July 23, 2018 | ° F

Alumni see Jordan hire as positive shift for program

With an alumni pin stuck in his jean vest, Hamady N’Diaye stood with a grin ear-to-ear when asked how he felt about Eddie Jordan being named the Rutgers head men’s basketball coach.

“With everything that has been going on in the past month, I think it is a great move to not only bring in someone who is a Rutgers alumni and has been so great,” N’Diaye said. “He was a great choice, and I feel like they made the right pick bringing him out here to help the team not only get over what just happened, but to get the team to the next level.”

N’Diaye, a center who played for the Scarlet Knights from 2006-2010 before he was drafted 56th overall in the 2010 NBA Draft by the Washington Wizards, was among the handful of former players on hand to welcome Jordan as the 18th coach in program history.

N’Diaye’s opinion of the hire represents the consensus of alumni who believed Jordan, a University graduate and member of the 1976 men’s basketball team that made it to the Final Four, was the perfect fit for a program whose future is far from ideal.

Former forward Austin Johnson, who played under former head coach Mike Rice this season, was also pleased with the hire and said Jordan’s NBA ties can be looked at as reassurance to any player that remains on the roster.

Jordan played seven seasons in the league, and held head coaching jobs with the Sacramento Kings, Washington Wizards and Philadelphia 76ers.

For Johnson, the professional experience is invaluable for next year’s team and beyond.

“I live with [senior forward] Wally [Judge], and I’m close with [junior forward] Kadeem [Jack] and those guys,” Johnson said. “They are bringing in somebody who has previous experience with guys like Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard, so how can you not be excited?”

Johnson said he remembers when Jordan was the head coach of the Philadelphia 76ers, his favorite team growing up in Elkins Park, Pa., just 25 minutes outside the City of Brotherly Love.

It is also a valuable recruiting tool in the minds of Johnson and other former players.

“Any time you bring in a coach that’s been a professional coach for so long, and you bring him in with guys who are aspiring to get to that level, that speaks for itself,” Johnson said. “I would have known who he was with my 76ers infatuation, but I would have been in awe if I had him in my living room, and I think he will be able to bring in some big recruits here with him being so established.”

Jordan’s former Rutgers teammates also came out in support — five former Knights were in attendance during his introductory press conference.

Phil Sellers was among them, and as the program’s all-time leading scorer, he was quick to lobby for Jordan back when the coaching job first became vacant.

He also did not hesitate to say what type of challenge it will be to turn the program around and recover from the negative media attention received in the past month.

“He has his work cut out for him,” Sellers said. “I like what he said on the podium about reaching out to the players. You don’t want them to get away. I know guys are a little discouraged right now ... but those guys who are thinking about leaving the program because they got their release, I hope they give Eddie Jordan a chance.”

Though it is uncertain what the future will hold for Jordan when it comes to on-court success, recruiting or even retaining the current roster, it is certain former members of the program will be there with support.

With everything that has transpired with the firing of Rice, the resignation of former Athletic Director Tim Pernetti and the fallout from the released practice videos, N’Diaye can only hope Jordan’s hiring will result in positive publicity for his former team.

But no matter what, he will still wear his alumni pin proudly wherever he goes and give his support to Jordan along the way.

“I love this school and what it brings to me,” N’Diaye said. “It’s always felt comfortable here and always felt like a family and knowing that another member of the family is guiding my team, I feel a lot more comfortable. ... I think me personally, these events hurt, but finding the solution was very important and right now this is the first step to recovery.”

For updates on the Rutgers men’s basketball team, follow Bradly Derechailo on Twitter @Bradly_D. For general Rutgers sports updates follow @TargumSports.

By Bradly Derechailo

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