Philadelphia 76ers

Can Eddie Jordan save the Sixers?

On Monday, Ed Stefanski will have a press conference and introduce Eddie Jordan as the new Sixers head coach. And, as with most things Sixers related, the hiring of Eddie Jordan will be greeted by a collective yawn from Philly sports fans.

It’s not that Eddie Jordan is a bad coach. Unfortunately, he’s not a good enough coach to get butts in seats at the empty Wachovia Center. In fact, you could argue that Eddie Jordan is the perfect fit for the Sixers. His career coaching record is 230-288 and in his last three years with the Wizards (not including 2008-2009), he steered Washington to a 126-120 record and lost in the first round of the playoffs from 2005 to 2008. That’s Sixers basketball right there.

While the Brand signing might turn out to be a big bust, there was a buzz surrounding the Sixers during the last offseason. A team that looked like an up and coming team just signed the most coveted free agent in the NBA and basketball fans here were optimistic going into the 2008 season. This year: nothing.

In fact, the whole head coach hiring process might have turned some fans off.

Everyone knew that Ed Stefanski was going to hire Eddie Jordan. Stefanski knew it. Jordan knew it. The kid who mops the sweat off the floor knew it. So why was there some big show of bringing in a parade of candidates for what was essentially a filled position. Considering the history between Stefanski and Jordan, there was no open slot. Kurt Rambis, Jeff Van Gundy, Tom Thibodeau… they had no chance.

Listen, we know that cronyism is alive and well in every facet of life. Hell, it’s how I’ve gotten most of my jobs. But Stefanski could’ve saved us all a lot of time by just announcing Eddie Jordan as his coach when Tony DiLeo stepped down. But that’s just me being cynical. Perhaps Chris Ford really did have a shot at the head coaching job.

In a town where basketball might fall behind Major League Soccer next year, Eddie Jordan just isn’t enough of a marquee hire to get anyone to buy tickets. Of course, winning will bring the fans to the games but Eddie Jordan isn’t a good enough coach to turn this ship around — especially if Brand doesn’t recover from his shoulder surgery and give you 20 and 10 every night.

If you have a proven coach, with a ring or two, the fans might tolerate another .500 season if they think the new coach’s system is going to improve the team in the immediate future. But Eddie Jordan? Granted the Sacramento team he coached was dreadful but the Wizards teams he coached had just as much talent as what you see on the Sixers current roster. I’m just not convinced that Eddie Jordan is the guy to wring the most effort and wins out of this mess.

But… hope springs eternal. So let me give you the glass half full analysis of the Eddie Jordan hiring.

Eddie Jordan likes to run the NBA version of the Princeton offense. If you watched the famous #13 Princeton upset of #4 UCLA in the 1996 with Pete Carril at the helm, you know that the Princeton offense is predicated on smart plays, lots of motion, and backdoor cuts that reward the smart teams and gets the most out of less athleticism. The fact that Jordan was able to convince Stefanski that he could run this offense with the current Sixers roster is amazing. Selling snow to eskimos.

Because I don’t think Stefanski is an idiot, I have to conclude that some changes are coming: 1) Elton Brand, with his tremendous basketball IQ, is expected to come back strong from his injury; 2) Willie Green will not be our starting two guard; and 3) Sammy Dalembert, with his negative basketball IQ is going to be marginalized next season. All welcome news to Sixers fans.

I’ve come to accept that there is no one out there stupid enough to trade for Samuel Dalembert, even if the Sixers pick up part of his salary. So unless Dalembert somehow grows a brain, the Sixers must suck it up and count his salary and cap space as a sunk cost. Like the Phillies with Adam Eaton, sometimes you just have to cut your losses. I realize he’s an athletic center with a huge wingspan but the less you count on Sammy to do anything, the better off you are.

If Jordan can teach and run an offense where the ball gets spread around and players take high percentage shots or get easy layups off backdoor cuts, then the Sixers might just rise up out of the mediocrity that they’re mired in.

And while the cynic in me says that there’s no way Willie Green, Lou Williams or even Iguodala is going to make these open shots, the optimist in me says that this hiring is a good thing because it will force Stefanski to resign Miller and somehow acquire a real shooting guard who can hit the open shot when it comes his way.

My initial reaction when I heard about the Jordan hiring was, “whoop de damn doo.” After a couple of days to digest it, I’m still yawning but I can see where this might actually work. If Stefanski can finagle some new pieces, the Sixers just might get out of the first round. And if not, it’s time for Ed to pack his bags.

By Vin

Vin is a Philly boy who shouldn't be invited into your house because he'll judge you on your book and music collection. He owns Dawkins, Utley, Iverson, and Lindros jerseys, which is all you really need to know about him. He can be reached at [email protected].

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