Kobe Bryant sought Eddie Jordan out.
He knew the Lakers needed a new, structured offense and Jordan was the one who brought the Princeton offense to the NBA. And, Jordan instituted it getting lots of open shots for Bryant and company. However, injuries got the Lakers off to a bad start, and Jordan's role was basically tossed out when the Lakers decided to hire Mike D'Antoni.
Which lead me to wonder what happened to Jordan at his NBA head coaching spots and why he got fired. Could these stories lead to a problem for Jordan at Rutgers early on?
It seems NBA players with the Wizards and the 76ers did not like the Princeton Offense. Elton Brand certainly didn't like the offense, saying the 76ers didn't have the right personnel for Jordan. Jordan was fired after just one year in Philadelphia.
However, during a 4-plus year run in Washington, Jordan took an often undermanned or injured team and got them to the playoffs four years in a row. Jordan was fired in his fifth year after a 1-10 start. This time, the players didn't seem to complain as much as get injured and ownership felt they needed to do something.
I tend to believe that a lot of NBA players run the league, rather than coaches. If players don't like the offense being run, they're going to run the coach out. That seems to be what happened in Philly. Meanwhile, in Washington, once success ran its course, the same thing seemed to happen. Same with the Lakers.
The perception is the Princeton offense is slow. It doesn't have to be played that way, but that's the perception. Players, NBA or otherwise, don't want to play for a team that doesn't look to score as much as possible.
So, what does this say about Jordan coaching Rutgers to success?
First, if you notice, Jordan has toned down talk of the Princeton offense. In his introductory press conference, Jordan talked about turning defense into offense and keeping everything fast paced. When Matt Hladik talked to D'Von Campbell, Campbell said they were focused on easy passes and fast breaks.
That doesn't mean the Princeton offense is going to be abandoned by Jordan. Jerry Carino looks at who Rutgers is recruiting and speculates that players who can play multiple positions fit the Princeton scheme. It's what Jordan knows, and it's how he's always coached. Look at the Nets when Jordan was there in the early 2000s. The Nets ran the fast break, and when that failed, they moved into a fast paced Princeton style.
But the key comes from why Jordan was fired by the 76ers. Those players didn't want to play the Princeton offense, so it stumbled and Jordan was let go. There was no buy-in.
And under previous coaches, the buy-in has always been a problem. In two of Gary Waters' five years, the buy-in and chemistry was so bad, the team floundered at the bottom of the Big East. None of the players ever bought into Fred Hill's system, and the team was marred by one player wanting to take over the game time and time again. Mike Rice's first year was eye-opening because his seniors fell in line and played the right way. When the big time seven man class entered, buy-in was the major problem. Talent won them some games, but a lack of smart plays and inexperience cost them a lot more (though it seems like Rice's teams were also hurt by other national news story type problems).
So, here comes Eddie Jordan to save the day. He has built a team that is experienced, but haven't learned Jordan's system yet. He needs to get college players to buy in. They can't be Divas and want to take over. Jordan has to get the Rutgers team to play like that.
If this happens, Jordan can be successful quickly. There is talent and balance on the roster. But if the kids don't like what Jordan is selling, watch out.
Early on, however, it appears they do like what he was selling. The key evidence of this is Jerome Seagears returning to the squad after transferring. Someone must have told Seagears how different Rutgers was now. Meanwhile, Logan Kelley has gone on record to say how fun workouts have been. And recruits seem to be buying what Jordan is selling.
Early results are positive. Jordan is saying the right things to the players, and they're enjoying it. Jordan needs to succeed where other Rutgers coaches failed.
The true test will be on the court. What happens when the team doesn't succeed early on (if they don't succeed early on). What happens if/when there's a losing streak? Do the players still believe in their coach? Or does the freelancing start again, as players try to be heroes?
Jordan's first 100 days have been a great success. But the true wins come on the court. And the wins will only come if some college guys buy into Jordan's system better than some NBA divas did.