NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Rutgers is turning to one of its greatest players to lead the basketball program out of one of its darkest hours and into a future that will see it enter the Big Ten Conference in 2014.
A person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press that Los Angeles Lakers assistant Eddie Jordan has reached a tentative agreement to take over as coach of the scandal-marred program.
The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the school has not officially announced the deal with its all-time leader in assists and steals.
The person said the two sides hammered out the five-year contract after Jordan returned to New Jersey Wednesday. The deal needs to be reviewed by the university’s board of governors, and an official press conference might not happen until next Tuesday.
The deal is believed to be worth “about $1.3 million annually,” according to Tara Sullivan of the Bergen Record, whose source said “it’s in the lawyer’s hands now.”
The agreement comes just more than two weeks after Rutgers fired Mike Rice after a video was aired that showed him grabbing and kicking players at practice, and using anti-gay slurs. The video was compiled from recordings taken during Rice’s three years as coach.
Athletic director Tim Pernetti, a university lawyer and assistant coach Jimmy Martelli also resigned amid the scandal.
A board member familiar with the tentative contract said it has some legal issues that have to be addressed by the board. The member did not think the legal issues would be a problem, perhaps just a delay.
The board is not scheduled to meet again until June 20. A telephone conference call can be held to handle urgent issues, but board members need 48 hours’ notice to do so. A board member who asked not to be identified had not received such notice by noon on Thursday.
Jordan was not immediately available for comment and Rutgers spokesman Jason Baum said the university had no comment.
Jordan’s first job will be to stabilize the roster. Jerome Seagears, Malik Kone and Vincent Garrett have asked for transfers and swingman Mike Poole reportedly is looking to leave a team that posted a 15-16 record last season.
Jordan played for the Scarlet Knights from 1973-77, and was the point guard on the team that went to the Final Four in 1976. He interviewed for the position in 2010, as well, when Rice eventually landed the job.
Once again, this time around, Jordan was not the top choice. The Rutgers search committee hit the ground running last week, and connected with Rhode Island coach Dan Hurley first.
But Hurley, a New Jersey native who was a former assistant at Rutgers, agreed to a contract extension with the Rams through the 2019-20 season.
The committee then focused in on Jordan, and didn’t look at any other avenues. In fact, Jordan, after coaching with the Lakers last Friday night, flew to New Jersey on Saturday, and met with Interim Athletic Director Carl Kirschner Sunday.
Jordan, 58, also met with Rutgers President Robert Barchi during the process. He will take over a program mired in scandal and doesn’t have a wealth of experience in the recruiting world. Jordan has been a head coach in the NBA with Sacramento, Washington and Philadelphia. He has a 257-343 career coaching record in the NBA.
A leader during the most successful era of the program’s history, Jordan was an assistant on coach Bob Wenzel’s staff when the Scarlet Knights last made the NCAA tournament in 1991.
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, who played on the Lakers’ championship team in 1982, 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.
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