“I always said, ‘This is my piece of heaven,’ ” Jordan said of New Jersey. “I love D.C. I don’t want people to get that wrong. But for the most part, I’ve always thought if I could coach at Rutgers, that would be my dream job and that would be the only college I would coach at.”
Jordan left Rutgers after four years on Wenzel’s staff to become an assistant in the NBA with Sacramento in 1992. He was promoted to coach five years later. The former football and basketball standout at Carroll later took over his hometown Wizards in 2003 and guided them to four consecutive playoff appearances, including their only series victory in the past 31 years, before being dismissed after a 1-10 start in 2008. The Wizards haven’t made the postseason since firing Jordan.
Between 2010, when Jordan was fired after one forgettable season as coach of the Philadelphia 76ers, and last fall, when he accepted a job as an assistant with the Lakers, Jordan said he “went underground.” He coached the eighth-grade team of his youngest son, Jackson, and the freshman team at Carroll. He also led the 17-and-under team of prominent AAU program D.C. Assault to a national title.
“I had so much fun. Probably the best year and a half of basketball in my life. It really was. Not probably, it was,” Jordan said. “Those three or four experiences were some of the greatest in my life basketball-wise.”
Jordan said the experience solidified a decision he had made following his dismissal by Philadelphia.
“I do not want to be a head coach in the NBA,” said Jordan, who had the fifth-highest winning percentage (.468) of any coach with at least two full seasons in Wizards-Bullets franchise history.
“It’s not a fair fight,” Jordan said of coaching in the NBA. “Whether it’s against the bully or whoever, you want a fair fight. You don’t want to fight the guy and the guy behind you trips you up and you didn’t see him. . . . A fair fight for me was when I could sit down with [late Wizards owner Abe] Pollin one-on-one, and I could tell him the state of the team and how I felt and my plan. That was a fair fight. That’s when I felt good. That’s when I felt everything was in place. But I didn’t have it after a certain amount of years.”
Jordan accepted the job as an assistant to Lakers Coach Mike Brown, believing he would take on an advisory role similar to the one performed by Tex Winter, who helped Phil Jackson win nine NBA titles.
“We could win championships, and I could sit there . . . and I could retire in the sunset, but it didn’t go that way,” Jordan said.
Brown was fired after five games, and while Jordan stayed on staff, the Lakers were swept in the first round of the playoffs.
“I’m glad he landed on his two feet because he’s a basketball man,” said Pete Carril, the former Princeton coach who mentored Jordan when both worked together in Sacramento. “He’s coached in the pros long enough. He’s knows basketball, and he’s going to a place that he knows and he has great feelings and great fondness for. The game is a little different than it was in the pros but not substantially. You can adjust. I think he’s going to be fine.”