By: Anthony Hernandez
NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – The stage for Eddie Jordan’s homecoming could not have been set any better. Not far from his spot at the podium sat the current Rutgers basketball student-athletes; behind them, a number of Jordan’s former teammates from the storied 1976 Final Four team.
In the stands above stood numerous fans who cheered and carried signs in support of Jordan, mirroring the scene of some 37 years ago when Jordan ruled the hardwood of the College Avenue Gym – the very place he became the 18th head coach of the Rutgers men’s basketball program.
Check the past and present and you will find the same – a sincere welcome home for “Fast Eddie.”
“I would have never imagined this,” said Phil Sellers, Rutgers’ leading scorer during the team’s 1976 Final Four run. “I’m here today to show Eddie that he has my 100 percent support because I think that he’s really going to take the program in a the direction it needs to be going, and that’s on the up. I know Eddie can do the job – I think his personality is going to fit perfectly by the simple fact that he’s a big part of the University.”
Sellers was not the only former teammate to show his support of Jordan yesterday at “The Barn.” Bruce Scherer, Mike Palko, Mike Dabney, Mark Conlin and many others sat in anticipation of Jordan’s trip to the podium.
The moment he took the microphone, RU players past and present gave the former standout a standing ovation, while the fans in attendance echoed chants of “Eddie, Eddie!” throughout the gym.
“It’s very exciting,” said Scherer. “I think he is the right man for the right job, right now. Like he talked about on stage, he has the coaching pedigree and more importantly his personality and the type of man that he is will be perfect for the program at this point in time and going forward.”
Jordan’s resume exactly matches the sentiment expressed by Scherer. His coaching career has taken him everywhere from the college ranks (Rutgers, Old Dominion, and Boston College), to the NBA (Sacramento Kings, Washington Wizards, New Jersey Nets, Philadelphia 76ers and Los Angeles Lakers), and even to the high school level (Archbishop Carroll High School, D.C. Assault).
One cannot forget his nine-year NBA playing experience, playing with the Cleveland Cavaliers (1977), New Jersey Nets (1977-80), Los Angeles Lakers (1980-83, 84) and Portland Trailblazers (1984).
“I wanted to come here 10 years ago. I wanted to come here three years ago. I've always wanted to coach Rutgers,” Jordan said. “I’m glad that I've gotten all the experiences that any possible coach can have.”
While those experiences resonate with his former teammates, current Scarlet Knights also put their vote of confidence in Jordan. Going forward, the Scarlet Knights know challenges await. The squad looks to replenish its losses of senior leaders Dane Miller and Austin Johnson as it also prepares to enter the Big Ten Conference for the 2014-15 season.
For junior forward Wally Judge (Washington, D.C.), Jordan’s experience presents an “amazing opportunity” for the team to tackle all the hurdles that come with a transitioning program.
“We have a coach that has not only coached in the NBA, but has played with and learned the ropes with some of the greats,” Judge said. “Like he said on the podium, he has coached on many levels, which means he knows how to adapt to each and every player on the team.
“I’m very excited,” Judge continued. “He can teach me the things I will need to get me ready for the next level.”
Sophomore guard Myles Mack (Paterson, N.J.) also voiced his excitement. The dynamic guard and Rutgers’ leading scorer last season (422 points) noticed something special about Jordan the moment he was introduced to the team for the first time.
“The first day we met as a team, he was just talking to us about how much he loves Rutgers and how he wants to coach and see us succeed,” Mack said. “He’s already told us a few things about our games that we have to work on, so everything is going great.”
Jordan has already been quick to work. He left immediately after the press conference for a recruiting trip to New York City, and will be traveling to Virginia and Washington, D.C., this weekend to evaluate AAU Tournaments. He also emphasized his focus on retaining the current RU roster and recruiting classes throughout the conference, preaching fundamentals as his team looked on.
It was the homecoming “Fast Eddie” always dreamed of. It was the homecoming that binds the greatness of RU’s past with the present opportunity at hand.
Ask anyone in attendance at the College Avenue Gym yesterday and they will say the same – it was the homecoming that will bring the Scarlet Knights into the future.
Follow Rutgers Athletics on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/RutgersAthletics) and Twitter (@RUAthletics) for all of the latest news and updates. Coach Eddie Jordan (@EddieJordanRU) and Rutgers basketball (@RMensBBall) also utilize social media for addition insight into the program. Fans can receive timely information, including special offers and giveaways throughout the year on our social media outlets along withhttp://www.ScarletKnights.com.
Coach Jordan poses with members from the 1975-76 Final Four team.
(From left: Bruce Scherer, Phil Sellers, assistant coach Joe Boylan, Mike Dabney, Eddie Jordan, Mike Palko and Mark Conlin)