WASHINGTON - It took Washington Wizards owner Abe Pollin eight fewer minutes to hire a Jordan than it did to fire one and as a result, the team has a new head coach.
Pollin, who fired Michael Jordan as president of basketball operations a reported 18 minutes into a meeting last month, essentially settled on hiring former New Jersey Nets assistant Eddie Jordan as the franchise's seventh coach since 1999 within 10 minutes.
"When you sit down with [Pollin], he can close a deal in 10 minutes," said Eddie Jordan, who replaces Doug Collins, fired late last month. "He said the process would probably take long. When you sit in a boardroom with him and the doors close, it's over. I was impressed."
Pollin had to move fast to get Eddie Jordan, 48, who had interviewed Tuesday with the Philadelphia 76ers for their coaching vacancy. Pollin talked with a variety of NBA officials, including Miami Heat coach Pat Riley and Memphis Grizzlies general manager Jerry West, then met with Jordan on Wednesday.
A deal was struck before the coach could drive back to his New Jersey home. In the process, Pollin ignored his stated plan to first hire a president of basketball operations, who would, in turn, hire a coach.
"I was not going to take a chance of losing this great guy to be my coach," Pollin said. "When the decision came, am I going to stick with the plan or am I going to be flexible and hire a coach first? The answer was yes, because that coach was Eddie Jordan and I wasn't going to take a chance of losing him."
Eddie Jordan, a native of Southeast Washington, is getting his second NBA head coaching try, after coaching the last 15 games of the 1996-97 season and all of the next season in Sacramento, where he went 33-64.
"Do I look at it as a second chance? I look at it as a chance, and not necessarily a second chance," said Eddie Jordan, who received a reported four-year, $12 million deal from Washington, which flirted with Larry Brown and Jeff Van Gundy.
"I've grown since the Sacramento experience and it's a different team, a different future. But I've gotten better as a coach. I don't look at it as a second chance. It's a great opportunity, and I want to be as successful as soon I can. We want to win. We talk about patience, and patience is the key to anything you do. But we're going to be exciting, and we're going to give a great effort every night."
Eddie Jordan, who played seven years in the NBA, winning a championship ring with the Los Angeles Lakers in 1982, took a year off after Sacramento, then joined the Nets, where he was the lead assistant to Byron Scott the past three seasons.
In the past two years, the previously moribund Nets advanced to the NBA Finals each season, getting swept by the Los Angeles Lakers last year and losing this year to the San Antonio Spurs in six games.
Eddie Jordan has been credited with developing forwards Kenyon Martin and Richard Jefferson, as well as instituting a Princeton-style offense for point guard Jason Kidd to run.
"The best players find their way, but even the best players at this time allow the offense to work for them," Eddie Jordan said. "If you talk about chemistry ... this is the offense that will help you get along. It's unselfish, and it's the right way to play basketball in my mind.
"Anyone can run it. That's why I think I'm a good coach in my mind. You tweak it for the strength of your team. We tweaked it in New Jersey for Jason Kidd and Kenyon Martin, and it worked."
The Wizards, who finished 37-45 last season, have some intriguing pieces to their puzzle.
In particular, Kwame Brown, the second year forward who was the first player chosen in the 2001 NBA draft, is expected to be a focal point of the Washington attack, at least as Eddie Jordan envisions it.
"He was very raw, but just to look at him, you could see the explosiveness, the desire, the physicalness and the way he was built," said Eddie Jordan, referring to the first time he saw Brown play. "You could tell he was made to play basketball. He's a key to what we want to do and where we're going. He's going to be the key, and I want him to have confidence and to have fun and to establish a real solid work ethic."
Pollin said the search for a head of basketball operations will continue at his own unhurried pace, leaving open the possibility that the slot will not be filled before next week's draft.
The club is awaiting a July 1 decision from guard Jerry Stackhouse over whether he will opt out of the final two years of his contract. If Stackhouse, Washington's leading scorer last season, does leave, the Wizards will get approximately $5 million in salary cap savings.