- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 1, 2003

The Detroit Pistons’ quick move in landing coveted Larry Brown as coach late Friday night scuttled the Washington Wizards remote chances of securing the man who has come to be known around the NBA as “Mr. Fix-it.”

The deal between Brown and the Pistons came hours after the Wizards fired Doug Collins. Now Rick Carlisle, Detroit’s deposed coach, joins the list of quality candidates for eight NBA vacancies. With nearly a third of the league’s teams looking for coaches, the competition for “name” coaches will be furious in the coming weeks.

None of the other teams are in as precarious a position as the Wizards, who also need a front-office boss and must clean up the public-relations fallout from the unceremonious dismissal of Michael Jordan.

Before picking a coach, the Wizards need to hire a president of basketball operations — the job to which Jordan had expected to return — and they must do so swiftly. Each day the position goes unfilled reduces Washington’s chances of signing one of the premier coaching candidates like Carlisle, Jeff Van Gundy, Paul Silas and New Jersey assistant Eddie Jordan.

Silas already has talked to Houston and appears to be close to getting a deal done there. Van Gundy could get the Cleveland job and the right to coach LeBron James. Eddie Jordan is considered one of the top candidates for Brown’s former job in Philadelphia.

Yet Eddie Jordan could be a sleeper for the Wizards. Not only is he the most highly regarded assistant in the league, one NBA source said yesterday that Jordan would like to work under Nets chief scout Eddie Stefanski, who had a huge hand in building the two-time Eastern Conference champions. Stefanski has been mentioned for the Wizards’ front-office job, and it would be considered a coup if Washington landed two men who are familiar with each other and could hit the ground running.

“I think that’s the best possible situation for Washington, considering that we are so close to the draft [June 26] and they have so many holes to fill in such a short period of time,” said a source with knowledge of the situation. “They’ve got to work players out and make up their mind which direction they are going to go in. There’s a lot of work to be done there.”

As of Friday, the Wizards had not sought permission to speak to Stefanski or Jordan. But with the NBA Finals not starting until Wednesday, they still have time.

If the Wizards don’t act quickly, they’ll be forced to pick from the second tier of coaches. This category includes former NBA coaches like Mike Fratello, Brian Hill and Mike Dunleavy, the last of whom is getting a lot of consideration in Atlanta.

The Wizards are said not to be interested in hiring a college coach. Though Kentucky coach Tubby Smith was Michael Jordan’s first choice to coach the Wizards in 2000, Smith has told the 76ers he is not interested in their job and presumably would not be interested in taking over the weaker Wizards.

Former Chicago coach Tim Floyd is available, but he went 49-190 with the Bulls and doesn’t appear to qualify as the “best available basketball mind” that Wizards majority owner Abe Pollin promised to pursue in his only public comments since canning Jordan.

Pollin raised the stakes even more last week by writing a letter in which he offered refunds to season ticket-holders “not satisfied with the direction of our basketball franchise after this summer.”

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