Thursday, June 19, 2003

Former Marquette coach O'Neill to head Raptors

NBA notebook

The Associated Press

TORONTO - Kevin O'Neill, known for his intense, in-your-face style as a college coach, was introduced Wednesday as the man to succeed the laid-back Lenny Wilkens with the Toronto Raptors.

O'Neill replaces the Hall of Famer, who left the Raptors "by mutual agreement" with one year remaining on his contract. The team is coming off a 24-58 season in which Wilkens set the league record for career losses.

Raptors star Vince Carter has said Wilkens' easygoing style wasn't effective.

O'Neill could be considered the anti-Wilkens. He was the head coach at Northwestern, Tennessee and Marquette and had a career record of 190-197 at the college level.

The lead assistant to former Detroit Pistons coach Rick Carlisle the last two seasons, O'Neill, 46, vowed not to be as demonstrative as he was in college.

"That reputation was earned, but I'm also a smart guy. Without bragging, I'm intelligent. I know when to be demonstrative now and when not to be, and I'm in a different role than I ever was as a head coach (in college)," O'Neill said.

O'Neill also served as an assistant to Jeff Van Gundy in New York three years ago.

WIZARDS: At least the Washington Wizards won't have to think up a new marketing slogan. "Experience the Jordan effect" will still work just fine.

It won't be Michael Jordan, but Eddie Jordan, who accepted the job Wednesday to become the team's new coach, a team source told the Associated Press.

The source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the New Jersey Nets assistant coach agreed to an offer after a meeting with Wizards owner Abe Pollin. Jordan, who will become the Wizards' seventh coach in six seasons, is expected to be introduced at a news conference today.

The hiring is the first step of a badly needed image rehabilitation for the Wizards franchise and particularly for Pollin, whose messy dismissal of Michael Jordan provoked widespread criticism. Jordan had expected to return to his former front-office job of president of basketball operations after playing two seasons before sellout crowds, but Pollin informed the star he was not welcome back in an acrimonious meeting May 7.

Pollin, seeking to appease fans, since has promised refunds to season ticket holders if they are not satisfied with his personnel moves this offseason.

Eddie Jordan replaces Doug Collins, Michael Jordan's hand-picked coach, who was fired May 30 as part of Pollin's house-cleaning after back-to-back 37-45 seasons.

TRAIL BLAZERS: Steve Patterson returned to the NBA on Wednesday, leaving the NFL and becoming president of a Portland team trying to restore its image.

Patterson, a vice president with the Houston Texans, spent nine years with the Houston Rockets as general manager and general counsel. He helped build championship teams in 1994 and 1995 before joining the Texans to run Reliant Stadium.

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