- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 6, 2003

“It wasn’t me.”That’s the reaction being proffered throughout the Washington Wizards organization in response to apparent leaks that led to a disparaging story in Sunday’s New York Times that described Michael Jordan’s departure from the team’s front office as a virtual certainty.The story extensively quoted two team officials and an unnamed player. According to the two officials, including possibly a high-ranking executive in Washington Sports & Entertainment, majority owner Abe Pollin and minority owner Ted Leonsis had problems with Jordan’s work ethic as an executive. According to the unnamed player, many of the Wizards resented Jordan. And several of the players said Jordan and not hand-picked coach Doug Collins called the shots from the bench during the season.Susan O’Malley, president of WSE, said the quoted team official showed too much basketball knowledge to be her.”It can’t be me,” said O’Malley, who always has left basketball operations to the general manager — and Jordan. “… And I have never spoken to [Times reporter] Mike Wise in my life. I have never spoken to him, nor have I ever e-mailed him.”Collins, reached by phone in Phoenix, said the story’s premise that Jordan really coached the team was laughable.”You’ve got to be kidding me,” Collins said. “Michael never told me who to start and who to sit. The decision on who we played was always mine. Michael never got involved with that.”Collins, perhaps the only coach in NBA history whose boss was also a player, had some notable run-ins with several Wizards, particularly second-year forward Kwame Brown. And there were times when veterans Charles Oakley and Jerry Stackhouse complained about the offense and the rotation.However, the Times piece took it one step further, indicating the entire team couldn’t stand Collins.Collins chose not to address the feelings of his players, but he did say things were amicable between himself and them during the team’s exit interviews.”In the conversations that we had, I thought everything was positive,” he said. “We just talked about going forward and what we wanted to accomplish. There were no confrontations.”If Jordan leaves the Wizards, Collins probably will be fired, which would cost the Wizards $8 million.One of the allegations of the story was that the players voted unanimously not to buy Jordan a retirement present.Not so, reserve forward Bryon Russell said.”Heck, no. We thought about getting him something,” Russell said. “The players wanted to get him something. Ty Lue and I talked about it, and we both wanted to get him something.”The tense situation could be resolved during a meeting among Jordan, Pollin and Leonsis this week. Jordan has maintained he wants to return as president of basketball operations, with full control.To that end, Pollin no doubt will want Jordan to run the team out of Washington, not from his Chicago hometown.If all goes smoothly, Jordan likely could reassume his equity in Lincoln Holdings, the minority ownership in WSE. But it also has been reported that Jordan might have an opportunity to join the front office of the expansion Charlotte franchise, which is set to begin play in 2004-05.

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