Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Ed, Ed and Eddie

The NBA playoffs are in full swing, the Phillies have blown their first regular season home series, and the NFL Draft is this Thursday. All this craziness makes me think of a makeover. Not a Lindsey Lohan makeover, but a makeover to improve multiple team settings. And yes, during the rest of the 2010 spring/summer many sports fans (especially Philly ones) will be praying that Barak Obama’s plan for change will take into effect immediately.

Well for 76ers fans, change has already been made in the form of a newly vacant head coach position. The Sixers fired coach Eddie Jordan on Thursday as expected.

“[This season] was unacceptable.” said 76ers President and General Manager Ed Stefanski.

Hmm, why do you think the season was a setback Ed? Was it because you made great front office decisions but players got injured? Was it the fact that Allen Iverson was the key to turning around the 76ers’ season but had to unfortunately leave due to family/gambling issues? Or was it the fact that you hired your best friend as the head coach of a run-and-gun fastbreaking team, who only knew how to coach the Princeton offense? Oh wait, maybe it was the idea that Jordan didn’t know how to coach defense at all. It might have been the fact that during timeouts this season, Jordan would stand at the elbow across from the Sixers bench while Jim Leinem tried to save a team destined for hell, and then he would nonchalantly walk back to the bench and design a play that would result in either a forced shot by Andre Iguodala, or a turnover and even points for the other team.

Let’s throw all the mathematical, logical, and realistic terminology to the side for a second. Stefanski and Jordan were members of the New Jersey Nets together for four seasons. This draws me to conclude 3 theories:

Most Realistic Unrealistic Theory

Ed Stefanski slowly reclines in is beach chair along the Bahamian beach during the 2009 NBA All-Star break. He just finishes sipping his PiƱa Colada out of a coconut when Eddie Jordan Calls.

Jordan: “Hey Ed. I’m in Phoenix watching the All-Star game. I originally bought the tickets for my wife to watch me coach the Eastern Conference, but apparently the league doesn’t pick losing teams’ coaches to coach the best players in the world for one game. Speaking of the Eastern Conference, I looked at their bench and saw Danny Granger, Devin Harris and Mo Williams, and couldn’t help thinking to myself ‘Wow, Andre Iguodala sure could play with any of those guys, why doesn’t he get any national attention.’”

Stefanski: “You’re telling me that? You’re the first person I know who agrees with me about his contract extension!”

Jordan: “No way, Andre definitely deserves to be the highest paid player on an NBA team. He’s freakishly athletic, shoots 70% from the line, and can win the Slam-Dunk Contest! I’d love for him to be the focus of my Princeton offense.”

Stefanski: “That’s really interesting. I’ve never thought about putting an undisciplined street-balling high flyer in a slow, relaxed and patient half-court offense like the Princeton. That’s crazy. So crazy, it just might work!”

Jordan: “Woah! Lebron just leapfrogged Allen Iverson while finishing an ally-oop from D-Wade. I bet Allen Iverson could put fans in the seats in Philly next season after his contracts ends with the Pistons.”

Stefanski: “You think?

Jordan: “It’s as definite as me winning an NBA Championship within the next three seasons, and you snagging the Exec of the Year next season.”

Stefanski: “Wow Eddie, I forgot about your amazing creativity and ideas back from New Jersey. You made some good points. I’ll tell you what, if Tony DiLeo sets the unofficial record for least amount of words said by a head coach in a NBA Playoff series I’ll bring you into Philly for next year. But if he doesn’t, you have to try to help me figure out how to make the ghost of Elton Brand gel with a young and athletic roster. Deal or no deal?”

Jordan: “Deal. Do we need to ask Howie or David Stern the banker if it’s ok with him?”

Stefanski: “No silly. Stern doesn’t have control over GM’s, I can do whatever I want!”

Ridiculously Unrealistic Theory

Eddie Jordan plops down on his coach with a twenty ounce bowl of heavily salted popcorn in one hand and a six-pack of Bud-Light in the other. Looking down at his new belly, Jordan sighs and thinks to himself; “I need to get a job.” Flicking the Tuesday night TV shows he comes across a rare appearance by the Philadelphia 76ers on national television. Of course the only reason why they are on is because of they are in Los Angeles battling the top team in the Western Conference, the Lakers. After the young and quick Philly team kept the game close through three quarters, Jordan put aside his fifth beer and dropped his empty popcorn bowl on the floor.

Next, Andre Iguodala catches the ball at the top of the key with Kobe Bryant in his face, and stares gaping at the shot clock watching the time tick from 24 seconds all the way down to 5. Jordan now draws himself closer to the screen, surely Iguodala, or Iggy as he likes to refer to him, can’t beat the Lakers by getting past or shooting over one of the greatest players in the history of their franchise. Iggy puts the ball on the floor, crosses over and steps back, Jordan’s heart skips a beat. The ball finds its way through the bottom of the next.

“Wow I must be really wasted if that just happened” Jordan mumbles to himself.

