The End of The Eddie Jordan Era: Say Goodbye to the Fall Guy
We now know the scapegoat threshold on an NBA season in the District of Columbia: 10 losses against a solo win. As head coach of the Washington Wizards, Eddie Jordan is no more. If the WizzNutzz only had the foresight to include this among their Screaming Headlines…..
Someone had to take the fall. The Wizards crack medical staff? Well, they can’t exactly control the environment in which they work, but by most accounts, they are no medical staff of the Phoenix Suns.
The most glaring problem for the Wizards during Jordan’s tenure was bottom-of-the-barrel defense. Despite these facts surrounding the team’s stars: Gilbert Arenas, a bad defender; Caron Butler, a bad defender; Antawn Jamison, a bad defender; Antonio Daniels, a bad defender……when the pattern of defensive inefficiency creeps into its sixth consecutive year, the ultimate responsibility falls on the shoulders of the head coach.
All the tinkering and gimmicks in the world…..match-ups zones, doubling the ball off screens, the scheming of Randy Ayers (and to a lesser extent, Flip Saunders, who made a cameo in training camp as an instructor of zone defense)…….could not circumvent the fact that it’s easier to get rid of a coach than make roster adjustments.
Unfortunately, many Washingtonians are rejoicing with election night enthusiasm at their cubicles today. Can’t exactly blame them for doing so, it’s just unfortunate that it had to arrive at this point. I have been a staunch supporter of Eddie Jordan through and through, but was even beginning to wonder myself if Jordan getting Sam Cooke’d was the right move to make.
Not Ernie’s “Guy”
From the time that Ernie Grunfeld joined the Wizards franchise as President of Basketball Operations in June 2003, a mere 11 days after Jordan was anointed as head coach, there were whispers that Jordan was not Grunfeld’s “guy”. It’s well known that top-level NBA decision makers like to have their controlling fingerprint on all organizational aspects.
But with the Abe Pollin motto of loyalty, Jordan was to receive more than a fair chance. And when playoff appearances mounted, there wasn’t any room to remove the darling who helped bring relevance back to professional basketball in DC. But today, ten losses in 11 games is the crack Grunfeld needed to kick in the door.
In Steps Ed Tapscott, Grunfeld’s “Guy”
In a vote of ‘no confidence’, but stick around because we need your warm coaching bodies, the message is clear to “Eddie’s Guys”: Mike O’Koren, Wes Unseld, Jr., and Phil Hubbard. Well, perhaps the writing was already on the wall for this crew, having been the recipient of piece-mealed contract extensions each offseason for the past couple of years.
ESPN.com is reporting that O’Koren has received his pink slip as well, at least O’Koren always has Frank Sinatra. Randy Ayers, who is technically an Ernie Grunfeld guy, becomes top assistant. Ayers, a supposed defensive guru who has not provided returns, would have been a preposterous selection to become head honcho, so Ed Tapscott gets the nod.
As Director of Player Development, is Tapscott a curious pick? Not really. Prior to working with the Wizards, Tapscott was last seen stepping down as president and CEO of the Charlotte Bobcats in May of 2006. Being Bob Johnson’s first hire for the expansion franchise, Tapscott couldn’t rally enough support in Charlotte after three years on the job.
But Eddie Tap and Ernie Grun go back to the old days in New York. Tapscott also has connections to DC. As a law student at American University, he was hired as an assistant to now Maryland Terp coach on the hot seat, Gary Williams. He later succeeded Williams to become head coach at American, where he amassed a 109-117 record over eight seasons. Despite attempts to convince him to stay, Tapscott resigned in 1990, no longer interested in coaching, to pursure a career in sports management. He was hired as director for team sports at Advantage International, where he also assisted with player agent duties.
In 1991, Grunfeld hired Tapscott to be a college scout for the Knicks. He worked his way up in the system and was later promoted by Grunfeld to VP of Player Personnel and Basketball Ops. When Grunfeld was removed from New York during the 98-99 season, Tapscott ran the team on an interim basis. Tapscott by most accounts is a very intelligent man, but his biggest blunder, drafting 7’2″ Frenchman Frédéric Weis, may have kept him from leading the Knicks on a permanent basis. Ironically enough, that selection in the 1999 NBA draft took place at the MCI Center in Washington, DC.
Tapscott briefly served as an analyst for Comcast, after being relinquished of his duties in Charlotte, and prior to being hired by Grunfeld in August of 2007.
For more on Tapscott, read Dan Steinberg’s DC Sports Bog post, “When Ed Tapscott Followed Gary Williams.”
Who’s Got Next?
I would not expect Tapscott to be the permanent head coaching solution for the Wizards. If there’s anything this team doesn’t need, it’s a coach with little NBA experience, and a .482 winning percentage in the Patriot League. The names of Avery Johnson and Flip Saunders have been floated around, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Wizards make do in the interim to see who is available at the end of the season.
Eddie Jordan will be missed and I will be first in line to wish him good luck. If the 3,600+ voting so far in the “Was This Fair?” poll on the Washington Post are any indication, then the line will be very long as 72% do not think Jordan received a fair shake.
But what’s done is done, and there’s no sense in agonizing over Jordan’s departure. Ernie Grunfeld has earned my trust with his player personnel moves, I see no reason why I shouldn’t trust his coaching decisions.
As much as Gilbert Arenas, I’ll always remember Eddie Jordan for leading a down trodden franchise to the playoffs for four straight seasons. Unfortunately for Eddie, he may always remember being
a victim of The Curse O’ Les Boulez.
It’s not Jordan’s fault the Wizards suffered major injuries this season and committed over $100 million to an injury prone (former) superstar guard. Eddie Jordan, in actuality, proved he can lead a decent roster well into the Playoffs. However, when a team starts off 1-10, the coach almost always has to go—justified or not. -Ryne Nelson, Slam
The Washington Wizards were 1-10. They were not responding to the pleas and degrading comments of the man who brought respectability and excitement to professional basketball in Washington. -JC, Stet Sports
Jordan was fired now because GM Ernie Grunfeld decided the team had gone as far as it could with Jordan and was now regressing. Grunfeld is a realist, so he won’t expect miracles from Tapscott. A pretty bad team that doesn’t embarrass itself most nights would be enough. That’s probably all we should expect, too. -Spence, DC Pro Sports Report
Eddie’s legacy is one of consistency and playoff appearances. He was never able to get this team over the hump, but he’ll be remembered more for the good he did for this franchise. He’s a good man, a solid coach and a great Washingtonian, but it was time to move in a new direction. -Mr. Irrelevant Interview with Unsilent Majority
For more reactions and next steps, tune to Washington’s NBC4 at 5, or visit NBCWashington.com.
[photo source: flickr/wizardsdotcom]