The Washington Wizards expected a stern approach from Gar Heard when he was hired as the 14th coach in team history. And yesterday, on the first day of the team's free agent and rookie camp, the players got what they expected.
"It's a totally new system here. For [Heard] to work us as hard as he is, it's like a total different stage," said forward Randell Jackson, who played in 27 games last season as a rookie. "And he isn't afraid to run us. He expects us to get something out of every practice."
Washington's 18-player summer league team is practicing at MCI Center through Sunday, when the team will leave for Boston for the first of six summer league games. Four members of the team played for Washington last season: Jackson and centers John Coker, Jahidi White and Lorenzo Williams. Williams, who missed the 1999 season with stress fractures in both feet, will not make the trip to Boston because he is a veteran.
The rest of the camp's participants are free agents invited to the minicamp by the Wizards, along with second-round draft pick Calvin Booth.
Washington's first-round draft pick, Richard Hamilton, will miss the practices because he is with the U.S. national team that is attempting to qualify for the 2000 Olympics at the Tournament of the Americas in Puerto Rico. Hamilton will join the rest of the players in Boston.
Heard, 51, is an NBA head coach for the first time since serving as interim coach of the Dallas Mavericks for 53 games in 1993.
"I was never nervous that I wouldn't get the chance," he said. "I was always nervous that another year had passed by and I wasn't getting any younger. I always felt that eventually I'd get an opportunity, but I didn't think that it would take this long. You have to kind of wait and be patient and I think by waiting this long the right situation came up for me."
Heard describes himself as a collage of the head coaches whom he has played for and coached with, including Larry Brown, Jack Ramsay, John MacLeod and Lenny Wilkens.
"I've got a little bit of everybody in me," Heard said. "You always try to steal something that's going to help you. . . .
"But overall, you have to bring your own philosophy. You can't win with anyone else's philosophy but your own. If you don't believe in yourself, then you're not going to make it."