[This is Part Two of a two-part post on Washington Wizards team president Ernie Grunfeld looking back at his almost 25-year tenure making player personnel decisions in the National Basketball Association. Part One can be read here.]
[This is Part One of a two-part post on Washington Wizards team president Ernie Grunfeld looking back at his almost 25-year tenure making player personnel decisions in the National Basketball Association. Part Two can be read here.]
“I told you I was going to get
the best brains in basketball.”
[Ed. Note: This is the 'official' TAI debut of Conor Dirks, longtime Wizards fan, Maryland transplant in the ATL. Follow him on Twitter: @ConorDDirks. -Kyle W.]
A pensive Ernie Grunfeld prepares to “explain.” Please allow him to do so.
In the last 10 years, the Wizards have had exactly one general manager, former NBA player Ernest Grunfeld. During Ernie’s tenure, the Wizards have amassed 475 losses, which is good for the second-most losses (tonight’s opponent, Minnesota, has the most) and third-worst winning percentage in the NBA over the last 10 years. The reason for the discrepancy between total losses and percentage is appropriately sad: the Charlotte Bobcats didn’t exist during Grunfeld’s first year with Washington.
It would be irresponsible to hold one individual wholly accountable for the failure of an organization with so many moving parts. However, after the trade of Jordan Crawford, and a recent history riddled with failed player development, it’s appropriate to try to ascertain what has gone wrong.
Bad draft picks and failed draft picks are not one and the same. Many of Ernie Grunfeld’s draft-day acquisitions have gone on to play significant roles in the NBA. However, the Wizards under Ernie Grunfeld have shown a complete lack of ability to develop and retain valuable players. Washington has also, during Grunfeld’s tenure, become notorious for dysfunction. This dysfunction isn’t endemic to D.C.’s team (see: Sacramento Kings), but the Verizon Center might be its headquarters. Read more »
At his grand opening press conference as Wizards owner, Ted Leonsis said he was “shocked” that so many fans were contacting him about a name change for Washington’s NBA franchise, especially with all he has to accomplish after officially becoming majority owner, i.e., turning a loser into a winner.
One can only assume that the shock has now worn off and that the realized issue might be serious enough to not be appeased by a simple changing of team colors that seems to pique Leonsis’ interest the most.
The Wizards as an NBA team nickname in D.C. has never been truly embraced by fans. Some of that surely has to do with winning, or lack thereof, but much of it is because the moniker is in no way a reflection of the Washington area and a city that stands as the capital of the free world.
Two weeks ago Wizards majority owner Abe Pollin passed away prior to a Wizards game against the returning Eddie Jordan (on the anniversary of his firing no less) and the Philadelphia 76ers at the Verizon Center. Tonight, Pollin will be memorialized at the arena he helped build in the Chinatown area of Washington, DC where he championed a resurgence.
Covering that Wizards-Sixers game was a whirlwind with no concern for how time flies. I knew being around for the return of Eddie Jordan to D.C. would be tough enough. The passing of Abe Pollin changed everything. It was going to be a hard night at the Verizon Center, hard to focus on the reason why everyone from Abe Pollin to kind gentlemen checking bags at the press entrance was around, the game of basketball.
Being at the game became a privilege, an honor to experience an impromptu celebration of a man’s life through the sadness of his death. The man who owned the team I love. The man who was responsible for revitalizing part of the city I love. It was a sad day for all who have been involved with the franchise, but I couldn’t feel luckier to be apart of it in the way that I was.
To see the fresh look of shock on Caron Butler’s face as if a close relative just died. To see Antawn Jamison having a moment where it wasn’t known if a tear was going to flow down his cheek or not (he held on). To see Phil Chenier up close talking about Mr. Pollin with a smile on his face. To see the faces of the emotionally stricken employees of the Washington Sports & Entertainment empire. And to be there as Wes Unseld said the words which moved me the most, two feet away and almost encapsulated by the media scrum, sweat beading on his brow from the camera lights, but looking as comfortable in his gray adidas jump suit as a grandpa telling stories to whomever would listen while sipping ice tea on a broken-in porch on a hot summer day.
Mr. Pollin was a good owner. Not particularly adept at guiding a franchise toward winning (at least in my lifetime), but a good owner. He was a loyal man, a trait which countless will stand in line to attest. Perhaps, at times, that loyalty got in the way of winning. But that wasn’t the path Abe wanted to take. It didn’t mean he wanted to win any less than the next fan for life. This team, this city was damn lucky to have Abe Pollin on their side. So cheers to the captain of the vessel, here’s to hoping your successor steers the ship at least as good as you did, and to the best of your championship aspirations. (Ted Leonsis, is that you stepping forward?)
Post-game reactions to Mr. Pollin’s passing from Gilbert Arenas, Antawn Jamison, Brendan Haywood and Wes Unseld.
As you’ve probably heard by now, Abe Pollin, Chairman of Washington Sports & Entertainment, passed away today at the age of 85.
It’s truly a sad day for the Wizards franchise, fans, and the entire Washington metropolitan area … something which I cannot really express in this hastily put together post.
Pollin, just shy of his 86th birthday (December 3rd, which also is ‘Abe Pollin Day’ in Washington, D.C.) is survived by his wife, and co-owner of WSE, Irene. He was involved in ownership of the team for over 45 years.
Are you inundated with Michael Jordan posts/readings/articles yet? Sorry. If you’ve found yourself here, you’re at the point of no return. But dude is the G.O.A.T., and unfortunately, we won’t have another chance to reflect upon his career this much until his death.
Being a Wizards blogger, I’m obliged to write about Jordan’s time in Washington … sort of. You see, when MJ was playing for the Wizards, I was finishing my last four semesters of college. During those years away from DC, I lost touch with the team I’d grown to love unconditionally. And since the MJ experiment occurred way back at the beginning of the millennium, I didn’t have the advantage of blogs, streaming online video, NBA league pass, and the what-not to adequately keep tabs.
Thus, I’m apathetic toward memories of Jordan in Wizards blue. At the time, I thought his front office presence, and his subsequent comeback to the hardwood, could be nothing but good for a perpetually floundering franchise.
First and foremost, he wants to win now, not later … the guy doesn’t have much ‘later’ left.
Second, the Wizards are relatively financially stable, ranked 15th in the NBA by Forbes in franchise value, 14th in revenue and 10th in operating income. The rankings could be better considering that D.C. is the 8th largest media market in the U.S. (in 2006). Then again, being in such a large media market helps bring in revenue from other sources.