A person familiar with the situation tells the Associated Press that Eddie Jordan is nearing an agreement with Rutgers to replace Mike Rice as coach.
The person spoke on condition of anonymity because Jordan and Rutgers interim athletic director Carl Kirschner are meeting again Sunday to finalize the language in the contract before an announcement can be made. Jordan, an assistant coach with the Los Angeles Lakers, flew to New Jersey Saturday to begin the process. A deal could be in place by Monday, with a press conference later in the week.
Jordan, 58, who played for the Scarlet Knights from 1973-77, would take over a program mired in scandal after a video was released that showed Rice kicking and grabbing players while uttering anti-gay slurs at them in practice. Jordan has been a head coach in the NBA with Sacramento, Washington and Philadelphia, and helped lead Rutgers to the 1976 Final Four.
Rice was fired April 3, a day after the video aired on ESPN. Athletic director Tim Pernetti resigned April 5.
Jordan, who will also meet with Rutgers President Robert Barchi, left the Scarlet Knights as the program’s career leader in assists and steals. He was the point guard during the most successful era of the program’s history, and was an assistant on coach Bob Wenzel’s staff when the Scarlet Knights last made the NCAA tournament in 1991.
Jordan, who has a 257-343 career coaching record in the NBA, was on the bench Friday, when the Lakers defeated the Golden State Warriors, 118-116, at Staples Center. It is unlikely he’ll be on hand Sunday night, when the Lakers play host to the San Antonio Spurs in Los Angeles.
When Pernetti hired Rice away from Robert Morris in 2010, Jordan, who played for the Cleveland Cavaliers, New Jersey Nets, Portland Trail Blazers and the Lakers, also interviewed for the position. Ultimately, Pernetti saw more in the volatile Rice, who had just taken the Colonials to consecutive NCAA tournament appearances.
Jordan snared his first NBA head coaching job in Sacramento in March 1997, but was fired by the Kings after going 33-64. The Wizards fired him early in his sixth season after 197 victories and four playoff appearances.
Jordan coached one miserable season in Philadelphia in 2009-10 that saw the Sixers sink toward the bottom of the Eastern Conference. Jordan sold his half-court, backdoor-cut style Princeton offense as the way to turn Philadelphia into a contender, but the style never meshed with the talent on the roster. The 76ers finished 27-55 that season.
He also was an assistant with the then-New Jersey Nets, including two seasons when point guard Jason Kidd led them to the NBA Finals (2002, 2003).
The Scarlet Knights can only hope some of that New Jersey success rubs off on Rutgers, especially after the embarrassment of the last few weeks.
Rice was suspended three games and fined $75,000 by the school when video of his outrageous conduct was given to Pernetti last fall. But he returned to the bench, and the Scarlet Knights finished 15-16 overall, 5-13 in the Big East. Barchi agreed with the penalty. Rutgers, incidentally, went 3-0 during Rice’s suspension.
The video showed numerous clips of Rice at practice during his three years at the school firing basketballs at players, hitting them in the back, legs, feet and shoulders. It also shows him grabbing players by their jerseys and yanking them around the court. Rice can also be heard yelling obscenities and using anti-gay slurs.
Rice was one of the nation’s hot coaching candidates in 2010, and also interviewed with Fordham, his alma mater, after that season. But he wasn’t able to push Rutgers into the upper echelon of the Big East, and went 44-51. Rice was 16-38 in the league, after going 73-31 in three seasons at Robert Morris.
Jordan’s name began to surface last week, after Dan Hurley received a contract extension from Rhode Island and elected to stay at the Atlantic 10 school. Hurley was contacted by Rutgers on Monday, and was the first name on the school’s list. A former high school coach at St. Benedict’s Prep, in Newark, N.J., and a graduate of famed St. Anthony’s, in Jersey City, N.J., where he played for his father, Bob, Sr., Hurley also played at Seton Hall and was an assistant at Rutgers, so his ties to New Jersey are strong.
But Rhode Island gave him a deal through the 2019-20 season, and the school promised to commit itself financially to improving the program. Hurley went 8-21 with the Rams last year, after posting a 38-23 record in two seasons at Wagner.
Other than Jordan, he is the only known candidate to interview with Kirschner.