- The Washington Times - Friday, October 6, 2006

RICHMOND — As the summer crept by, Washington Wizards owner Abe Pollin discovered that he just couldn’t get his team out of his head. Almost every waking moment was filled with thoughts of what it would take to make the 42-40 team better.

One of the things Pollin wanted to do was extend the contract of coach Eddie Jordan, which he did. But after locking up the man who helped lead the Wizards to consecutive playoff appearances for the first time since 1988, Pollin, who leaves the basketball decisions up to his basketball people, still wanted to give the process of building the team into a true contender a shove.

And that is when he came up with the idea of extending the contract of president of basketball operations Ernie Grunfeld, despite the fact that Grunfeld still has two years remaining on the contract he signed in 2003. Pollin on Wednesday extended Grunfeld’s contract through the 2011-12 season.

“I originally thought about doing it next year when he had a year left on his contract,” said Pollin, who yesterday attended the team’s morning workout at Siegel Center on the campus of Virginia Commonwealth University. “Then I thought about it and said, ‘You know, sometimes it’s really good to do something that somebody doesn’t expect. He’s deserving of it so I said, ‘[Darn] it, I’m going to do it this year, and I’m going to do it now.’ So I decided to do it.”

Pollin, the longest tenured owner (41 seasons) in the league, couldn’t contain his joy while discussing the solidification of his front office — a rarity in today’s NBA — and the continued building of a team that he contended yesterday “will be playing for a championship soon.”

“Ernie has done a terrific job for my team,” Pollin said. “We’ve been to the playoffs two years in a row, something that hasn’t happened around here in a long time. He’s brought us some great players so I decided not to wait to reward him for what he’s done.”

In an organization that in the past has seemed disorganized with its planning while at the same time appearing to have little notion of what success requires, these days everyone — from the owner to the front office executives to the players — seems to be on the same page.

Pollin, Grunfeld and Jordan heard their players grumble when they let guard Larry Hughes sign with Cleveland after the 2004-05 season.

And while there is a school of thought that the Wizards made a mistake in letting Jared Jeffries sign with New York over the summer, Jeffries — the 11th overall pick in the 2002 draft — never developed into the player the Wizards hoped he would become.

In the meantime, the true core of the team — Gilbert Arenas, Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler, all added under Grunfeld — remains intact.

“We’ve got continuity, and that’s what we wanted,” Pollin said. “It’s very important to me. In the end it’s what’s going to win for us, having the same players, the same coach and the same general manager. Those are the things that are going to make us a championship team again.”

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