Sat, May 10, 2003 - Page 19 News List

Jordan's role at Charlotte may step on Tapscott's toes

AP , CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA

If Michael Jordan takes a job with Charlotte's NBA expansion team, he would run basketball operations -- a job originally earmarked for top executive Ed Tapscott.

"If Michael came aboard, he would be the president of basketball operations," new owner Robert Johnson said Thursday.

Tapscott, hired in January as the team "architect," said he would not have a problem working for Jordan.

Johnson wants Jordan as a partner or as an employee to be entrusted with the job of assembling the team that will begin play in the 2004-05 season.

"Definitely," Johnson said. "Not to do that would be like having the greatest chef in the world and telling him he's not allowed in the kitchen."

That leaves Tapscott waiting in the pantry, uncertain of the exact scope of his future role as he continues to go about the day-to-day business of building an NBA team from the ground up -- everything from choosing a logo and a nickname, developing a marketing plan, selling luxury suites, securing office space, working on a naming rights deal for the team's new arena and hiring a staff.

"What's best for this franchise is to get this guy on board, and I'm all for that," Tapscott said.

None of the latest Jordan developments come as a complete surprise to Tapscott, who knew when he took the job that there was an outside possibility Jordan might enter the picture. Although many people assumed Jordan would return to his old front office job with the Wizards, there was plenty of informed speculation things could go sour in Washington.

That's what happened, as Jordan's three-and-a-half-year tenure with the Wizards came to an acrimonious end on Wednesday when majority owner Abe Pollin told Jordan he did not want him as a part of the organization anymore.

Jordan's timetable for making a decision on his next career move is not known. His agent, David Falk, was unavailable for comment on Thursday.

"When he is ready to sit down and talk business, I'll be here," Johnson said. "I am not under any pressure to rush this through, and he needs to decide what he wants to do. ... It's really `What does Michael want to do?' I know what I want to do."

Tapscott was Johnson's first significant hire, and he has learned that building an NBA team from the ground up is no easy task.

He was the one who took out the trash during his first few days at the team's offices, where there was no furniture and he had to sit on the floor while making business calls on his cell phone.

When he was an assistant general manager with New York, Tapscott said the Knicks agreed to a deal with the Charlotte Hornets to acquire Alonzo Mourning for Charles Oakley and Charles Smith.

His delight quickly turned to shock, however, as the Hornets instead dealt Mourning to the Miami Heat for Glen Rice.

"Perhaps most people assumed that I would be the basketball guy of this franchise, and it was never my intention to be just the basketball guy," Tapscott said. "I want to oversee all sides."

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