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Michael Jordan leaving Wizards

May 7, 2003 at 9:23 PM   |   Comments

WASHINGTON, May 7 (UPI) -- Washington Wizards owner Abe Pollin announced Wednesday that Michael Jordan will not be retained as the team's president of basketball operations.

Jordan was irate at the decision, but it paves the way for him to perhaps buy in as a partner of the NBA expansion team in Charlotte.

"It was well understood that when I finished playing, I would return as president of basketball operations, and this was definitely my desire and intention," Jordan said in a statement.

"However, today, without any prior discussion with me, ownership informed me that it had unilaterally decided to change our mutual long-term understanding. I am shocked by this decision and by the callous refusal to offer me any justification for it."

Pollin, meanwhile, had nothing but praise for Jordan and his efforts for the Wizards.

"I want to emphasize my sincere thanks to Michael for his time with this franchise," Pollin said. "While the roster of talent he has assembled here in Washington may not have succeeded to his and my expectations, I do believe Michael's desire to win and be successful is unquestioned."

Pollin also expressed his gratitude for Jordan's on-court contributions.

"I firmly believe that Michael's time with us as a player will have a lasting impact on every player on our roster, and there is no question that our fans were treated to a very unique two seasons as the greatest player in the world completed his career here in Washington," Pollin said. "We were extremely fortunate to witness his final season."

Pollin, Wizards minority owner Ted Leonsis, and Jordan met Wednesday at MCI Center along with Pollin's attorney, David Osnos, and Jordan's attorney, Curtis Polk.

The Washington Post reported the meeting lasted about 30 minutes and, according to its sources, Jordan left the building angry and in a hurry.

Two team sources told the New York Times recently that ownership was suspect of Jordan's work ethic as an executive, and that many players were not unhappy that his playing career with the team ended.

The Times also reported many of Jordan's teammates refused to contribute to a retirement gift.

With the acrimony boiling to the surface, Pollin and Leonsis realized a change had to be made.

"In the end, Ted (Leonsis) and I felt this franchise should move in a different direction," Pollin said.

Jordan had told the Washington Post this week, "I'd like to think we can iron this out."

Jordan, 40, served as the team president from January 2000-to-October 2001 before returning as a player for the last two seasons. However, the six-time champion with the Chicago Bulls was unable to get the Wizards into the playoffs.

His first major moves as Wizards President was hiring Leonard Hamilton as coach and selecting forward Kwame Brown out of high school with the first pick in the 2001 draft, ahead of players such as Pau Gasol, Tyson Chandler, and Eddy Curry.

Hamilton was fired after a disastrous 19-63 season in 2000-01, and the 6-11 Brown has been a major disappointment.

This past season, under Doug Collins, he often criticized his teammates as the Wizards stumbled to a 37-45 record.

Jordan's return certainly turned into a financial bonanza for Pollin and Leonsis, giving them 82 consecutive home sellouts over the last two seasons, and increased ticket sales by almost $19 million.

The Wizards nearly doubled their win total to 37 in 2001-02, but again this past season failed to fulfill Jordan's goal of making the playoffs.

It is believed that Jordan is interested in a possible role with the Charlotte expansion team, which is owned by BET founder Robert Johnson, and scheduled to join the league in 2004-05. Jordan has ties to the Tar Heel, having grown up in Wilmington, N.C., before playing for Dean Smith at the University of North Carolina.

Also, his mother now lives in the Charlotte area.

Pollin also will need to find a replacement for Jordan quickly since General Manager Wes Unseld will begin an indefinite leave of absence after the June draft.

© 2003 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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