ESPN Network: | RPM | | | | | ABCSports | EXPN | FANTASY | INSIDER

  Message Board
  Power Rankings
  NBA en espaņol

  NBA | Playoffs
  NHL | Playoffs
  NFL | Draft
  College Football
  M Col. BB | Recruit
  W Col. BB
  College Sports
  Horse Racing
  Action Sports

Thursday, April 19, 2001
Hamilton steps down after meeting

WASHINGTON – Leonard Hamilton resigned as coach of the Washington Wizards on Wednesday night after meeting with president of basketball operations Michael Jordan.
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

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 Baltimore-Washington area.

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 through.

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 future years.

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 himself.

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 said.

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.

Send this story to a friend | Most sent stories
Together again: Jordan hires Collins to coach Wizards

Vitale: Hamilton exit illustrates tough transition

Carter puts on dunk show as Raptors beat Wizards

 David Aldridge and the NBA 2Night team look at Leonard Hamilton's resignation as Wizards' coach.
RealVideo: 56.6 | ISDN
Cable Modem

 Wizards coach Leonard Hamilton is comfortable with his decision to resign.
wav: 230 k
RealAudio: 14.4 | 28.8 | 56.6

 ESPN's David Aldridge thinks Doug Collins has a fine understanding of the game of basketball.
wav: 3848 k
RealAudio: 14.4 | 28.8 | 56.6

 Rant: Was Leonard Hamilton fired? ESPN's Tony Kornheiser has the answer.
wav: 4479 k
RealAudio: 14.4 | 28.8 | 56.6  HELP |  ADVERTISER INFO |  CONTACT US |  TOOLS |  SITE MAP
Copyright ©2001 ESPN Internet Group. Terms of Use and Privacy Policy and Safety Information are applicable to this site. Employment opportunities at