- - Tuesday, July 23, 2019


If you were happy with the news Monday about Transparent Ted Leonsis’ new-age management plan for the Washington Wizards, you might want to think about this — this was Plan C, or maybe Plan D or some other plan even further down the alphabet.

Remember, Plan A was to hire Tim Connelly, Denver’s president of basketball operations. But Connelly turned down Transparent Ted’s offer that fell short of the five-year, $20 million deal he reportedly sought.

Then came Plan B: Bring in Toronto Raptor kingpin Masai Ujiri to run it all for a reported $10 million annually and a piece of ownership in the parent company, Monumental Sports and Entertainment, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

That blew up in Transparent Ted’s face before it ever got any traction, as the Wizards backed off quickly amid whispers of tampering charges. The team’s panicked denials promoted by a story in the Washington Post? Damage control. But make no mistake about it, they monumentally fumbled their plan for bringing Ujiri to Washington to change the culture.

It is likely that if Ujiri had been hired, there probably wouldn’t be any vice president of player engagement or chief planning and operation officer — unless Ujiri wanted it.

So now we move to the big announcement Monday — a three-headed boss for the basketball team that consists of naming interim general manager Tommy Sheppard as the permanent GM, former NFL executive Sashi Brown as chief planning and operations officer and former Georgetown basketball coach John Thompson III as vice president of player engagement.

It was a winning-off-the-field day for Transparent Ted.

We’ve come a long way from days when he declared the Wizards general manager’s job “the best most important open job in all of sports.”

Organizations don’t twist themselves inside out like this unless they have been a disaster — and the Wizards have been just that, despite a couple of illusory playoff appearances. They have been a laughingstock around the league that free agents stayed away from and other executives ridiculed.

Before he was fired, former GM Ernie Grunfeld called his own shots, shunning collaborative efforts. In a way, that has saved Tommy Sheppard, who can make the case that even though he worked under Grunfeld, he had little to do with the damage inflicted as a result of Grunfeld’s one-man operation.

Now, there is nothing wrong with a one-man operation if you have the right man. The Wizards weren’t able to convince any one man to take the best most important open job in all of sports, so Transparent Ted opted for three jobs.

Look, he was spending a lot of money on Mike Forde as a consultant. He had to have something to show for it.

For years, the Wizards had something in common with the Los Angeles Clippers — failure. Now it turns out that the Clippers have become the model for success for the Wizards. “You look at the Clippers and what they have been able to do, they have a lot of people there,” Transparent Ted told reporters. “No one doubts that [former Microsoft chief executive] Steve Ballmer owns the team and has been successful, but Steve is bringing in a lot of great people.”

No one, though, is going to mistake Scott Brooks for Doc Rivers. And the reality is the Clippers brought in one person who has seemingly made the difference — Jerry West, only the greatest front office executive in NBA history.

If we are using the Clippers as the model to duplicate — do Tommy Sheppard, Sashi Brown and John Thompson III add to up Jerry West?

Sheppard appears to have made some good moves during his time as interim GM, cleaning up some of the mess left behind by his former boss by bringing in young, inexpensive players who seem to fit the character profile the franchise is operating under these days.

But this is not rocket science. At some point, the Wizards will have to convince elite players to come and take their money, something they have failed to do to date. Will the three-headed Wizards new-age management team convince anyone to do that?

Sheppard and his team need to restore respect for this organization, build a roster of strong supporting players and then make the sales pitch to great players that this is a place they want to be.

It’s never been about Washington the city, which should be an attractive place to call home for NBA stars. It’s always been about low opinion of the Wizards organization around the NBA.

Maybe Transparent Ted should have hired a vice president in charge of reputation makeovers.

Hear Thom Loverro on 106.7 The Fan Wednesday afternoons and Saturday and Sunday mornings and on the Kevin Sheehan Show podcast.

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