Jordan: Bickerstaff won't return as coach

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Bernie Bickerstaff will not return as coach of the Charlotte Bobcats next season but will be invited to stay with the organization.

Part-owner Michael Jordan said Tuesday that Bickerstaff, who also serves as general manager, will finish the season and remains an "integral part" of the franchise. Charlotte is 23-41 and last in the Southeast Division.

"I don't see him distancing himself away," Jordan said. "I feel he's been an important part to getting this franchise to where it is now. It will give me the most pleasure to continue that process until we get to where we have to go."

Bickerstaff, 67-161 in three seasons, said when he was first hired to run the expansion team that he wanted to coach for only two or three years before becoming the full-time GM. But when Jordan was brought in as a minority owner and given the final say on basketball decisions, Bickerstaff's future was in doubt.

"I want him involved," Jordan said. "We just haven't decided if that's as general manager or president of basketball operations. I see him staying with the organization."

Jordan, in his first meeting with local reporters since June, said he has yet to begin a search for a new coach.

"We haven't got to that point," Jordan said. "Bernie is still going to finish out the season. When the season is over, he and I will sit down and have those type of conversations -- who best suits the structure of players we have on this team."

One coach who might be contacted about the Bobcats opening is Larry Brown because of his ties to North Carolina and Jordan. However, Brown told The Philadelphia Inquirer that he hasn't been contacted yet.

"No one has contacted me. I have no idea what to expect, and I really don't care, at the moment, because I'm enjoying my life watching the game of basketball, being around a lot of the coaches and just getting my enthusiasm back," Brown told the newspaper.

"As far as Charlotte goes, everyone knows I have a very special relationship with Michael. I've known him for years. We're family, and I love him. So saying 'no' to him would be almost impossible for me, just because it would be hard for me to say 'No' to him about anything. But I haven't heard anything from him and I have no idea what my future holds," he told the newspaper.

Bickerstaff, who was not at Jordan's press conference and not immediately available for comment, was one of owner Bob Johnson's first hires when he was awarded the team. The 62-year-old Bickerstaff has been the head coach at Seattle, Denver and Washington, serving the dual role of coach and GM with the SuperSonics and Nuggets.

Bickerstaff was credited with taking leading scorer Gerald Wallace in the expansion draft and selecting leading rebounder Emeka Okafor and point guard Raymond Felton in the college draft. Charlotte, with Jordan making the final call in last June's draft, selected Adam Morrison with the No. 3 overall pick.

"When we got the team, Bernie was present at the creation," Johnson said. "He molded the team and the culture of the team, which was to play hard and be a credit to yourself and your community. It's a tribute to Bernie.

"The decision was made by Bernie, Michael and myself, and I hope that he'll continue in the organization in a capacity that we can agree on," he said.

Johnson, who brought on Jordan as a minority owner last spring, said Jordan will make the final call on the new coach.

"I have absolute confidence in Michael to make the decision on who he thinks will be the best second coach in the Bobcats history," Johnson said.

While he's widely considered one of the all-time best on the court, Jordan has yet to prove he can effectively run a basketball team. After winning six NBA titles with the Chicago Bulls, he was hired as president of basketball operations for the Washington Wizards in 2000. But Jordan was fired three years later, receiving the most criticism for selecting underachieving Kwame Brown with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2001 draft.

Critics also assailed Jordan for running the Wizards while living in suburban Chicago. Jordan said Tuesday he plans to buy a home in Charlotte but expects to continue his role behind the scenes.

"I'm operating manager for the investors. I oversee the basketball operations," Jordan said. "Does that put me in the office for a 9-to-5 situation? No."

Jordan also said the team plans to try to re-sign Wallace if he opts out of the final year of his contract and becomes a free agent this summer, and Okafor, who is eligible for a contract extension at the end of the season.

"We've got a lot of things to do to secure the nucleus," Jordan said. "We're close and we want to sustain this long-term. I think we have to make that commitment financially. When the time comes, we will."