Wizards Fire Jordan After Rough Start
Tapscott Will Coach Remainder of Season
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
When Ed Tapscott arrived at Verizon Center yesterday morning around 7:15, he immediately began analyzing video with Washington Wizards assistant coach Randy Ayers. That's nothing unusual for the director of player development.
Eddie Jordan also came to work early to begin preparations for the day's practice and to join his wife, Charrisse, on F Street in front of the arena handing out turkeys and other food to needy families for Thanksgiving at a team-sponsored charitable event.
Within an hour, the lives of both men -- each natives of the District -- would dramatically change.
About 8 a.m., Jordan walked into team president Ernie Grunfeld's office on the Verizon Center's second floor to learn he had been fired after a little more than five seasons as the Wizards' head coach. Within minutes, Wizards vice president of basketball administration Tommy Sheppard poked his head inside Tapscott's office and told him to come upstairs because Grunfeld wanted to see him.
Grunfeld then stunned Tapscott by asking him to replace Jordan as the Wizards' interim coach. Tapscott accepted, and like that, the onetime head coach at American University was an NBA head coach for the first time in his career.
"It was a surreal moment," Tapscott said at a news conference yesterday afternoon announcing the change. "I get out of bed this morning, come in and start looking at tape like I do every morning. Then it starts to sink in when you have to go out there with your practice plan in hand and you have to direct practice. It's still sinking in, but there's a lot of work to do."
Jordan, meanwhile, the third-winningest coach in franchise history, left Verizon Center quietly. He was not available to reporters and did not return phone calls. Although it did not come as a surprise given the Wizards' woeful start to this season, the dismissal of the popular coach saddened his players, who said they felt they had let him down.
"I was shocked. Why would I not be shocked?," all-star forward Antawn Jamison curtly told reporters after hearing the news. "The team is 1-10, not the coaching staff. Next question."
The team Tapscott inherits has already matched the 1966-67 Baltimore Bullets for the worst start in franchise history, ranks near the bottom of the league in several major statistical categories and is coming off an embarrassing loss to the New York Knicks on Saturday night.
Grunfeld touched on many topics while explaining the decision to fire Jordan, but he kept coming back to the team's dismal 1-10 record.
"We have not performed up to our abilities," said Grunfeld, who has acquired every player on the 15-man roster, with the exception of center Etan Thomas. "We have two all-stars on this team, some talented young players and some savvy veterans and we have to get them to play at a higher level. A change had to be made."
Jordan, who was under contract through next season and is owed about $8 million, tallied a record of 197-224 in a little more than five seasons, led the Wizards to four straight playoff appearances and helped make all-stars out of Jamison, Gilbert Arenas and Caron Butler.