Why Philadelphia 76ers Coach Eddie Jordan Never Had a Chance

Bryan Toporek@@btoporekFeatured ColumnistMarch 21, 2010

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 26:  Philadelphia 76ers head coach Eddie Jordan calls out a play against the Los Angeles Lakers in the second half at Staples Center on February 26, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. The Lakers defeated the 76ers 99-90. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

At this point, it's all but a formality that the Sixers will have a new coach next season.

Eddie Jordan's reign of terror over the Sixers will be over within the next month, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Jordan, he of the Princeton offense, the priceless postgame quotes, and the completely unpredictable rotation switches, has driven a team that finished seventh in the Eastern Conference last season completely into the ground.  

"The apathy for this team is back to where it was" in the '90s, an NBA source said  to the Inquirer's  Kate Fagan. "This team, with that much cap space, at least should be one of the top five teams in the East."

Thaddeus Young appears to have regressed from last season. Marreese Speights demonstrated no improvement in his second season. One of the only bright spots of the season for this team is a rookie point guard (in Holiday's defense, he will be legit).

At this point in the season, Sixers fans are cheering on losses to the Knicks (twice this week!), as the only hope for this franchise appears to be a high draft pick.

And to think, this was all completely predictable.

I'll admit, at first, when I heard about Jordan's hire last summer, I liked the choice. I had flashbacks to the mid-'00s Wizards, who made the playoffs year after year, and foresaw a Sixers team that could contend for the No. 4 or 5 seed in the East this season (little did I remember that Jordan's Wizards suffered the same first-round playoff KO deja vu as the Sixers have these past few years).

I even drank the Kool-Aid and thought Jordan could somehow make the Princeton offense work with a first-time starter at point guard and a rookie backing him up.

In reality, Jordan had no chance in Philly from the get go.

Let's start with his much-maligned Princeton offense.  

Yes, as well-documented, the Princeton offense was a non-starter in Philly from the beginning.  Long story short , the Princeton is a passing-heavy, high-basketball IQ offense that requires all five guys on the court to be able to pass effectively and knock down an open shot if necessary.

The Princeton often requires two major players to run successfully: a pass-first point guard and a big man who can do anything he's asked to do.

When the Sixers decided not to bring back Andre Miller, management left the keys of the offense in the hands of first-time starter Lou Williams and the rookie Holiday (although if rumors were true and Miller was asking for a three-year, $30 million contract, I really can't blame them).

But the architect of the Princeton O, Pete Carril, confessed that he believed the Sixers needed a playmaking point guard to have a chance running his complicated read-and-react offense.

So, the lack of a pass-first point guard was the first nail in the Princeton offense's coffin.

But here's something that's been less talked about: The lack of an all-purpose big man. For all the jokes Elton Brand wants to make about Marreese Speights' lack of passing acumen, it's not like Brand is lighting it up with dimes this season.  He's dished out 91 assists in 68 games, for a whopping average of 1.4 apg. (his career average is 2.5 apg).

Sammy Dalembert can hardly shoot, much less pass. Marreese Speights may or may not be the basketball equivalent of a black hole—once you pass him the ball, you'll never get it back.  And Elton Brand's averaging a full assist less  than he has over his entire career.  

Second nail in the coffin.

Jordan's only saving grace, at least in the beginning of the season, was that he still appeared to have some semblance of control over his team. They appeared willing to buy in to the Princeton offense (willing to buy in and able to execute effectively are two very  different things), players and coaches weren't taking shots at each other in post-game quotes, and most importantly, the players weren't mired in a losing mentality.

Then, Jordan debuted a rotation that had to be designed when he was drunk ; players would go from 20 minutes one night to 42 minutes the next with no apparent warning. The bench players began losing confidence in their ability to ever see minutes again (Jason Kapono, he of the $6 million contract this season, has only recently broken his streak of DNPs).

Players started losing their confidence, and to make matters worse, Jordan benched Thaddeus Young and Lou Williams without warning, sending them into a midseason spiral that they've both only emerged from recently.

Meanwhile, Jordan carried on, granting 40 minutes a night to Andre Iguodala and Elton Brand without any sense of brewing roster discord.  Instead, Jordan, king of the delusional post-game interviews, gave a classic interview to the Inquirer back in mid-February, where he had to play with fire by bringing up the Sixers' lack of blowouts.

"The nuts and bolts of it is does your team have good body language? Do they try? Do you see camaraderie? And we see all of that," Jordan said, challenging the gods.

"This team has never died on the floor. They're not going backwards. This is a testament to this team—we haven't been blown out. Maybe less than a handful of games. How many teams in the NBA can say that?"

That was February 16.  

Four days after that quote ran, the Chicago Bulls ran the Sixers off the floor in a 122-90 beatdown.  In the month since that quote ran, the Sixers have lost eight games by at least 10 points, and two game (to Orlando and the Bulls) by 20 or more points.

On March 10, this quote appeared in the Inquirer :

"According to sources close to the team, the players 'no longer believe in Jordan's coaching system or philosophies' and are trying to finish this season strong for pride and contractual obligation."

Nail that coffin shut, boss. Let's get this coach's corpse out of here.

I'm still not convinced that Jordan is a complete waste of a coach, or even that he couldn't have brought the Sixers back to the playoffs in another year.

But Jordan's offensive sets, rotation wackiness, and overall disconnect from his roster suggest to me that Jordan and the Sixers were too much of a square peg, round hole match to work.

In the The Art of a Beautiful Game by Sports Illustrated 's Chris Ballard, Jordan was quoted in a chapter about Idan Ravin, an NBA trainer known as the Hoops Whisperer.  

"The voice is important these days whether you're a head coach or an assistant coach," Jordan says. "It's crucial that players know that you respect them. They've been yelled at so much during AAU and on up. You need a confident, direct voice, and [Ravin] has that."

In the mood for a sick joke?  Apply that quote to Jordan's coaching job this season.

And get ready for the Sixers' new coach next season; it'll be their seventh new coach in seven years.


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