The movers will be at Jim Brovelli's Bethesda apartment this morning, loading up for his move back to the San Francisco area. He's not only out after serving as interim coach of the Washington Wizards for 18 games, he's out of work.
The Wizards' 2 1/2-month search to find a head coach left Brovelli making daily calls in search of employment and gave Gar Heard his first full-time head coaching position.
It is the circle of life for NBA coaches.
After Wizards General Manager Wes Unseld fired Bernie Bickerstaff on April 5, his aim was to find a selfless person who put the team before himself, who would spend the necessary time preparing for practices and games and who possessed the ability to convey his knowledge to players. Washington had gone through three coaches since 1997 and made the playoffs once during that time, so Unseld sought someone who could gain and hold the respect of the team.
"This was about finding the right guy for this team," he said. "I knew the questions I wanted to ask, who I wanted to talk to and what I was looking for."
One of the first names on his list was that of Heard, an assistant with the Detroit Pistons. Heard's name ended up being the last remaining after Unseld interviewed at least 10 candidates. Among them were Philadelphia 76ers assistant Maurice Cheeks, former Charlotte Hornets coach Dave Cowens, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, television analyst Glenn "Doc" Rivers, former Maryland star Buck Williams and Brovelli.
Heard was one of four finalists, along with former George Washington and current St. John's coach Mike Jarvis and former Notre Dame coach John MacLeod. The fourth was a high-profile figure who emerged late in the search: Isiah Thomas, the former Detroit Pistons all-star.
Thomas, an NBC studio analyst who served as general manager and minority owner of the Toronto Raptors from 1994 to 1997, was a surprising candidate. He had never coached and had never publicly expressed an interest in doing so.
Yet when Bickerstaff was fired and team owner Abe Pollin agreed to sell part of the team to America Online executive Ted Leonsis in early May, Thomas saw an opportunity to bring a struggling franchise into a new era in the nation's most powerful city -- as a coach.
By late May, Unseld had interviewed Heard after waiting until the Pistons were eliminated from the playoffs.
Once the Wizards learned of Thomas's interest, he met with Unseld the first week in June. Unseld was impressed with Thomas's knowledge of the game and approach to coaching. His status as one of the game's all-time great players also was a plus for a team that had made the playoffs once in the past 11 seasons and sold out two of 25 home games last season.
Thomas's interview with Pollin days later went so well that Unseld told Thomas that he expected contract negotiations to begin within a few days, according to Thomas. Things never got that far.
In the days after Unseld called Thomas, both Heard and MacLeod met with Pollin and team president Susan O'Malley at the NBA's pre-draft camp in Chicago during the second week of June, an indication that the Wizards perhaps had cooled on the idea of hiring Thomas.
Adding to the possible change of heart was Heard's interview with Pollin, which left the team owner "blown away," Pollin said.
It also was an interview that left the Wizards caught between choosing Thomas, whose famous name and charisma could sell tickets, or Heard, whom they believed was better for the job.
It came down to a gut feeling, Pollin said. Heard was the man.
"The next time I heard from them, Wes told me they were going in a different direction," said Thomas, who said Unseld's final call came more than a week after he was told of the pending negotiations.
Several sources who declined to be identified said some people around the league warned Washington management that Thomas could pose problems. They told the Wizards' brass that Thomas was ambitious and could try to maneuver his way into higher positions within the franchise.
Thomas acknowledged that there are people in the NBA that don't like him. He said he did not know if anyone tried to sabotage his chances but said he has numerous friends in the league who could have countered any negative information spread by others.
"You may not have liked what I had to say to you," Thomas said, "but no one can ever say that I lied to them."
Thomas, who said Unseld expressed concern about his motives in taking a coaching job, said he tried to assure Wizards management that his lone objective was to coach the team.
"He made it clear that was his only objective," Unseld said.
But in the end, Unseld said, Thomas's lack of coaching experience may have hurt his chances the most. The three other finalists had a combined 57 years of coaching experience on the college and pro levels.
"I felt I needed somebody that could teach," Unseld said.
Heard's knowledge developed over 11 seasons as an NBA player and 12 seasons as an assistant under MacLeod and Larry Brown, among others, and his ability to convey that wisdom put him over the top, in Unseld's eyes.
"You can know everything there is, but if you can't get it across to the players it doesn't mean a thing," Unseld said. "That's a part of [Heard's] strength."
Said Brown of his former assistant: "The guys may not know a lot about him, but I'll tell you, after one week they'll all love playing for him. He's loyal, he's fair and he has a lot of knowledge about the game. I know I benefited being around him."
Thomas, Jarvis and MacLeod all had strong attributes, Unseld said, and all of the finalists except Jarvis had multiple interviews, including at least one with Pollin.
Washington wanted to set up a second interview with Jarvis, but he informed the Wizards that he was not ready to leave St. John's after just one season, according to a source.
MacLeod, who had coached three NBA teams but had been out of the pros since 1991, piqued the Wizards' interest late in the process, but their interest in Heard, MacLeod's former player and coaching pupil, was stronger.
"I've always known I could coach, now I've got the chance," Heard said.
In his first few weeks on the job, Heard watched hours of tape of draft prospects. He also worked out six players, including Connecticut guard Richard Hamilton, whom the Wizards selected with the seventh overall pick.
For now, Heard is living in a Washington area hotel. He has been too busy to look for a place to live, unlike Brovelli.
"I've got nothing but time," Brovelli said. "Nothing but time."
CAPTION: Gar Heard won the Wizards' head coaching position over finalists Jim brovelli, Isiah Thomas, John MacLeod and Mike Jarvis.
CAPTION: Jim Brovelli, seen with Otis Thorpe, finished his second season as a Wizards assistant as interim head coach. He applied to stay, but now is job hunting.
CAPTION: Jim Brovelli finished his second season as a Washington Wizards assistant coach as interim head coach. He applied to stay, but now is job hunting.