Former Chicago Bulls player and current radio analyst John Paxson was named the team's executive vice president of basketball operations yesterday, all but eliminating the possibility of retiring Washington Wizards guard Michael Jordan returning to his former team in an executive role. Paxson succeeds Jerry Krause, who resigned last week, citing health reasons.
League sources said the Bulls' ownership never directly contacted Jordan about the position once it became vacant. Jordan said late last week he had no conversations with the Bulls about any job. Per NBA rules, no team, including the Wizards, is allowed to talk to Jordan about employment until his player contract expires after the season.
Though some of the Bulls' investors wanted to pursue Jordan, the majority preferred Paxson to head up personnel decisions for the team, a source said. Paxson is expected to share some of his duties with former Bulls player B.J. Armstrong, who has been working in Chicago's front office as an assistant to Krause. Paxson could offer Jordan a position with the Bulls, but it would not figure to have the decision-making latitude Jordan would have if he remains in Washington.
Jordan is fond of Paxson, with whom he played in his first run of three straight championships in the early 1990s. Before hiring Doug Collins to coach the Wizards before the 2001-2002 season, Jordan tried to persuade Paxson to coach the team. Paxson declined, citing personal reasons.
Once Krause resigned, there was speculation Jordan would be considered for a position with the Bulls, for whom he played for 13 seasons and helped win six championships. Jordan's longtime feud with Krause was the main reason cited for Jordan never having worked for the Bulls when he retired for the second time after the 1998 season.
Jordan will meet with Wizards majority owner Abe Pollin after the season about returning as the team's president of basketball operations, a position he held for 19 months before un-retiring before the 2001-2002 season. Jordan plans to retire after Wednesday's season finale at Philadelphia.
Jordan also plans to begin the process of re-acquiring the equity in the franchise with Lincoln Holdings, the ownership group that owns 44 percent of the team.
The expansion Charlotte franchise, which begins play in 2004, is expected to offer Jordan a front-office position as well as an ownership stake but Jordan, as late as yesterday, maintained he would prefer to stay with the Wizards.