NEWARK, New Jersey (Reuters) - Rutgers University introduced Eddie Jordan, a star player on its 1976 Final Four team, as the new head basketball coach on Tuesday and said he would restore an atmosphere of respect to the program.
Jordan, who had been a Los Angeles Lakers assistant coach since last year, replaces former head coach Mike Rice, who was fired by Rutgers earlier in April after ESPN aired footage of him screaming homophobic epithets at players, hurling basketballs at them and shoving and kicking them.
Jordan, a former head coach for three National Basketball Association franchises including the Washington Wizards, said he was honored to become the caretaker of the Scarlet Knights basketball program.
“We’ve all come to a point that we have to regain our pride and our dignity and our integrity to our university,” he told a news conference.
The scandal has also led to the resignation of former athletic director Tim Pernetti and damaged the reputation of New Jersey’s largest public university system, which in December agreed to join the Big Ten athletic conference.
Rutgers President Robert Barchi, who has been under fire for his handling of the scandal, said Jordan would help restore an “atmosphere of respect and dignity” to the program.
“I know he’s the right leader at a pivotal moment for our basketball program,” Barchi told a news conference at the school’s College Avenue Gym in New Brunswick, New Jersey.
Jordan agreed to a five-year deal worth $6.25 million in guaranteed money, the school said in a statement.
Jordan, known as “Fast Eddie,” is the school’s all-time leader in both assists (585) and steals (220). While playing for the New Jersey Nets, Jordan led the NBA in total steals in 1978-1979.
Editing by Brendan O'Brien, Cynthia Johnston and Mohammad Zargham