Frank Hughes has an interesting piece about Wally Walker in the TNT today; it deals with Walker’s somewhat surprising comments to a Tip Off Luncheon at the Fairmont Hotel on Monday in Seattle.
You should really read the article in its entirety, but one quote in particular stoked my anger.
“I have been the head of this organization for 12 years, and we have the fifth-best record in the NBA,” Walker said.
I’ve heard this argument a couple of times now, but it’s the first time Walker has taken it as his own. I think it deserves a little examination.
Let’s set some ground rules first. In my mind, taking credit for the accomplishments of others is bad form, and until the players you’ve acquired as a GM contribute at least 50% of the points to the team’s total, then it isn’t your team, it’s your predecessor(s)’. So, with that in mind, let’s examine Walker’s real accomplishments (and, if you think I'm being overly critical, think of it this way: If the Sonics win the championship this year, don't you think Wally would want/deserve some credit for what happens?).
Walker was hired to be the Sonics GM on July 22, 1994, replacing Bob Whitsitt, making his first season as GM 1994-95. But does he really deserve any credit for Seattle’s 57-25 record that year? Considering the only move Walker made was to sign Bill Cartwright to a 3-year deal, I’d say no. When the people you acquire contribute 2.4 ppg TOTAL to the team’s effort, I’d say that a 3-year-old could have done your job for that season. So let’s eliminate the 57-25 from Wally’s career accomplishments.
Moving on to 1995-96 and Walker’s first major move, acquiring Hersey Hawkins and David Wingate for Kendall Gill. The Sonics made it to the Finals, but Wingate, Hawkins, Sherrell Ford (!), and Eric Snow (!) – Wally’s Guys (WG) – gave the Sonics all of 25 ppg, so, again, a no go.
1996-97: It’s still Whitsitt’s team, as Walker adds Terry Cummings, Jim McIlvaine, ... well, just a boatload of crap, really. Still well below the 50% threshold.
1997-98: Ahh, now we’re talking. Vin Baker, Dale Ellis, Jerome Kersey, Greg Anthony, Aaron Williams – all WGs. The magic 50% mark has now been surpassed. From here on in, the Sonics are Wally’s Team. Let’s start the W-L count from here, then.
Now, let’s add the totals to see what we get ...... adding music .... 384 wins. Okay, what does 384 wins mean?
Well, let’s take a look at the Western Conference, because I’m too lazy to add up the entire league. How do the Sonics fare in relation to the other teams in their conference in this time period? There are 14 teams in the West. Guess how many won at least 384 games? 2? 3? 5?
Try seven. That’s right, during his tenure as general manager, when the players on the roster were players that he personally recruited, Wally Walker ranked in the absolute middle of the Western Conference pack. No better, no worse.
Sorry, Wally, you and your friends can parrot this “5th best record in the NBA during my tenure” crap all you want, but the sad truth is that when left to your own devices, you’re only capable of creating a middling team that makes the playoffs once every 3 or 4 seasons. You can dress it up all you want, but the truth is Walker was an average GM that will be lucky to ever get another job in the league, unless he manages to glom his way onto another millionaire.