WASHINGTON Leonard Hamilton resigned as coach of the Washington Wizards on Wednesday night after meeting with president of basketball operations Michael Jordan.
Hamilton was summoned to Jordan's office immediately following Wednesday night's game, leaving assistant Larry Drew to hold the customary post-game
news conference. Hamilton and Jordan met for at least two hours
before Hamilton made his surprise announcement.
"I've decided to resign as coach of the Washington Wizards,
effective immediately," Hamilton said. "I think it's in the best
interests of everybody that I allow their progress to move on with
me going in another direction."
Doug Collins was named the new head coach of the Wizards on Thursday.
Jordan has been considering the move since the beginning of the month.
Hamilton said he had been thinking about quitting for "quite
some time," but had given no indication of his plans. Before the
game, he said he was planning a full day at the office Thursday. He
gave no explanation for not telling the players of the decision
after the game, saying only that he had just told his wife after
the long meeting with Jordan.
"I kept this as close to the vest as possible," Hamilton said.
When challenged on whether he was forced to resign, Hamilton
said: "I'm straightforward and honest in what I said."
Even though the team said Hamilton had been summoned by Jordan,
Hamilton said he and Jordan had "made this decision that we would
talk a while back."
If the Wizards had fired Hamilton, they would have been
obligated to pay him the remaining three guaranteed years -- worth
$6 million -- of his four-year, $8 million contract. By resigning,
Hamilton forfeits that money, unless Jordan offered to buy him out
in exchange for making the departure a resignation.
Jordan left the building without comment. A team spokesman said
no statement would be made, other than Hamilton's.
Hamilton becomes the third full-time Wizards coach to resign or
be fired in three seasons, and the second in Jordan's 15 months as
president of basketball operations.
Counting interims, the Wizards have had five head coaches since
the start of the 1998-99 season: Bernie Bickerstaff, Jim Brovelli,
Gar Heard, Darrell Walker and Hamilton. The Wizards haven't won a
playoff game in 13 years.
The Wizards (19-63) fell 98-92 to the Raptors to set franchise
record for most losses in a season. The 63 losses is one more than
the 1961-62 Chicago Packers, who finished 18-62 in an 80-game
schedule two years before the team moved to the
Hamilton, 52, rebuilt college programs at Oklahoma State
(1986-90) and Miami (1990-2000) before Jordan lured him to the
professional ranks. Jordan was determined to hire a college coach
and pursued Hamilton after talks with St. John's Mike Jarvis fell
Jordan predicted a .500 record and a playoff berth for this
season, but the team didn't have nearly enough talent to fulfill
that task. Hamilton, by his own admission, had a tough learning
curve in his first year in the NBA. He tried to stay in the shadows
while Jordan attempted to make trades to free salary cap room in
Hamilton did not have a particularly close relationship with
Jordan, who worked mostly from his home in Chicago and talked
regularly by phone to general manager Wes Unseld and other members
of the front office. Hamilton once said he would go for days
without talking to Jordan and was tentative to make the call
On Tuesday, Hamilton said he was "disappointed" in his own
performance this season.
"I have to say that I'm unhappy and I'm disappointed, because I
don't feel that I have been able to, regardless of injuries,
trades, have the types of wins that we needed to have," Hamilton
Jordan, meanwhile, has said he watched the Wizards games on
television this season as a frustrated spectator. He said he once
even considered whether he could put a walkie-talkie on the bench
so he could give instructions during a game.
The Wizards began the year with a lineup that included Juwan
Howard, Mitch Richmond and Rod Strickland. When the wins didn't
come, Jordan traded Howard and cut Strickland to free salary cap
space for the 2002-03 season.
Richmond was injured down the stretch, leaving Hamilton with a
young, raw lineup with several players playing out of position. In
Wednesday finale, the Wizards dressed just eight players.
Hamilton also had discipline problems on his watch. Strickland
was often late to practices and was eventually suspended for one
game after he failed to show up for a road trip. Hamilton ordered
security to escort Tyrone Nesby to the locker room after a
coach-player confrontation on the bench during a game. Michael
Smith was sent home from a road trip and suspended for two games
after a tirade on the bench in a game at Golden State.
Hamilton was vague on his future plans.
"I'll take some time off," he said.
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NBA devours college coaches
More than anything else, Leonard Hamilton's problem may have been the difficulty of making the transition from the college game to the professional one. It's probably more difficult than the transition players go through. In college, as a coach, you're dealing with children. You take them under your wing as a father figure. You talk to them about growing up, maturing and how they need to be handling themselves as they grow into men. In the NBA, you don't have to remind your players to call their mom.
The NBA is populated with men, many of whom have kids of their own. Communicating with them is a completely different proposition than with kids right out of high school. All you have to do is look at the lack of success other college coaches are having in the NBA. Rick Pitino and John Calipari have fled back to the warm environment of college and Lon Kruger and Tim Floyd might not be far behind. The game is also a quantum leap from what they know. Leonard Hamilton was thrust into a bad situation and not given very much time to grow into his job.
--Fred Carter, ESPN
Together again: Jordan hires Collins to coach Wizards
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David Aldridge and the NBA 2Night team look at Leonard Hamilton's resignation as Wizards' coach.
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Wizards coach Leonard Hamilton is comfortable with his decision to resign.
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ESPN's David Aldridge thinks Doug Collins has a fine understanding of the game of basketball.
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Rant: Was Leonard Hamilton fired? ESPN's Tony Kornheiser has the answer.
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