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For Basketball Whiz, a New Challenge

For Basketball Whiz, a New ChallengeTufts graduate Ed Tapscott has been chosen to serve as interim coach of the NBA's Washington Wizards, in the hopes of salvaging the team's season.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [12.01.08] When Ed Tapscott (A'75) woke up on Nov. 24, he didn't know that he would end the day as the new interim head coach of the NBA's Washington Wizards. But with the team off to a 1-10 start on the season, a change was in order.

Tapscott, who was in his second year as the team's director of player development, has been selected to coach the Wizards for the remainder of the regular season, replacing Eddie Jordan. "We're better than 1-10," Tapscott said at a press conference the day of the announcement. "I want to preach accountability and unity. I really believe we've got to get better defensively."

In his first game as the Wizards' coach on Nov. 25, the team defeated the Golden State Warriors 124-100 at home, playing with "that combination of playmaking and energy that was often missing during the team's 1-10 start," according to the Washington Post.

"That was a terrific effort by our team," Tapscott said after the game, according to the Post. "I really am very, very happy with the focus and energy... When you get a good team win like that where everyone is focused and gets to share in it, that's something you can build off of."

Post basketball writer Michael Wilbon described the Tufts graduate, who played with the Jumbos under basketball coach Tom Penders, as "one of the most diversely skilled, uniquely qualified men in professional basketball."

"He's been a college head coach, represented players, been assistant general manager, worked in broadcasting, consulted, scouted," Wilbon continued. "He did 99 percent of the heavy lifting that resulted in a franchise in Charlotte for billionaire Bob Johnson. Tapscott's résumé glitters."

For the Washington, D.C., native, coaching yet another hometown team-he coached American University to a 109-117 record over eight seasons there from 1982 to 1990-was not something he planned. But he is embracing his new status as a rookie coach in the NBA.

"It was a surreal moment," Tapscott told reporters at the press conference. "I get out of bed this morning, come in and start looking at tape like I do every morning. Then it starts to sink in when you have to go out there with your practice plan in hand and you have to direct practice. It's still sinking in, but there's a lot of work to do."

izards President Ernie Grunfeld, a longtime friend of Tapscott, has confidence in his ew coach. "He's an excellent communicator, and excellent motivator and he understands his X's and O's. I think he'll do an excellent job," he said at the press conference.

Tapscott has previously held several front-office jobs with several teams including the New York Knicks, the Phoenix Suns and the Milwaukee Bucks. From 2003 to 2006, he served as the first president and CEO of the Charlotte Bobcats.

According to Post sportswriter Michael Lee, Tapscott was picked as interim coach because of his player communication skills. "He has an amazing gift for explaining the game and his thought process," Lee wrote in a blog post.

The players had good things to say about their new coach. "Coach Tapscott is a very good basketball coach with a very good basketball mind. I'm sure he will do well going forward," center Brendan Haywood told the D.C. Examiner.

"We all respect him," Wizards co-captain Antawn Jamison told BusinessWorld Online. "We know he has a great basketball IQ."

His colleagues in the league voiced similar sentiments. "I tell you one thing, when you talk about Ed Tapscott, that guy has got one of the best basketball minds and people skills as anybody I've been around," Chicago Bulls assistant coach Bernie Bickerstaff told the Post.

Whether Tapscott will coach the Wizards beyond this season remains to be seen, but in that time, he has the opportunity to turn a team around.

"We're not talking about totally changing the character of this team. We are simply giving new definitions and refining what we do," Tapscott said at the press conference. "We're going to be very emphatic about what we're asking for and the level at which we ask for it."

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