EDDIE JORDAN is the 76ers' new coach. Pete Carril is Yoda.
Jordan, who will be formally introduced today at a news conference, is known for running the Princeton offense. Carril is the Princeton offense.
The Princeton offense, Carril's legacy to the game, is legendary. It involves the sheer basics: passing, cutting, continuous motion, luring defenses away from the basket to create back-door layups, hitting enough perimeter shots to allow everything else to unfold. It requires, at the very least, skill and patience.
Jordan, in a previous existence as the coach of the Sacramento Kings, absorbed all he could from Carril, the former Princeton coach who has, off and on, been involved with the Kings franchise, either as an assistant coach or as a special assistant to Geoff Petrie, their president of basketball operations.
"We had a pretty good time, actually," Carril was saying the other day. "He's a good coach, with an awful lot of innovative ideas. He has a lot of faith in his players, and his knowledge is very good. And he played on teams that beat Princeton five times."
He offered the last part with a smile.
"He's made some darn nice innovations to suit the NBA," Carril said. "You couldn't win consistently in the league playing the way Princeton plays, although, to me, the [Los Angeles] Lakers are Princeton personified."
Jordan believes the organizational aspects of his style can only help the Sixers.
"From what I saw, I think more organization on a consistent basis would've helped this team," Jordan told the Daily News last night. "The offense is always good for the best players, and it's also good for the ones who don't score a lot going one-on-one."
He also spoke positively about unrestricted free agent Andre Miller, saying, "I know he's going to be very important in this. There's always reason to believe [he could re-sign]. He ran the team; he was the head of the team, and we need a point guard to do that."
One huge key to Carril's style is a center willing - and able - to pass and make plays. Can you say Pau Gasol? Can you hope that Elton Brand and Jason Smith, coming off injuries, can play that way? Samuel Dalembert? By all accounts, Brand's best days with the Los Angeles Clippers came as a high-post, pick-and-pop guy, and Smith was displaying significant improvement last summer. Dalembert's best skills are at the defensive end, rebounding, blocking and altering shots.
"You've got to throw the ball to the center instead of just playing pick and roll," Carril said. "[Gasol] gets open, finds guys cutting, finds guys open for threes. But Eddie doesn't want to just run [halfcourt] stuff; he wants his teams to run, to share the ball.
"I don't think he has any egomaniacs in Philadelphia, and as a result he'll do a lot better."
In truth, Jordan's approach allowed Antawn Jamison, Caron Butler and Gilbert Arenas to become first-time All-Stars in Washington. His teams went to the playoffs in four of his five full seasons with the Wizards.
Sixers president/general manager Ed Stefanski told us at the start of his coaching search that a history with a candidate was not necessarily important. But in this case, it was clearly a factor. When runner-up Dwane Casey, the Dallas assistant, was told that Jordan was the choice, he was also told that a comfort level factored in to the decision. Stefanski was an executive and Jordan an assistant coach when the New Jersey Nets twice went to the Finals.
"The history is really important," Jordan said. "You go to bed at night knowing the guy you're working with is supportive, that when that three-, four-game losing streak comes along, as it always does, he's saying the right things behind closed doors and in public. His personality is so positive, so optimistic. I remember when we got Jason Kidd in New Jersey, he stood in our meeting and said, 'Let's think championship.' We're sitting there thinking we're one of the worst teams, but we went to the Finals twice.
"[The Sixers are a] team with a rich tradition, and at this point in my career the challenge is apparent. This is about as big a challenge as I've ever been involved with, because of the team, the tradition and the passion of the fans."
But Stefanski isn't Jordan's only link to Philadelphia. Think Rutgers. Think NCAA Final Four all the way back in 1976. Jordan was the point guard on the first and only Scarlet Knights team, 31-0 to that point, to reach the Final Four.
"Eddie's a great teacher, he's learned his craft," said Mike Dabney, who joined Phil Sellers, James Bailey, Hollis Copeland and Jordan as the Rutgers starters in '76. "He's always been a communicator, always been demanding.
"He was the consummate point guard, didn't have exceptional speed but did have exceptional quickness. He could make a steal, anticipate what was coming next, make the right play at the right time. We scored about 90 points a game, which is a lot for a 40-minute game.
"He might have to revamp the [Princeton] offense, but it's a great offense if run correctly. In the NBA, there are a lot of times when teams get impatient defensively the last 10-12 seconds [of the shot clock]. Princeton used that so well."
Dabney, the father of Connecticut women's star Maya Moore, seemed genuinely happy for his old teammate.
Jordan, remember, was fired after an injury-riddled 1-10 start in Washington last fall; he left being owed $4 million for the coming season. That cleared the way for him to be available to the Sixers, who reportedly gave him a 3-year contract worth $8.1 million; the Wizards, bless their hearts, still owe him $2 million in a set-off clause.
"He deserves another shot," Dabney said. "I think, in their hearts, Washington didn't really want to fire him. I think they did him a favor."
Eddie Jordan is bringing longtime associate Mike O'Koren with him, and has committed to retaining Aaron McKie from the current staff. *