Bullets reach for glory days Bickerstaff to be coach

was '78 title team aide

February 10, 1997|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,SUN STAFF

CLEVELAND -- After nearly five days of discussions, the Washington Bullets have agreed to a contract with Bernie Bickerstaff, who will be introduced today as the team's new coach.

Bickerstaff, who began the season as the coach of the Denver Nuggets before stepping aside to resume his duties of general manager, was the top choice of the Bullets from the time the team fired Jim Lynam on Wednesday.

"We've agreed to a contract, in principle," Bullets general manager Wes Unseld said last night before the start of the NBA All-Star Game. "We'll make the announcement [today]."

ESPN is reporting that the deal is for $4.5 million over three years.

Bickerstaff, who turns 53 tomorrow, has ties to the glory days of the Bullets. He was an assistant coach under Dick Motta when the team won the NBA title in 1978. He had three years left on his contract in Denver as the team's vice president, but there was speculation he would soon lose that position because the team got off to a poor start.

He takes over a Bullets team that, with a 22-25 record, is one of the NBA's biggest disappointments. The Bullets ended the first half of the season dropping all four games on a West Coast trip.

It is not known whether Bickerstaff will keep assistants Bob Staak and Clifford Ray, who remained with the team after Lynam was fired. Staak served as interim coach for one game, Wednesday's loss at Denver.

Unseld said he would like to maintain some continuity with the team, an indication that Staak or Ray -- or both -- might remain with the team for the rest of the season.

Bullets All-Star forward Chris Webber said he has no idea what to expect from Bickerstaff, who takes over as coach tomorrow.

"I've never met him," Webber said. "I don't know if he's a good guy or a bad guy. I've heard good things about him. I know he wants to win."

Former Michigan teammate Jalen Rose played for Bickerstaff in Denver and didn't have a good relationship with the coach. Webber said he did not seek out Dikembe Mutombo during the weekend to ask his thoughts on his new coach.

"I don't want to come in with any preconceived notions," Webber said.

Mutombo said Saturday that Bickerstaff isn't at his best with young players.

Pub Date: 2/10/97

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