In the 18 days of this coaching search, faces of potential coaches have breezed past as if on a roller coaster - Dwane Casey, Kurt Rambis, Tom Thibodeau, Chris Ford, Jeff Van Gundy, Avery Johnson - until, finally, 76ers general manager Ed Stefanski stopped the ride exactly where it began: with Eddie Jordan.

No one seemed surprised that Jordan would be behind Stefanski's opened door.

The two spent four seasons together with the New Jersey Nets - Jordan as an assistant coach, Stefanski as an assistant general manager. While they were there, the Nets went to back-to-back NBA Finals, success that seems to have fortified their working relationship.

Nearly a decade later, Jordan, 54, has agreed to become the Sixers' next head coach for a guaranteed three-year, $8.1 million deal.

Because Jordan's former team, the Washington Wizards, owes him $4 million for the 2009-10 season, Jordan accepted only $2 million for his first year with the Sixers, meaning the Wizards will pay half of Jordan's salary for 2009-10, according to sources. The Sixers' pay absolves the Wizards of that portion of their obligation under the terms of his contract, so his total salary is still $4 million.

Jordan will be paid $3 million in 2010-11 and $3.1 million in 2011-12.

Only Stefanski knows if this was Jordan's job from the word go, or if the 18-day search, during which Stefanski interviewed five other candidates, was an open-minded process full of due diligence, as he claimed.

Here are the logistics: On May 15, four days after Tony DiLeo withdrew his name from consideration to continue as the team's head coach, Stefanski made Jordan his first interview.

A little more than a week later, Jordan returned for a follow-up interview, joining Casey as the only candidates granted a second meeting.

For Jordan, it appears this session was the equivalent of a game-winning shot.

He apparently demonstrated the precise way his adopted set of X's and O's, the Princeton offense, would complement the Sixers' style and personnel.

At the NBA level, the principles of the Princeton offense are loose-fitting compared to the discipline and precise execution that made the offense famous at the collegiate level.

That is to say, don't expect the Sixers to begin swirling around the court as if cogs on a merry-go-round. This thing has evolved.

But here are the CliffsNotes on the offense: It's predicated on ball movement, spreading the floor, reading the defense, and cutting back-door when overplayed.

And it requires versatile personnel, guys who can do more than just catch and dunk alley-oops, guys who know to drive at a defender if he's leaning even half a step into the passing line, guys who instinctively move away from the ball if they aren't the immediate option.

These qualities can be taught, although learning an offense with such layered options is always an arduous task.

The Sixers' offense this past season was filled with sets: a couple of cross-screens, some curl-cuts, a back screen. A player was either open or he wasn't.

Each player had a predetermined place that could be altered by how the defense defended, but mostly retained its shape.

Jordan's offense is a set of principles that demands that each player learn how to read and react to his defender's choice, always possessing the counterpunch, and constantly moving parallel to one another.

In essence, last season's offense was like filling in a coloring book, while this offense is like painting.

So Stefanski erased one question mark with Jordan's hire, but plenty remain, including: Does the team have the correct guard personnel to execute such a high-IQ offense?

Because only a select few witnessed Jordan's sales pitch to Stefanski, let's break down what we know.

The two guards under contract are Lou Williams and Willie Green. Free agent point guard Andre Miller seems to have one foot inside the Wachovia Center, one outside, and his eyes scanning the NBA for a prettier situation. Royal Ivey will likely return; the Sixers have an option to re-sign him for another season. Kareem Rush peeled out of town, not even checking his rearview mirror.

Miller, with his ability to read backdoor cuts and deliver pinpoint passes, would effectively run this offense if his starting shooting guard can actually shoot. If the Sixers retain Miller and again place Green beside him, this offense, which is predicated on drawing out the defense and quickly changing direction, will become a little too cozy inside the paint.

No defense will deny Green the basketball.

The Sixers have been looking for an effective outside shooter since Stefanski traded sharpshooter Kyle Korver during the 2007-08 season.

Stefanski must supply Jordan and his potent offense with at least one player whose outside shooting touch actually requires the defense's attention.

The Sixers have already promised they will pick a guard in the coming NBA draft, but if they go with a point guard - North Carolina's speedy Ty Lawson or Syracuse's Johnny Flynn - as insurance against Miller's signing elsewhere, Stefanski must find a shooter via trade or free agency.

The Sixers don't have the cap space to sign Chicago's Ben Gordon, whose quick-trigger jumper would fit Jordan's system nicely, so they must be creative: taking a flier on a promising midlevel signing, or hodgepodging together an attractive trade package.

On Friday, Stefanski filled the empty seat on the Sixers' sideline with a guy whose ideas and system make sense.

But sometime during those hours-long interviews, Jordan and Stefanski must have discussed this personnel move, and not as a "maybe," but as a "necessity," because you can't spread the floor if the defense won't come with you.

Contact staff writer Kate Fagan at 856-779-3844 or kfagan@phillynews.com.