Wizards' Jordan one of few to survive in rocky Atlantic

ON THE NBA

February 01, 2004|By MILTON KENT

In the real-world equivalent of a 24-second possession this past week, Washington Wizards coach Eddie Jordan went from a relative newcomer to the dean of Atlantic Division coaches.

"By contract, but not by games," quipped Jordan on Wednesday night. "I don't know what to say about it. It's a great honor."

Indeed, it seems these days for an NBA coach to last from one week to the next is not only an honor, but also a miracle. That's especially true in the Eastern Conference, where all but one job has changed hands since the 2002-03 season ended.

The most recent dominoes fell last week in New Jersey and Boston. Byron Scott's dismissal from the Nets on Monday was disheartening, particularly given that he was the all-time winningest coach in New Jersey, and had guided the previously moribund franchise to consecutive appearances in the NBA Finals.

But Scott reportedly lost the confidence of Nets star Jason Kidd, and while the point guard repeatedly denied that he had a hand in Scott's firing, it's also true that Kidd didn't particularly throw himself on the railroad tracks to stop the train from running over Scott, either.

Jordan, who had been an assistant in New Jersey - for the past two years under Scott before coming to Washington last summer - politely declined to weigh in on what happened in the Meadowlands, but he saw a thread of familiarity in Jim O'Brien's resignation in Boston on Wednesday.

O'Brien, who revitalized the Celtics, taking them to the second playoff round or better in the past two seasons, quit after new head of basketball operations Danny Ainge had made a series of moves, including trading Antoine Walker, Tony Battie and Eric Williams, all O'Brien favorites.

The result of the moves left O'Brien with a team he didn't feel he could coach, given Ainge's desire to go younger and more athletic with players like Jiri Welsch and Ricky Davis for the future.

In thinking about the Boston situation, Jordan remembered a trade in Sacramento, where he was head coach for 1 1/2 seasons, where the front office dealt Bobby Hurley and Michael Smith to Vancouver for center Otis Thorpe.

In Jordan's mind, Smith and Hurley worked well in the Princeton motion offense he was running, while the plodding Thorpe did not.

"The trade was done to get things done in the offseason, to make your roster a little bit better. Unfortunately, I wasn't around when that happened," said Jordan, who was fired that offseason. "I understand about long-range plans and short-range plans. I've seen it from both ends. You have to deal with it. You hope you have dialogue within the organization and everybody is honest and upfront and on the same page. That's all you have to ask for."

Quiz

With the coaching changes in New Jersey and Boston, which Eastern Conference head coach has the longest tenure with his current club?

All-Star oddities

Of course, it's pointless to rail at fans for their All-Star selections. The game, after all, is theirs, affording them the chance to see their favorite players in a relaxed setting.

That said, one can't help but wonder what fans were thinking, or not thinking, in some of their decisions.

For instance, allowing for the recognition factor and the relative dearth of talent in the Eastern Conference, there is no earthly reason for Chicago's Scottie Pippen and Milwaukee's Toni Kukoc to have finished in the top 10 in forward balloting. Not only are both of them shells of what they once were, but neither starts for their own teams.

Likewise, with no slight intended to the legacies of either player, but how did Alonzo Mourning, who retired after 12 games, and Jamal Mashburn, who hasn't played most of this season, end up in the top 10 of their categories? Mourning finished second at center behind starter Ben Wallace, presumably only because Bill Russell's name wasn't on the ballot. And how did Bucks guard Michael Redd, who is having a superb season, not place in the top 10 in the East?

There were some oddities on the Western ballots too, what with Yao Ming again being voted to start ahead of Shaquille O'Neal at center. Granted, O'Neal has been hurt of late, but has certainly played in enough games and been dominant enough to earn a start in his home building, the Staples Center, over Yao.

The Lakers' magic clearly, but inexplicably, extended to O'Neal's new teammate, Karl Malone, who finished fifth among forwards, just 50,000 votes behind Dallas' Dirk Nowitzki and 70,000 ahead of Sacramento's Peja Stojakovic, a Most Valuable Player candidate.

The worst oversight of them all is that Minnesota's Sam Cassell, the best point guard in the West over the first half of the season, not only didn't get voted to start, but also didn't even finish among the top 10 at guard. The Western coaches should correct the oversight when reserves are announced later this week, but you could hardly blame Cassell (Dunbar) for being angry.

Quiz answer

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.