After watching the highlights replayed fifteen times back again, Jordan finally comes to the conclusion that he was in fact wasted, but could still comprehend the outcome of the game. He then proceeds to write a strongly worded e-mail to his old pal Ed Stefanski, the General Manager of the 76ers that went something along the lines of this:

Dear Ed,

Just saw the game wit Iggy’s shot bro, congratu-frickin-lations man! This team is def on the way up and im so proud of you. But watching this game coudent stop me from thinkin how amazin it wood be for us to chill in Philly for the next few years together. I mean u, ed snider and me. Dat’s like the old fave tv show Ed, Edd n Eddy except only it would be Ed, Ed, ad Eddie haha! Woudent dat be sooooooo sweet dude???? Just think bout it cuz im like sooooo siked for next year man n (like the the tv show n instead of and get???) I really want to be in Philly with u and my boy Iggy. Aight dog its been real but I gotta bounce. Need to knock down my sixth beer in an hour so I can just pass out on my couch so I dont have to go clean the toilets at walmart tomoro. Catcha l8ter alligater!

Lots of love,

EJ (or Eddie Jordan if it didn come up in that inbox thing)

Evil Genius Unrealistic Theory

A few weeks after the Philadelphia 76ers blew its 2-1 series lead during their opening round matchup against the Orlando Magic. Ed Stefanski sits in his General Manager’s office somewhere in the Wachovia Center. While stroking his cat, who just so happened to be perched in his lap, Stefanski gazes out his office window that has a few of the team’s home court thinking to himself; “How can I get Tony DiLeo out of his head coaching spot for this upcoming 2009-2010 season after I have already fired Mo Cheeks?” Suddenly it hit him: force DiLeo to “withdraw his name from consideration” of the head coaching vacancy. Perfect.

Followed by an evil laugh, Stefanski then begins to plot who his next coach will be. Should he chose a quiet and soft-spoken man whom he can utterly dominate like a DiLeo, or should he select another evil mastermind that he can collaborate with in order to hatch yet another purely genius plan? Immediately after that thought, Stefanski’s secretary Frau Farbissina forwards him an e-mail with the list of the top head coaches available for the upcoming season and their asking prices. Scanning the list of names one in particularly jumps out at him: Eddie Jordan. Stefanski rapidly begins massaging his temples and the rest of his bald, shiny head brainstorming and pumping out evil schemes in order to leave himself and a potential partner the ones with the last laugh. Then, a second epiphany hits him: Could Jordan and himself singlehandedly lower the 76ers to the depths of the Atlantic Division, ultimately leading to their firing and earning of millions of dollars while sitting on their asses for two years?

Soon, the plan would become reality. Jordan was hired to a 3 year multi-million dollar deal and Stefanski had his pawn in place to lead Jordan and himself to ultimate prosperity while relishing in the Sixers stink bomb. After Lou Williams showed promise in the early goings of the season, Stefanski ordered Jordan to run drills that would purposefully injure him. The plan worked to success. Following that maneuver, Stefanski gained word that Allen Iverson was looking to play again, but all GM’s should beware of his emotional damage and heavy gambling issues. Upon hearing this news Stefanski could only think of one thing: the last missing piece to the puzzle. Adding Iverson would look like a plan to raise ticket-sales when in reality, Iverson’s awful off-court issues and lack of heart in the game infected the entire locker room. Slowly but surely all signs pointed to an Eddie Jordan firing, leaving him unemployed but set to make $6 million over the next two seasons. Stefanski would then plan to either engaging in adultery alongside Tiger Woods, or performing some kind of illegal insider trading within the 76ers (Don’t worry a mastermind such as Stefanski could find a way to make it happen).

Thus in the end, Stefanski and Jordan would be “forced” to spend the next two years on a beach somewhere drinking tequila, while earning nearly $10 million dollars between them, and plotting their next evil scheme.

Now it is obviously clear that I was never a fan of the Eddie Jordan hiring and have never drank the Ed Stefanski cool-aide. I met Stefanksi in a Wachovia Center suite three weeks after he was hired and we talked for a little while about the upcoming off-season. I really appreciated his openness and honesty. However, what he was open and honest about were complete and total red flags. He didn’t tell me straight up, but I had no doubt in my mind Stefanski was sold on bringing Elton Brand to Philly. The worst part about this wasn’t his closed-mindedness or the fact that Brand was aging and damaged (torn Achilles) goods, but the fact that it was clear his main reason to add Brand was to get the fans excited and to put people in the seats. When you make a free agent signing in the NBA and you are a legitimate playoff team, you are supposed to be signing that player for on-court results, which will later translate into box-office numbers. He also was sold on the fact that Andre Iguodala was a future NBA MVP and we all know how that story goes.

Now back to Eddie Jordan. The Princeton offense is complicated and very precise. I’m surprised Eddie Jordan could even comprehend how to coach it. During his five year tenure with the Wizards, I rarely ever saw his team run the Princeton offense their either. And, even though he made the playoffs during every full-year he coached their (his record in 2009 was 1-10 before being fired) he only got out of the first round once, and failed to manage games, and even his players, during crunch time. So was I surprised that integrating Jordan’s Princeton offense into a running-scheme was a failure? Not a chance. Did I think his firing should have come around the All-Star break while Stefanski was sipping a Colada in the Bahamas? Absolutely. Eddie Jordan is not an NBA coach. In fact, I think he could be a very effective college coach and that he deserves a shot at the Rutgers job. Overall, this team needs to sign a younger guy, and not for $3 million a year like Jordan, or seriously attempt to bring Larry Brown back. Otherwise, a team without any real veteran leadership and that lacks a solid go-to-guy, will continue to fail to reach pre-season expectations and see drafting in the lottery year after year. Philadelphia, it’s time for a 76ers makeover.

(* Stay tuned for an Eagles post-draft column, I would have liked to have written a pre-draft post but this column took a little longer than expected to write, my apologies.)

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