Last year, Eddie Jordan was pretty far from the NBA bench in Los Angeles where he has been working this season. He was back home, in Washington, D.C., coaching the 17-under team for the well-known AAU program DC Assault, as well as the freshman team at his alma mater, Archbishop Carroll High School.
"That has to say a lot about a guy, who is willing to deal with some kids who probably had a low IQ for the game," DC Assault founder Curtis Malone said of Jordan's gig at Archbishop Carroll. "He's just a great person who loves kids. He's a genuine guy. Great, great guy."
As the president of the DC Assault, Malone had the chance to observe Jordan's teaching methods up close. The ex-head coach of three NBA franchises, including the hometown Wizards, Jordan didn't have a prior connection with any ,member of his roster, but Malone said he treated and instructed all players equally.
"He's a big time fundamental guy. He believes in coaching the game the way it's supposed to be played," Malone said. "He's a perfectionist. He wants it to be done right. He wants the kids to understand how the game is played. You just don't get that as much in today's society. When you look at SportsCenter, all you see is 3-point shots and dunks in highlights. He's a guy that teaches the game."
Matt Parker coached the 16-under squad for DC Assault last year, and his teams often played before Jordan's in the same AAU tournaments. Because of this, he got to see the 58-year old's work with young players firsthand.
"It was breathtaking for me, because I got to see somebody do basketball and do passion at the same time," Parker said. "It was like he was a young coach."
As Jordan enters the final round of negotiations with Rutgers officials, one of the concerns some fans have with him as a potential head coach is his history with the Princeton offense. Jordan learned the scheme from Pete Carril when both were coaching with the Sacramento Kings, but even Carril, the renowned guru of the system, told New Jersey Press Media this week Jordan will likely have to ditch or modify the Princeton style if he takes over the helm at Rutgers.
According to Parker, Jordan taught his DC Assault team the basic principles of the Princeton offense, while also allowing plenty of wiggle room for the modern athlete. It is a technique Malone says he is sure Jordan will be able to utilize at Rutgers.
"I'm quite sure that Eddie's a bright enough coach that he can adjust to any situation that he feels like he needs to," Malone said. "He's a bright guy who understands it and I think he can really do anything and make it right for the kids and make the system work.
"One thing with running the Princeton, even with coaching DC Assault, he allowed the players freedom. It wasn't just 'cut backdoor." I just think that with anything, if you get the right players, it can work on any level. I think that's been proven by a lot of successful coaches. I just think you have to be able to add a couple of different components to your offense according to the players you have. I think Eddie's good enough to realize what he needs to do and what he can't do."
Assuming he is hired, given his natural ties to the DC, Maryland, Virginia areas, Jordan will likely be a boon for Rutgers in mining those territories for talent. The key for him will then be cultivating relationships within the New York/New Jersey/Philadelphia corridor and using them to pluck players to help his program.
It's a task Jordan likely wouldn't be undertaking alone.
"I think that most guys who take jobs, I think you can be a great coach but I believe that you have to hire and make sure you pick the right staff," Malone said. "I think that's most important. With most schools that are successful, most of their guys can go and recruit in a lot of different areas. Or you have a guy or two who specializes in one or two areas. I think that will come down to--if he gets the job--who he would hire on his staff who has the ties to these areas that he needs to recruit in."
No matter what the pros and cons are surrounding Jordan, he will be taking over a program facing a wealth of challenges if he and Rutgers hammer out a deal. In Parker's eyes, he will be able to defeat those obstacles, however numerous they may be.
"He will be successful. He would be successful if he was at a Division V school, a place that doesn't exist, because of his passion and the mind he has for the game."