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April 18, 2013

The inside slant on Eddie Jordan





Former Scarlet Knight point guard and ex-NBA head coach Eddie Jordan is expected to be named as the new Rutgers head coach, taking over the reins of his alma mater. With yet another new regime taking hold in Piscataway, fans are still wondering the same question: Will this be the coach to lead the Scarlet Knights back to the NCAA Tournament? With that question in mind, we will take a look at some of the qualities of a top college coach and see how Jordan measures up.

Recruiting ties/AAU connections - Make no mistake about it, recruiting is the lifeblood of any college head coach. Here is where Jordan's resume is interesting. As a former coach in the DC Assault staff and native of the district, Jordan boasts tremendous ties in the DMV area. However, in the New York metro and Philadelphia regions, he is less of a known commodity. While his name is recognized, he doesn't have strong connections to various high school and AAU programs in these territories. For example, when Scarlet Nation asked coaches from five different New York/New Jersey/Philadelphia AAU programs to pick a qualified candidate from the initial Scarlet Nation hot board, none mentioned Jordan.

If hired, Jordan will need to work quickly and efficiently to build up his recruiting bona fides in these three key hotbeds.

Procuring the right staff of assistants could go a long way in expediting that process, and keeping the two in-house options of Dave Cox and Van Macon provides Rutgers continuity on the recruiting trail.

According to Alex Kline, publisher of therecruitscoop.com, Jordan will have to sell take advantage of his NBA ties to "sell" recruits on playing for the Scarlet Knights.

"NBA is what every kid wants to go to," said Kline. "That is why they play college ball. They don't just go for the scholarship, they go to play professionally. The fact that he had some experience coaching at the AAU level helps since he has experience coaching kids. At the end of the day, they are still kids. The positives are his connections to the NBA. He is an established name with an established reputation."

College coaching experience - Probably Jordan's biggest weakness. He has never been a college head coach and was last an assistant at the level in the 1990's. One good thing about his lack of collegiate experience is that this possible red flag on his resume ties into possibly his best attribute as a head coach, which is…

Ties to NBA/next level - Simply put, no candidate Rutgers could have considered would've brought more to the table in this category. Not only did Jordan play eight seasons in the league from 1977 to 1984, but here is a laundry list of well-known names he's worked with during his two-plus decades as a head and assistant coach: Mitch Richmond, Gilbert Arenas, Antawn Jamison, Caron Butler, Andre Iguodala, Elton Brand, Richard Jefferson, Kenyon Martin and most notably, Allen Iverson, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Dwight Howard and Jason Kidd. When dealing with prospective student athletes, the question of "Does this guy know what it takes to make it to and succeed at the next level?" would be an easy answer for Jordan.

"The [benefit] of Eddie Jordan is the fact that he has been a pro coach before," said Alex Kline, publisher of therecruitscoop.com. "He knows what it takes. The players will know he has done this before. He has a great rapport with NBA GM's and such, Players want to get to the NBA, and he knows what it takes."

Head coaching experience - Jordan has served as head coach for an even 600 games at the professional level. His record as an NBA coach (257-343, .428 winning percentage) isn't noteworthy, but he did lead the Washington Wizards to four consecutive playoff berths from 2005 to 2008. During his time in Washington, Sacramento and Philadelphia, he's had to deal with wide-ranging personalities at the highest level of the sport, which should serve him well in college.

However, as Kline noted, coaching at the college level offers a different set of challenges than coaching at the professional level.

"Will he be able to make that transition?" asked Kline. "He has to be a father figure on some level. He has to coach them, teach them and guide them in some way, and that is a big difference between college and NBA players.

"They will be college kids, and they will be immature and not working as hard as they could be. So it will be a tough balance. The fact that he had some experience coaching the AAU level helps since he has experience coaching kids. At the end of the day, they are still kids."

Style of Play - Jordan is a renowned proponent of the Princeton offense, which would be a radical shift from the preferred scheme of former head coach Mike Rice. It is a system of constant motion, often beginning out of a 4-around-1 set and requiring lots of interchangeability from its players, putting pressure on the defense from multiple angles. Backdoor cuts and three-point shots are staples of this offense, and the current Scarlet Knights know it from defending opponents like Princeton and Georgetown on a yearly basis. While the Princeton style has a reputation for being played at a grind-it-out, slow pace, Jordan served as the architect of a New Jersey Nets offense which finished in the top half of the NBA in scoring and reached back-to-back NBA Finals in 2002 and 2003.

Kline isn't so sure that the Princeton offense will be a hit with the recruits that Rutgers will covet.

"Most kids these days don't want to be in a Georgetown or Princeton style offense," said Kline. "I don't think they will relate to that. Especially the northeast guys; they want to run up and down the court. So I think it is a bit of a disadvantage for Rutgers. I don't see how they can compete with Georgetown and the Big 10 schools for those players."

However, it should be noted, that multiple former DC Assault colleagues of Jordan's told Scarlet Nation that he will be flexible in his implementation of the Princeton scheme, and will adapt to the roster he has.

Ability to relate to players - At 58 years old, Jordan isn't necessarily of the optimal age to relate to today's players. However, he is a Rutgers alumni, who knows what it is like to play (and win) for the Scarlet Knights. As current point guard Myles Mack publicly tweeted Saturday night, Jordan is a member of the Rutgers family. He is also one of a small number of African-American head coaches at the BCS level.

"Jim Boeheim can't always relate to the kids at his age, but he has great assistants so that, by the time they get to him, he doesn't have to sell him [on playing for Syracuse], said Kline. "The assistants can say 'My boss is a former NBA coach, he has all those NBA connections, and if you come here, he can get you there.' I don't think age is a factor here. He just needs young, dedicated assistants who have established relationships who can vouch for him.


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