Saturday, May 30, 2009

Farce in Philly

By John McMullen

Philadelphia, PA (The Phanatic Magazine) - When Eddie Jordan was fired by the Washington Wizards in November of last year, I quickly told my co-workers he would be the Philadelphia 76ers next full-time coach.

Not exactly a bold prediction.

Jordan was the lead assistant with the New Jersey Nets for four seasons when Ed Stefanski was an executive with the organization. The Nets went to the Finals twice during that time, in 2002 and 03, and it's no secret in NBA circles how much respect Stefanski has for Jordan.

That's why the Sixers recent coaching search bothered me.

It's not that I think Jordan is a bad coach, but he was Stefanski's choice from the get-go and the Sixers' GM never showed the courage of his convictions.

Instead, Stefanski went through a vetting process that can only be described as a public relations campaign, designed to fend off the notoriously tough Philadelphia media.

Big names who have an intent on returning to the NBA's coaching ranks like Doug Collins, Jeff Van Gundy and Avery Johnson all showed interest in the Sixers' position but were never interviewed.

In Stefanski's defense, Comcast-Spectacor big shots Ed Snider, one of the most overrated owners in all of sports, and Peter Luukko would not have opened up the checkbook for another big name coach in the City of Brotherly Love.

The thought process there is understandable. The Sixers may be paying more ex- coaches than players at this point. Since Larry Brown fled the organization in 2003, Randy Ayers, Chris Ford, Jim O'Brien, Maurice Cheeks and Tony DiLeo have all roamed the sidelines in the City of Brotherly Love. No truth to the rumors Comcast is still cutting checks to Doug Moe and Alex Hannum, however

A "big ticket item" was never an option for Stefanski so he settled on candidates that would make Jordan and his extensive NBA coaching experience look good.

Current assistants Tom Thibodeau, Kurt Rambis and Dwane Casey were brought in for interviews as were Ford, who still works for the Sixers as a scout, and Villanova mentor Jay Wright.

Locally, Wright was the big story because of his success on the Main Line but his "interview" was another publicity stunt. While few doubt Wright has NBA aspirations, the 'Nova mentor has built a solid resume that will let him cherry-pick a far better gig and only took the Sixers interview as a courtesy to Stefanski, his personal friend.

In the end, Stefanski finally pulled the trigger late Friday night, naming his old bobo the Sixers head coach and giving him a three-year deal, worth $8.1 million. Not exactly chump change but certainly far less than a Collins, Van Gundy or Johnson would have commanded, and much less than the $4 million Jordan himself was earning in D.C.

"I saw first-hand the immense impact Eddie Jordan had in helping the Nets reach two NBA Finals and as the head coach in Washington, he consistently put his teams in a position to win on a nightly basis," Stefanski said after confirming the seal. "He embodies all the qualities I was looking for in the next head coach of the Sixers and we are very excited to have him in Philadelphia."

Maybe I would be excited too -- if Stefanski only had the courage of his rather obvious convictions.

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