WASHINGTON - Even without Gilbert Arenas and another injured starter, the Washington Wizards never imagined they would be as bad as the franchise ever has been.
"That's an unacceptable record, obviously," team president Ernie Grunfeld said. "We thought the change needed to be made."
With that in mind, Grunfeld phoned Jordan and delivered the news - after the coach spent yesterday morning distributing turkeys during a team charity event. Grunfeld then informed Tapscott - who was at the arena, watching tape and preparing to help Jordan at practice.
Instead, Tapscott wound up running the session.
"Surreal," he said.
The coach at American University in the 1980s, and an NBA front-office employee for years since, Tapscott will make his professional coaching debut tonight against the visiting Golden State Warriors.
Tapscott was given the title of interim coach and will run the Wizards until the end of the season, when Grunfeld said he plans to "evaluate everything." Associate head coach Mike O'Koren also was fired; Randy Ayers will be Tapscott's top assistant.
Jordan, the Eastern Conference's coach at the 2007 All-Star Game, was in his sixth season with the Wizards. He led the team to the playoffs each of the past four - the longest postseason streak for a Washington coach since Dick Motta did it from 1976 to 1980.
In September, shortly before the start of training camp, the Wizards picked up a one-year option to keep Jordan under contract through the 2009-10 season. That, along with the key injuries to Arenas and center Brendan Haywood, were reasons Jordan's job was thought to be safe.
Asked whether he was shocked by the firing, co-captain Antawn Jamison bristled and replied, "Why wouldn't I be shocked? The team is 1-10, not the coach. Next question."
The Wizards have struggled to even be competitive at times this season, with Arenas recovering from his third operation on his left knee in 1 1/2 years, and with Haywood out for perhaps the entire season after surgery on his shooting wrist.
"Other teams in the league also have injuries," Grunfeld said.
Washington opened 0-5, then beat the Jazz at home to avoid the first 0-6 start in franchise history. That win, though, was followed by another five-game losing streak. The only other time the franchise was 1-10 was in 1966, when it was the Baltimore Bullets.
The final straw for Jordan appears to have been a 122-117 loss Saturday to the New York Knicks, who had only seven players available.
Tapscott has been president and chief operating officer of the Charlotte Bobcats and, before that, vice president of player personnel and basketball operations for the Knicks in the 1990s. He joined the Wizards' front office in August 2007 after spending a year as an analyst for the team's television broadcasts.
Tapscott was an assistant to current Maryland coach Gary Williams at American in the 1970s and became head coach in 1982. In eight seasons at AU, Tapscott finished with 119 victories.
"We all respect him," Jamison said. "We know he has a great basketball IQ."