The Rutgers men's basketball program is at a crossroads, trying to fix what has apparently been broken for quite some time.
The entire Mike Rice scandal, the manner in which he treated his players and how the ensuing investigation and disciplinary efforts were mangled by the athletic director and university officials, have been covered ad nauseam. The lingering effects of the now infamous video, impending lawsuits, collateral resignations, etc...will be felt for quite some time, but the school knows that it must move forward as quickly as possible.
All indications have former Scarlet Knight Eddie Jordan taking the helm. Currently an assistant with the Los Angeles Lakers, Jordan was a star performer for Rutgers back in the 1970s when he helped lead the program to the 1976 Final Four as a junior and was named the East Region's MVP as a junior. An honorable mention All-American the following year, Jordan finished his career as the school's all-time leader in assists and steals, but the Knights will need more than that in order to turn the page.
Rice made Rutgers basketball front-page news for all the wrong reasons, and continues to do so after he and the university recently agreed on a settlement to pay the former coach the final two years on his contract, a tidy $475,000 for becoming the poster child for how not to behave. While the school is simply trying to cut ties and avoid future litigation, the only lesson learned here is that you can be paid a hefty sum while also becoming the most reviled person in America, at least with regard to the world of sports.
But back to the supposed future.
A second-round draft pick by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 1977, Jordan (8.1 ppg) was a mediocre player at best in the pros, nothing like that other Jordan from North Carolina who was coming into the NBA in 1984 while the former was on his way out. But Eddie Jordan was able to latch onto one moment of glory as a member of the 1982 Lakers who won the NBA title.
Following his playing days, Jordan returned to his alma mater as a volunteer assistant in 1984 and, following a couple of moves to Old Dominion and Boston College where he was also on staff, returned to Rutgers in 1988 as an assistant under Bob Wenzel. A member of the Rutgers Hall of Fame, Jordan is more than familiar with the school and a community which is in dire need of a morale boost.
However, just because one is a former star with a certain team during his playing days, doesn't mean he'll be the change that the squad so desperately needs in a time of crisis. Just ask former Lakers Magic Johnson and Kurt Rambis how that worked out when they assumed control on the LA sidelines.
Still the all-time leader in career assists (585) at Rutgers and the owner of the top-two single-season assist marks in program history, Jordan had a guard mentality as a player and still does as a coach, although it has not always worked for him during his head coaching career at the pro level.
During his first head coaching stop in the NBA, Jordan had a winning percentage under .400 between 1996-98 in Sacramento. In 2003, he began his tenure in Washington where he grew up, leading the Wizards to three winning campaigns in four years, but following a 1-10 start in 2008 he was let go.
In 2009-10 he signed on as head coach of the Philadelphia 76ers, but that experiment was doomed from the start with Jordan wanting to install his version of the Princeton Offense, but seeing as how the team didn't have a true point guard, the key ingredient to the strategic attack, it failed miserably.
Jordan was on the radar for the Scarlet Knights when they were searching for a new head coach in 2010, even interviewing for the vacancy left by Fred Hill, but instead athletic director Tim Pernetti, who has since resigned amid the recent scandal, chose to go with Rice and subsequently set in motion what would eventually become his undoing.
Rutgers is trying to bury the past and Jordan seems to be the quick fix for a program that hasn't made it to the NCAA Tournament since 1991, but this is a major rebuilding project that has many facets. Not only will the new head coach have to sell recruits on signing with the Knights, he'll also have to convince current players to ride out the storm as well and already he is facing an uphill battle with the latter.
Last Friday Eli Carter, the team's leading scorer each of the last two seasons, received his release from the program just days after Mike Poole was also granted his release. Also asking for his release was Jerome Seagears, while Malick Kone and Vincent Garrett, a pair of reserves who saw little game action during their stay at Rutgers, intend to transfer as well.
Unfortunately, the level of defection goes even deeper that just the 2012-13 roster. One of the top incoming prospects for the Knights, point guard Shane Rector, had verbally committed to playing for Rutgers, but pulled out following the Rice firing and there are indications that he might not be the only recruit who is now distancing himself from the situation and exploring other options.
The situation at Rutgers remains quite fluid, the ebb and flow of trying to get back on an even keel beginning with the arrival of Jordan. First and foremost, the new head coach in Piscataway has to understand that he will not turn it around all in one day, and will have to have thick skin if he wants to work beyond his most recent stops in the NBA.