- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 19, 2001

Wizards coach Leonard Hamilton should have known his days were numbered when everyone seemed to have an idea what was going on but him.

Not long ago, before one game, I asked him about Lakers' coach Phil Jackson's comments that he believed Michael "I'm Nobody's Show Pony" Jordan, currently the president of Wizards basketball operations, might ride again on the NBA courts.

Exasperated, Hamilton asked me why he should have to even respond to the comments by Jackson, Jordan's former Zen master in Chicago. What does he know? Hamilton asked. When's the last time he talked to Michael? He's 3,000 miles away.

Two days later, Wizards owner Abe Pollin said he thought Jordan was coming back next season.

Talk about being out of the loop. If Phil is 3,000 miles away, Hamilton's distance might have been measured in light years.

Last night the loop closed around Hamilton's neck when, after a 98-92 loss to the Toronto Raptors at MCI Center in the season finale, he finished presiding over the worst team in franchise history a record 63 losses.

After the game, he was called into a meeting with Jordan. More than two hours later, Hamilton came out of the meeting and said he had "resigned" his position.

"I felt I could be better served moving on in another direction," he said.

What a crock. This smells worse than any Wizards loss this season, and the stench goes right up to Trigger's office.

"I've been mulling this around for quite some time," Hamilton said. "This is not the first time Michael and I talked about this. He was prepared."

Nobody else was. One of his assistant coaches, Larry Drew, met with reporters after the game and seemed genuinely surprised at the turn of events. "I have no idea what is going on," Drew said. "But you have to be concerned about what the meeting was all about."

His coaches didn't know. His players didn't know either. And, if you can believe this one, neither did his wife. "I just told my wife a few minutes ago," he said shortly before midnight after emerging from the meeting. "I kept this close to the vest."

Sure. Hamilton walked away from three more guaranteed years on his contract worth $6 million and didn't tell his wife.

He did this, mind you, after having paid $1 million to coach this team.

That's right, don't forget, Hamilton paid $1 million in June 2000 to the University of Miami to release him from the seven-year contract extension he had signed with the school three months earlier.

One million dollars for the end of your career.

I don't know which was more gutless Jordan dispatching Wes Unseld to fire Gar Heard last season or sending Hamilton out with this story. Jordan did not come out to stand by Hamilton during this charade.

It's not going to be easy to find someone to coach next season. Remember, people kept turning Jordan down before Hamilton took the job. He may have to interview high school coaches.

Don't shed too many tears for Hamilton. Save some for yourselves, particularly if you are a Wizards season ticket-holder.

If you are and you know who you are from the scars this is what you're looking forward to in the offseason.

You've just suffered through the team's eighth losing season in the past 10 years, but not just a losing season the losingest of all seasons. Remember those teams with Hot Plate Williams? This year's was worst. Those Manute Bol teams? This one is worse.

To show their appreciation last night on Fan Appreciation Night at MCI, just eight players dressed for the Wizards. It was a kind gesture.

In addition, you know that they're going to stink again next year, and maybe even the year after that before any turnaround can take place and that's the best-case scenario.

So you've vowed that you would rather stick needles in your eyes than pay for another season of Wizards tickets. So you give them up.

The day after the deadline to renew, Jordan announces he is coming back to play for the Wizards. Your lousy tickets have now become the hottest tickets in the NBA. You go into your bathroom, lock the door, and swallow a basketball.

But that's easy. That's not nearly tragic enough for a Wizards fan. This is what is more likely.

You don't want to renew your tickets. You hate the idea of doing that more than you hated Jerri on "Survivor." But you know that being a Wizards fan means that the worst could happen that Jordan comes back to play and after all those years of suffering, you don't have a ticket to see him. So you renew your tickets.

Now this is what happens to a Wizards fan: You renew your tickets and Jordan comes back only not with the Wizards. He goes to play for that guy Leonard Hamilton said didn't know squat who was 3,000 miles away.

You have a nervous breakdown and wind up broke and homeless on the street. And one night in a shelter, you run into a familiar face on the soup line Leonard Hamilton.

"It seems like I have always had some kind of hand of protection around me," Hamilton said after he was hired in June, when asked about the daunting task of trying to turn this team around. "Anytime I have tried to step out of line, it always seemed like I had a big hand in the sky to nudge me in the right direction."

If there are hands guiding this franchise, they aren't coming from the sky.

It's not that farfetched that Jordan could come back to play for another team. He is a free agent as a player, and supposedly the biggest factor in any reluctance to come back to play is the poor supporting cast he would have with the Wizards. Who is to say that he doesn't have a little falling out with Abe Jordan couldn't have been too happy about the owner shooting off his mouth on Comcast and cut his ties with the Wizards?

Irreconcilable differences, baby. It happens every day.

Of course, this is all outrageous speculation. Jordan has said the chances of him returning to play are "99.9" percent that he won't. Then again, this is the same guy who predicted before the start of this season that the Wizards would be a .500 team. He has a few problems with numbers. "It's a very important season," Jordan said between tee times at the Wizards' pre-season camp in Wilmington, N.C. "My credibility is at stake."

So much for that.

The sanity of Wizards fans is at stake now.

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