Just imagine surreal world of MJ in charge

January 16, 2000|By KEN ROSENTHAL

Memo to Gov. Parris N. Glendening: Legalize casino gambling immediately. If Michael Jordan is going to run the Washington Wizards, he would need a wagering outpost closer than Atlantic City.

Why not Harrah's at the Harbor?

Jordan could become a frequent visitor to Baltimore, uniting the two cities and spearheading the bid for the 2012 Olympics -- that is, after he fires Wizards coach Gar Heard and GM Wes Unseld.

If this is the new trend -- superstars buying and running teams -- someone please hand Ken Griffey the phone number of Orioles owner Peter Angelos.

In some ways, this whole episode is weirder than Dennis Rodman.

America wants to be like Mike.

And Mike wants to be like Jerry Krause.

If nothing else, the Wizards would get the coolest Nikes with Jordan aboard, not to mention endless supplies of Gatorade and all the french fries they can eat at McDonald's.

Fortunately, Jordan endorses MCI rather than Sprint, so Wizards owner Abe Pollin would need not change the name of the MCI Center faster than you can say, "Five cents a minute."

As it stands, the National Air and Space Museum might be renamed the National Air and Space Jam Museum, in deference to Bugs Bunny's favorite teammate.

The White House?

It would become The Nike House after Jordan gets down to true business and defeats Bill Bradley in the 2004 presidential election.

"I never get tired of beating the Knicks," Jordan would say.

If Jordan revives the Wizards, why shouldn't he run for president? The Wizards haven't won a playoff series since 1981-82, Jordan's freshman year at North Carolina.

Two Olympic gold medals, six NBA titles and countless endorsement dollars later, Jordan seems a perfect choice to assume control of the Wizards' acquisition of players and the hiring and firing of their front-office personnel, including coaches.

Krause need not apply.

Ditto for Tim Floyd.

In fact, Jordan would be so hellbent on defeating the Bulls, he'd work a three-way trade with the Lakers and Trail Blazers to acquire Phil Jackson and Scottie Pippen for four games a year -- each of the regular-season meetings against Chicago.

One thing is for certain: The Wizards wouldn't lose back-to-back games to the 5-28 Bulls again or Jordan would make like Yankees owner George Steinbrenner after an inter-league loss to the Mets.

Jordan's coach? How about Dean Smith?

His director of public relations? Why not Charles Barkley?

"This might be the only way to get him a ring," Jordan would say.

Seriously, MJ would need help -- he didn't exactly distinguish himself as a talent evaluator in his assessment of the Wizards (then the Bullets) after the Bulls' three-game sweep of Washington in the first round of the 1997 playoffs.

"They're truly one of the teams of the future, no matter how you look at it," Jordan said. "[Chris] Webber, [Juwan] Howard, [Rod] Strickland, they're a great combination. And [Calbert] Cheaney. They all played extremely well."

Since then, the Wizards are 72-98, with no playoff appearances. They've traded Webber, parted with former No. 1 draft pick Cheaney and changed coaches twice.

Can Jordan fix all that? Not right away. And maybe not ever.

A great player doesn't automatically make a great executive. If Jordan bristled over the inadequacies of his "supporting cast" in Chicago, imagine what would happen if his entire organization -- or any part of it -- failed him.

It's not like he could demand the ball and take over a game. For once, Jordan's success would be based on the performance of others. That would be a major change -- even during his ill-fated minor-league baseball career, Jordan was in control.

Then again, it's never wise to underestimate Jordan, on or off the court. Through the sheer force of his personality, he could transform the Wizards into the scariest Washington team since Nixon and Agnew.

Imagine Strickland dogging it against Orlando one night, only to find the team president waiting for him at practice the next day.

In shorts.

With a ball.

Ready to instill his own discipline.

Here's an even juicier image: Jordan marching into the offices of his former agent, David Falk, to demand that Howard renegotiate his contract to accept a lower salary.

What could Howard or any other player say if Michael Jordan told him he wasn't earning his keep? And what could Falk say to a businessman he created in his own cutthroat image?

As a negotiator, Jordan would make Gordon Gekko look compassionate, seeking to devour agents the way he once devoured LaBradford Smith.

And if he were charged with tampering -- the front-office equivalent of pushing off -- he'd get all the calls from commissioner David Stern, just as he once did from NBA referees.

Failure? It's always possible. But Jordan would hold the ultimate trump card over his players, one that should sufficiently terrorize them into giving maximum effort every night:

No, not Rodman.

Coach Michael Jordan.

BayRunners today

Opponent: San Diego Stingrays

Site: Baltimore Arena

Time: 1: 30 p.m.

Radio: WJFK (1300 AM)

Outlook: The BayRunners come off their best rebounding performance of the season, getting 18 more than Richmond in a 104-95 win Friday. New San Diego coach Jeff Malone takes over the International Basketball League's worst team. The BayRunners won the previous meeting between the two teams in December.

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