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Penn alum Jordan returns to his roots coaching at Drexel

09/03/2020, 9:15am EDT
By Kevin Callahan

Abington Friends product Mike Jordan (above) had one of the best careers in Penn hoops history. (Photo courtesy Penn Athletics)

Kevin Callahan (@CP_Kcallahan)

As a young teen, Mike Jordan became the player he became playing basketball, working out and listening to his mentor’s unfiltered life advice on the hardwood floor at Drexel University. With every pull up jump shot and every cross over dribble, with every turnover and timeout, his dreams of being the best basketball player he could be became his life at the Daskalakis Athletic Center.

Soon, Jordan will be helping other young man on their jump shots and their cross-over dribbles … and most importantly their dreams.

The former Abington Friends and University of Pennsylvania all-around point guard has returned home to Philadelphia as an assistant coach for the Dragons head man Zach Spiker, returning to the familiar DAC where he sweated and learned under the legendary John Hardnett.

“A lot of people from around the country would come around for those workouts with John Hardnett,” Jordan said about the late Sonny Hill League coach and mentor. “I was fortunate to work out with John when I was 14-15 years old.

“That’s one of the most fulfilling things, and the reason I got into coaching was to give back and try to help people to have experiences and the life experiences that I did.

“I was fortunate to have very good coaches that cared about me and I want to give back and give those opportunities that I had,” Jordan continued. “I’m trying to impact somebody’s life the way John and [Penn coach Fran] Dunphy and [Abington Friends coach Steve] Chadwin and all the other coaches who had an impact on my life.”

Jordan, a three-time first team All-Ivy League pick, would also go over to Drexel and play in the Pro-Am there after graduating from Penn.

“I would play with Matt (Langel) and Geoff Owens, Gabe Llewellyn, Brian and Danny Earl, we would all come back after we graduated and play in the Pro-Am league at Drexel, so those were memorable times,” said Jordan, who finished his Penn career with 1,604 points, which ranks sixth all-time, and 461 assists, which is third all-time.

With Langel and Jordan in the backcourt, Penn captured the Ivy League crown in 1999. And, with the duo serving as senior co-captains in 2000, the Quakers scorched the Ivy without a loss in 14 games. 

“I learned so much from him in our time in Philadelphia together,” Langel said about Jordan, who was named the Ivy League Player of the Year in 2000 when he averaged 16 points and 4.9 assists per game.

And they continued to learn from each other as Jordan was an assistant coach for the last eight seasons at Colgate University under his former Penn backcourt mate.

Mike Jordan (above, second from left) with Matt Langel, Fran Dunphy and Dave Klatsky at the Temple facility. (Photo courtesy Colgate Athletics)

“It’s been an incredible situation for almost a decade that we’ve been able to work together,” Langel said. “When you’re all in the office and on the road and traveling with your team and coaching your team, those days are long, but you are doing it with people who are also your friends.

“And when you’re away, your wives and your children are all together, enjoying one another’s company, so it was really a special, special time in my life.”

Their reunion was special on the court, too, as Colgate posted the first two 20-win seasons in school history the last  two years. Last season, the Raiders set program records for wins (25) and Patriot League wins (14) while claiming the regular season title for the first time. 

In four of the last six years, Colgate placed first or second in the Patriot, including consecutive titles in 2018-19 and 2019-20. The Raiders had a combined record of 68-34 over the last three years, the best stretch in Colgate basketball history.

In 2018-19, Colgate (24-11 overall and 13-5 in the Patriot) won its first Patriot tourney title, making their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1996. Colgate lost to No. 2 seed Tennessee, 77-70.

“It was a hard decision, it took a long time,” Jordan said about leaving cozy Hamilton, N.Y. “I don’t think people quite understood, I mean, I’m born in Philadelphia, raised there so when I had an opportunity to come back, they didn’t understand why I didn’t jump at it right away.

“I had to explain to them like Matt is my guy, he is like my brother, I’ve known him over half of my life, so it wasn’t an easy decision to leave,” Jordan said.

“Hamilton is a very nice community, a certain quality of life I had up there being five minutes away from my kids at all times,” Jordan said about his three daughters. “Everything is five minutes away, I think it’s different here than any place else in the country as far as being a Division I coach.

“It’s hard to give that up and it took me a while to make that decision, but I had to give it a try to get back to my community and maybe I can influence someone who looks like me, maybe I can help influence someone, somehow, someway.”

Like Hardnett did with the impressionable Jordan over two decades ago on the court, Jordan will now coach/mentor other young men in Philly.

“I do think with all that’s going on in the world right now, for him to be able to be in Philadelphia where everyone knows him and what he achieved, and who he is as a person… ” Langel said. “As a coach, you want to impact lives and there’s no better place for him to be able to do that.”

Spiker will enter his fifth season, welcoming back his top five scorers, including two All-Colonial Athletic Association players. Last year, the Dragons reached their most wins (14) under Spiker in the truncated season that ended on March 8 when the season shut down due to the Coronavirus.

 “I think they just have to constantly improve,” Jordan said. “I think they’re at the point where, we’re at the point I should say, to turn the corner.

“You just got to continue to be more consistent in certain areas,” Jordan said when asked about the improvement Drexel made last season. “They have good players, they have a good team, they got to continue to get good players and Spike is doing a good job and runs good stuff and I think we’re right there and ready to turn that corner.”

Jordan’s new role will include recruiting, scouting, player development and game preparation.

"From the second we began this search, M.J. was the person I was focused on," Spiker said. "It is great to get him and his family back to Philadelphia. He comes to Drexel with professional experiences that all our players are aspiring to have.”

Jordan, who was named to the Big 5 Hall of Fame in 2014, played professionally for more than a decade, playing in nine different countries, including France, Germany, Israel, Italy and Spain.   

“As a coach, he has helped build and sustain a championship program at Colgate through recruiting, player development and coaching," Spiker said. “Mike will be a great addition to our staff on many levels. "

Langel has known Spiker from his assistant coaching years at Cornell under Steve Donahue.

“I think their program will benefit because of a lot of things about Michael ,” Langel said about Drexel, “and the competitive traits that runs through his veins that you have no choice, but to ramp up your competitive spirit when you are around him.”

In 2000, before Jordan went to play in Europe, he was a member of the Philadelphia 76ers Summer League team and was also a member of the Boston Celtics preseason team. 

“What I love the most about Michael is with all his life experiences and basketball experiences, I think at a relatively early age he recognized for years who he wanted to be and he was very coachable in that,” Langel said about Jordan, who graduated from Penn in 2000 with a bachelor's degree in sociology with a concentration in deviance & law. “He’s always looking to learn from others and grow and become a better version of himself,” Langel said. “He is one of the most competitive characters you will ever come across, he wears that on his sleeve and it rubs off on others.”

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