- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 28, 2003

The Wizards are still not in the game yet.

This is Day 21 of the post-Michael Jordan era on Fun Street, where those in charge of the Wizards are maintaining a low profile.

If their profile were any lower, they would be termed clinically dead.

Being dead is one of the suspicions with the Wizards.

None of the breathless whispering around the league includes the Wizards.

This coach is going there, and that coach is going there, and the Wizards seem to be going nowhere.

Larry Brown is the latest big name to hop aboard the NBA’s coaching carousel. He was barely out the door in Philadelphia before he was being linked to the Clippers, Cavaliers and Rockets.

How ridiculous is it that the Cavaliers are suddenly a more appealing franchise than the Wizards? Is LeBron James really the solution to Darius Miles, Ricky Davis, Dajuan Wagner and Zydrunas Ilgauskas?

The professorial-like Brown is at the head of a short list of coaching candidates that includes Paul Silas, Jeff Van Gundy, Mike Dunleavy and Mike Fratello.

Here’s an idea for the Wizards: Call Brown today and offer him control of the basketball operations, the coaching gig, anything he wants.

Otherwise, the Wizards have a coach, Doug Collins, whose status comes with a wink-wink. He is not expected to be the team’s coach by July, assuming the franchise has hired a president of basketball operations by then.

The Wizards, for whatever reasons, have opted to stay in a holding pattern going into the NBA Draft next month.

They have come to be an interim franchise. Their vision is to be named later.

They are allowing themselves to be marginalized in the great public relations battles, encouraging the perception that they are stuck in Jordan’s mud. Silas has been mentioned as a possible successor to Collins, though only as wishful thinking.

There has been no development in the last three weeks to challenge or soften the view that Jordan somehow was treated unfairly by Abe Pollin. There has been no hint of a franchise eager to land someone with considerably stronger team-building credentials than Jordan.

It should not be too terribly difficult to find someone whose front office record exceeds Jordan’s.

All those moved to tears following Jordan’s departure minimized his 110-179 record and questionable work habits as an executive.

They also could not answer in the affirmative the one fundamental question regarding his tenure in Washington, which was: Did Jordan set the franchise on the right path?

His best front office move was to come out of retirement, which only limited the development of the team’s three young post players: Kwame Brown, Etan Thomas and Brendan Haywood. He mostly wanted those three to clean up his messes from the perimeter.

Jordan expected those three to make the sort of sacrifices that he was unprepared to make. Jordan hardly sacrificed his ego for the cause. He still wanted to be the lead player, even if he could not be the lead player on a consistent basis, and no genuine effort ever was made to forge a balance between the perimeter and post players.

Brown, in particular, became the poster child for much that was wrong with the team, which was the product of some of the most impressive spin doctoring ever. The team’s fragile state could not be the result of Jordan and the oddest set-up ever employed by an NBA team: a player/coach/boss who was not really the player/coach/boss, depending on the day and loss and who was reading the tea leaves.

Jordan came to have a Wizard of Oz-like quality about him. He was the man behind the curtain, controlling the good but not the bad.

Given the circumstances, the Wizards should feel empowered to move beyond Jordan’s failed experiment. The initial fallout in the community was expected. He is Jordan. He is an icon. You just have to accept the initial outcry.

Yet the sense of the franchise being adrift has not been eased by a follow-up move or an indication that the franchise is interested in joining the high stakes game.

There is just this wait to the draft. There is just this feeling that the franchise eventually will get around to retooling its basketball operations after the game’s proven commodities have been snatched up by other parties.

So now even the sad-sack Cavaliers seemingly have moved ahead of the Wizards.

They are seen as a franchise on the upswing, while the Wizards are content to be passive observers.

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