Source: USA TODAY
The second Eddie Jordan era is about to begin.
Nearly four decades after helping Rutgers reach college basketball’s pinnacle, the Scarlet Knights’ most dynamic point guard has accepted the task of leading it out of the sport’s basement.
Sources with knowledge of the situation said Jordan has agreed in principle to a deal in the ballpark of five-years and $6.25 million. Pending an expected sign-off by the university’s board of governors today, the 58-year-old Los Angeles Lakers assistant will become the Scarlet Knights’ 18th men’s basketball head coach.
Jordan’s return should salve the gaping wound caused by the practice video scandal that felled former head coach Mike Rice and popular athletics director Tim Pernetti two weeks ago. He channels Rutgers’ best hardwood eras, having averaged 14 points and 5.3 assists on the 1976 Final Four team before earning All-America honors the following season. He still ranks seventh all-time in scoring with 1,632 points.
Jordan broke into coaching as a volunteer assistant with his alma mater and served as a full assistant under Bob Wenzel on the program’s last NCAA Tournament qualifier in 1991.
Jordan embarked for the NBA coaching ranks in 1992 and earned a reputation as a strong strategist when his Princeton-style offense helped Byron Scott’s New Jersey Nets reach back-to-back NBA Finals. He logged three stints as a head coach in the league, with Sacramento, New Jersey and Washington, but won just 42 percent of his games.
Known in his playing days as “Fast Eddie,” Jordan has no time to waste in his new gig because three prominent Rutgers players are pursuing transfer options. Sophomore guard Eli Carter (14.9 ppg) and junior wing Mike Poole (4.4 ppg, 3.0 rpg) have requested transfer releases. Sophomore guard Jerome Seagears (6.5 ppg, 2.7 apg) already has his but remains on campus and uncommitted to another school as of now.
Jordan also needs to put a staff together—a critical process for someone who has been out of the college game so long and lacks active recruiting connections. It is possible he could retain interim coach David Cox, who served as associate head coach under Rice, as well as assistant Van Macon. Both are popular among the players and could help smooth the transition, but their retention risks infuriating politicians and national media outlets who have demanded a complete housecleaning. Mike O’Koren, who was a legendary schoolboy talent at Hudson County and later starred at North Carolina before working alongside Jordan as an NBA assistant, has been mentioned as a potential assistant.
With outdated facilities, seven straight losing seasons and the nation’s third-longest NCAA Tournament drought among high-majors, Rutgers men’s basketball faces an uphill climb just one year out from joining the Big Ten Conference.
But the hiring of Jordan, who maintains a home in Montgomery, gives the Scarlet Knights an intangible they sorely needed—a change in narrative.
Sargeant writes for the Asbury (N.J.) Park Press, a Gannett property.