- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 19, 2001


More than 2 and 1/2 hours after they fell to the Toronto Raptors 98-92 at MCI Center last night in the season finale, Washington Wizards coach Leonard Hamilton announced his resignation as coach.
By quitting after one season, Hamilton forgoes the remaining $6 million he was guaranteed over the next three years. Had he been fired, Hamilton would have been able to keep the money.
"I've decided to resign my position here with the Washington Wizards," Hamilton said after emerging from a meeting with president of basketball operations Michael Jordan, a meeting to which Jordan summoned Hamilton immediately after the game.
"I know it's in my best interest and I know that it's probably in the best interest of everybody that I allow their progress to go on with me moving in another direction," Hamilton said. "I think the Wizards are in good hands. I think that before long they will be exactly what we all want them to be. I think it is in my best interest at this particular time to move on."
Hamilton said the decision was entirely his own. He said he had been mulling the idea over for at least 10 days and that Jordan had been aware of his intentions.
"This is not the first time I have spoken to Michael about this," said Hamilton, who added that he had informed his wife just minutes after leaving the meeting. "He was somewhat prepared. We spoke about a week to 10 days ago concerning my feelings. He was respectful then. I'm confident that I'm making the best decision for everybody."
Jordan was not available for comment.
Hamilton said that following last night's loss, which ended the Wizards' season at 19-63 and marked the fourth year in a row the team did not reach the playoffs and the 12th time in the last 13, he told the players to have a good summer and to work hard. The 63 losses by the Wizards are the most in the franchise's history since its inaugural season as the Chicago Packers in 1961-62.
Not long after that, Hamilton was summoned to Jordan's office and not permitted to preside over what would have been his final news conference as coach. In his stead, Wizards assistant Larry Drew handled the postgame news conference and appeared to be equally as confused.
"I really don't know what's going on," Drew said. "I was talking to Mitch Richmond, and the next thing I knew I had to stand in for Coach."
Next season will mark the third in a row that the Wizards will begin the season with a new coach. Last year Gar Heard who is still being paid by the team coached 44 games before he was fired. Hamilton took the job after St. John's coach Mike Jarvis and others turned it down.
Hamilton replaced interim coach Darrell Walker, who also wanted to coach the team but now works as director of player personnel.
Hamilton caught Jordan's eye while at the University of Miami, where he took over as coach in 1990. Hamilton won just 34 games over the first four seasons but led Miami to the NIT in the 1994-95 season, finishing with a 15-13 record; he was also named Big East coach of the year. Miami had winning record over the next five seasons and made three consecutive NCAA tournament appearances.
Hamilton took over a Wizards team that Jordan proclaimed had the talent to at least contend for the playoffs. However, the three players who were supposed to carry them there Juwan Howard, Rod Strickland and Mitch Richmond had sub-par seasons. Howard was eventually traded to Dallas and the Wizards waived Strickland, who has since been picked up by the Portland Trail Blazers. Richmond will either be traded or bought out during the summer.
Hamilton was left with a stripped down roster that featured the talents of players like Richard Hamilton a second-year guard and rookie shooting guard Courtney Alexander, good young players but not players ready to lead the Wizards back to the playoffs.
Before last night's game, Hamilton talked with reporters about returning with better players. However, according to Hamilton, he had his mind made up before last night that he was not coming back.
"Nothing changed," Hamilton said. "I don't think it would be wise of me to create any type of air of distraction with my players while I'm trying to finish my last game."
Over the past few weeks most of the attention surrounding the team has been rumors concerning Jordan's possible return. However, now the focus will shift, just as it did last year, to a coaching search.

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