Mike O'Koren is coming to town today, riding in from Washington with Eddie Jordan, knowing exactly what he's getting into.
"Hey, it's Philly, it's the place to be," said O'Koren, who will serve as the chief assistant to Jordan, the 76ers' new coach. "Initially, it's because it's basketball, Doctor J, Wilt, the Big 5. Any basketball guy loves Philly. Philly, New York, D.C., that's basketball. It's a pleasure to come in, to listen to [Sixers adviser and historian] Sonny Hill talk about the past."
O'Koren, 51, connected with Jordan as a teammate with the New Jersey Nets and later as assistants on the Nets' staff. He was with the Nets from 1999-2003, then joined Jordan's Wizards staff, staying from 2005 until they were fired after 11 games of this recently completed season.
"I always say, Eddie's the only one who could have gotten me out of New Jersey," O'Koren said, laughing. "Really, I never thought I'd leave Jersey."
Told that one of the questions at Jordan's introductory press conference Monday was about how the fans seemed to prefer other candidates, O'Koren said, "That's the way it is."
"They look at the wins and losses, and the record is skewed because Eddie didn't have a good team in Sacramento, and our first year in Washington we were rebuilding," he said. "It's up to us to prove ourselves, to prove that we belong. It's a tough job in a sports-minded city."
And this is his perspective on Jordan:
"He's a tremendous worker, has a very good confidence in what he's teaching. He's likable, but he can put the hammer down when necessary. But he'll be liked and respected first. I'm there to help any way I can, whether it's with decisions during games, in practice or in player development. He listens, then he filters out what he can use and what he can't."
As for Jordan teaching the pass-and-cut Princeton offense, he said: "All I can say is, they'll be better the second week than the first, better in December than November. They'll learn that the ball finds its way to the best players at the ends of games."
O'Koren brings his own pedigree, as the No. 6 overall pick in the 1980 draft, going from North Carolina to the Nets. He played eight seasons in the NBA, also logging time with the then-Washington Bullets, averaging 8.2 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.1 assists in 407 games.
He's still Wali Wonder
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Hollis Copeland, one of Eddie Jordan's teammates on the Rutgers team that went 31-0 in 1975-76 before reaching the NCAA Final Four, checked in yesterday to say that, "The players will be pleasantly surprised by Eddie's style, demeanor and the energy he brings. The bar is set pretty high, but he's up for the challenge" . . . Alvin Williams, the pride of Germantown Academy and Villanova, is close to finalizing a deal to join Jay Triano's staff with the Toronto Raptors. Williams, 34, saw his career cut short by knee problems, last playing on a 10-day contract with the Los Angeles Clippers in 2006-07. "I know a lot of the problems that go on throughout a season," Williams told the
. "I know the whole aspect of it, when you're not playing and when things aren't going well. I know when guys have to get in the gym and start working harder; I can tell them how to handle themselves with some off-court issues. I haven't been away too long; I think the players need a voice of experience" . . . The formal list for Friday's predraft workouts includes Toney Douglas, Florida State; Stefon Jackson, Texas-El Paso; Ty Lawson, North Carolina; Jodie Meeks, Kentucky; and Terrence Williams, Louisville. The Sixers hold the No. 17 pick in the first round. *
Wali Jones, the point guard of the 1966-67 Sixers, is gathering players from the Stuart Greenberg Special Populations League for a basketball clinic at the Carousel House on June 13. The clinic is named for Wali's late brother, Bobby, and includes Wali's "Shoot For The Stars" peer leadership and human development training program. Wilma Jones, Bobby's widow, plans to have special awards for two players in the program, with the second annual Bobby Jones Award going to Jimmy Sadler.