketball operations and assistant general counsel. Whitfield, a close Jordan associate for some time, will help the team navigate the salary cap. He spent the last four years with Nike as the shoe company's director of player development for basketball. Before that he spent four years negotiating player contracts at Falk Associates Management Enterprises (FAME).
Jordan had said he wanted to have the team's coach in place by the draft lottery. Jordan interviewed both Walker and Higgins for the job. He also interviewed former teammate John Paxson and former Atlanta Hawks coach Lenny Wilkens, who is involved in talks with the Vancouver Grizzlies concerning their vacancy.
Jordan has not spoken officially to St. John's University coach Mike Jarvis, according to a source close to the situation. However, Jordan could speak with Jarvis as early as today, the source said. Jarvis repeatedly has said he will not seek another job but will listen to anything Jordan has to say. Jordan did not comment on Jarvis, but Jarvis now is believed to be a leading candidate.
With the lottery just four days away in Secaucus, N.J., Jordan backed off of the May 21 deadline.
"I will be flexible if I have to be," Jordan said. "If I don't think that we have a suitable coach in time for the draft, I'm not going to rush into making a decision."
Jordan already has an idea about the roles of Walker and Higgins. Walker took over the Wizards after their 14-30 start under Gar Heard and finished the season 15-23. He made it known he wanted to coach rather than assume a front-office position. But Jordan felt Walker, who won an NBA championship with Jordan as a member of the Chicago Bulls in 1992-93, was better suited for the front office.
"When I evaluated Darrell I tried to evaluate where he would best suit our organization," Jordan said. "Darrell and I talked about that, and we agreed that this was best for the organization."
When Jordan fired Heard on Jan. 29, Higgins was his first choice as a replacement. However, the Warriors refused to release him from his contract when the teams could not agree on compensation.
"Rod will assist Wes [Unseld] and me," Jordan said. "Rod has an unbelievable knowledge of the game and is a great evaluator of talent. He'll assist us in making some of the decisions, such as signing players, drafting players, the coaching search and those types of things."

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