Wizards drop Jordan's home finale

Collins criticizes players for not respecting him

Pro Basketball

April 15, 2003|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON - In a game the outcome of which no one will remember, the Wizards' Michael Jordan said goodbye to his new home fans last night at MCI Center, and coach Doug Collins opened a can of worms.

Jordan bowed out in Washington in a manner he came to know more frequently in two seasons here than he did in 13 years in Chicago, leading the Wizards in scoring with 21 points while watching them lose, 93-79, to the New York Knicks.

However, after the game, Collins, Jordan's hand-picked coach, lambasted his team for its conduct throughout the season, saying unnamed players had showed him a lack of respect by cursing at him.

"I have to be careful, because I have this reputation for being this [confrontational] guy," Collins said. "So anytime there's a little flare-up, it's me again. Sometimes, you need to look at the players.

"What happens is when players show a coach disrespect, and you do something about it, you don't get along with a player. That's not always right. You're doing the right thing, but the player has never understood that. That won't happen next year. Trust me. Trust me. I treat people with dignity and I expect the same thing in return."

Collins, who was hired by Jordan when he was president of basketball operations, a position he is expected to return to after tomorrow's season finale in Philadelphia, said Jordan had usually been the player to quell the disrespect, which he called "insidious."

"Anytime there was any disrespect, he [Jordan] stopped it immediately" Collins said. "That's the greatest compliment that he could pay to me. In five years, he never said one curse word to me ever. I've had guys in that locker room curse at me this year and show no respect. And Michael stepped in and said that's not how you treat a coach. Michael has the ultimate respect for a coach."

Jordan, who has not signed a deal to return to the Washington front office, confirmed that he has had to stop some of the cursing at Collins, and adding that he would move to correct the problem during the summer.

"Obviously, that is not any kind of peace and harmony or any kind of thing you want in your organization," Jordan said. "You wouldn't expect that at your job site and we don't want it around here. It's obviously a concern and something that we have to address in the offseason."

Players have grumbled privately and at times publicly about their roles with the team, including leading scorer Jerry Stackhouse, veteran forwards Charles Oakley and Bryon Russell, as well as younger players like Kwame Brown.

But this is the first time that Collins has acknowledged a lack of respect within the locker room.

"Coaches to me are to be held in the highest of esteem, because they helped get me where I am today," Collins said. "But somewhere along the line, we've allowed players to disrespect. And I never understood that. I don't care what you think or what you do, you still respect the people who are trying to bring out the best in you. Somewhere along the line that's been lost, and I sure hope we can get it back. It's not just here. It's in all cities in the NBA."

Said Russell: "I haven't disrespected him. Not yet."

Collins said the Wizards (37-44), who closed the season with five straight home losses for a 23-18 overall mark, "stunk" in a game in which the Knicks (37-44) shot 49 percent and made nine of 21 three-pointers.

Jordan, who walked off the floor without addressing the sellout crowd - one of 82 that have gathered at MCI Center for every game in the past two years - said he believes the younger Washington players will have to apply the lessons of his teachings next season without him on the floor.

"Next year will be what they take from the way I conducted business on the basketball court," Jordan said. "Next year is also going to be a test for some of these guys to understand what at 40 years old I gave to the game for the last two years. At 21, 22, or 23, what can they contribute to help this franchise get where we have to get?"

Next for Wizards

Opponent: Philadelphia 76ers in regular-season finale

Site: First Union Center, Philadelphia

When: Tomorrow, 7 p.m.

TV/Radio: ESPN/WTEM (980 AM)

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