By Dan Gelston
ABOVE PHOTO: 76ers coach Eddie Jordan reacting to a foul call in the in the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Miami Heat, Monday, April 12, 2010, in Philadelphia. The Heat won 107-105.
(AP Photo/Michael Perez)
Eddie Jordan and his Princeton offense were a flop in Philadelphia.
Team president and general manager Ed Stefanski fired Jordan last Thursday after one season as coach, saying the Sixers took an “unacceptable” step backward after two straight seasons in the playoffs.
“What I thought would happen, did not occur,” Stefanski said. “The decision was not the right one.”
Jordan is finished after a woefully underachieving season that had the Sixers near the bottom of the Eastern Conference. Jordan was hired last summer and sold his Princeton offense as the way to turn them into contenders.
Instead, players were unhappy with his system almost from the start and the Sixers struggled to put together any kind of winning streaks. The Sixers finished 27-55 and missed the playoffs for the first time in three years.
The Sixers will look for their fourth coach in three seasons. Stefanski, who’s been under fire for a series of ill-fated decisions, said he still has management’s support and will hire the next coach.
“We’re not starting over,” Stefanski said. “We took a step backward.”
Stefanski hired Jordan last May. Jordan, who starred at Rutgers, had ties with Stefanski from their four seasons together with the New Jersey Nets. Jordan, who was fired last season by Washington, has two years left on his contract and is owed $6 million.
Jordan said last Wednesday he was “not concerned” about his job security before the Sixers lost to the Magic 125-111 to end the season. Jordan had said he anticipated a team meeting, player-exit meetings and taking his staff out to lunch.
“If you want to be judged alone on the record, then we are where we are,” Jordan said. “But as far as track record, as far as how the league works, as far as evaluating your personnel, maybe we need more time.”
He won’t get any more.
Jordan’s dismissal had been widely speculated for months. His hire was panned by fans and media from the day he arrived and the players never warmed to the Princeton offense.
Marreese Speights, Thaddeus Young and Lou Williams were among the promising core of young players whose progress took a major step back this season. Elton Brand hasn’t performed up to the $80 million contract Stefanski gave him two summers ago, Samuel Dalembert was his usual erratic self and Andre Iguodala continued to prove he can’t carry the franchise.
The decision to bring back former franchise great Allen Iverson was a short-lived bust.
“Overall, we were confused,” Dalembert said last Thursday. “A lot of guys were confused. We didn’t know what was going to happen each day.”
The Sixers could undergo a roster shakeup.
“We will have to make changes, no question,” Stefanski said.
Philadelphia was the Eastern Conference’s No. 6 seed last season, eliminated in the first round by the Magic in six games. Now the Sixers are headed for the draft lottery. Their only key loss was point guard Andre Miller.
“They judged the team from their performance last year and the personnel lost,” Jordan said. “Obviously, the personnel changed, maybe, maybe expectations should change. Maybe.”
Brand was healthy for the first time in three years, but the power forward who was once a 20-10 regular, was often benched for long stretches and crucial fourth quarters. Jordan openly criticized Brand and Dalembert’s effort and missing defensive awareness after a loss last week.
No one expected the Sixers to contend for the Eastern Conference title. But this kind of steep drop-off was a surprise.
“Forget the Princeton offense, we should have been focused on defense,” Dalembert said.
This move could be seen coming in January when Stefanski refused to say Jordan’s job was safe for the rest of the season with the team off to a 10-25 start, nor did he offer a single word of praise for his first-year coach.
Jordan had a 230-288 record as coach of the Washington Wizards and Sacramento Kings, but Stefanski gave him a three-year deal.