Irene Pollin: Michael Jordan went haywire after Wizards ousted him

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Nobody can own a team/run a team’s front office while playing in the NBA.

We all learned that when Michael Jordan came back for the Wizards.

Jordan sold his ownership stake in the Wizards and resigned as president of basketball operations in 2001. He played two years for a minimum salary, filling the stands and drawing national attention to Washington.

Everyone – including Jordan – figured he’d return to an executive role after his third retirement.

But then-Wizards owner Abe Pollin opted not to re-hire Jordan. Pollin’s widow, Irene Pollin, who controlled the team briefly after his death, recounts the saga in her new book.

Irene, via Dan Steinberg of The Washington Post:

After many carefully thought-out meetings with senior staff and lawyers, Abe agreed to meet with Michael in his office. Knowing this would be a difficult meeting, his advisers suggested he tell Michael that he had “decided to go in a different direction.” They felt, after reviewing his performance, they had no choice. It was not personal. They all liked and admired Michael; it was purely business.

This was not what Michael expected. He was shocked. What followed was a heated discussion of what had and had not been promised. But after Abe repeated his decision “to go in a different direction,” Michael lost it. He became very angry and began shouting. At that point, Abe walked out of the room as Michael called him several unflattering names. Michael stormed out of the room, went down to the parking garage, jumped into his Mercedes convertible with Illinois license plates, took the top down, and drove directly back to Chicago.

Abe came home extremely shaken. In fact, I had never seen him so upset over team business. He never expected such a reaction. He’d always been a good negotiator. People always responded to him positively in those situations because he was “cool” and fair. This had never happened to him. It probably was a first for Michael as well. Nobody had probably said no to him in a long time.

During the following week, while we were taking a few days in Rehoboth, Abe was still visibly upset.

Exaggerated? Maybe. Irene probably wasn’t positioned to know whether Jordan actually drove directly from Abe’s office to Chicago.

But she saw how the meeting affected Abe, and that came from somewhere. Jordan is notoriously competitive and a tremendous winner. It’s completely believable that he’d lash out after not getting his way.

Also for fair reason.

Jordan took a far-below-market deal to help the Wizards. They used him and then told him to kick rocks. His indignation is justifiable, and he has never hidden his disdain for Abe’s handling of the situation.

Now, we have a better idea just how intense Jordan’s anger ran.