Well, that was quite a shakeup Mr. Bennett issued yesterday, though it was as unexpected as a failed movie starring an SNL alum.
With Sund and Hill both out of the picture, I'm hoping that Bennett/Wilkens (hereinafter Benikens) first move will be to acquire a GM. Unfortunately, all the good GM candidates are kind of busy right now. There's this thing called the "playoffs" taking place, and anybody that's good at their job is likely involved in it.
That obviously puts Benikens in a crappy spot. Do they wait until late June to make a move, and pray that a coach/GM combination is available? Do they go for a guy like Adelman or Larry Brown now, then hope that whichever GM they get later on is cool with it?
Personally, I think the best move is to go GM first, coach second. With that in mind, here's a wishlist of GMs:
1. Kiki Vandeweghe; people forget how bad the Nuggets were before he took over in 2001. He transformed them to a playoff team by acquiring Marcus Camby, Carmelo Anthony, Kenyon Martin, and George Karl. He also drafted Nikoloz Tskitishvili with the 5th overall pick in 2002. Ouch.
2. Jerry West; late of the Grizzlies, West obviously knows how to create a playoff team, but color me less than enthusiastic about him leading the Sonics. He radiates weariness of the NBA, and while he got the Grizzlies into the playoffs after a inheriting a woeful franchise, I don't know that he's the right fit for the Sonics.
3. RC Buford, Spurs; the safest pick, Buford leads the most-envied franchise in the NBA. He's found international guys like Ginobili and Parker and continues to mix and match veterans and youngsters. But I've got to wonder, why in the hell would he want to leave S.A. for Seattle?
4. Sam Presti, Spurs; Buford's assistant is only 30 years old, but is often mentioned as a potential candidate. I'd be wary of hiring him, only because he'd have the spectre of Lenny Wilkens hovering over him. I look at it this way: let's say the Sonics are poised to make a trade, with Presti arguing for Answer A, and Wilkens for Answer B. They go to Bennett to settle the argument. Who do you think Bennett's going to side with: the 30-year-old neophyte, or the 70-year-old wizard?
5. Lenny Wilkens, Methuselah; sorry, but I am really beginning to think this will be the answer. The Sonics are in such disarray right now that it's going to be really difficult for any GM to come in and do much of anything.
Think about how next year is going to go. Assume that the deadline for building a stadium comes and goes. In November, the Sonics will be playing in a half-empty arena with crowds that are booing their home team. The whole season feels like something out of "Bad News Bears." What GM in their right mind would want any part of that? I have the distinct impression that next year will be in wait-and-see mode, until the team packs up for parts unknown and begins its new life with a new GM and a new coach.
Love the Kiki idea, moreso than the 69-year old logo in West.
By the way, a guy at ESPN.com posted in the TrueHoop blog story about the firings that he has a friend that is a sales exec who was at the meeting with Bennett yesterday. He said it was relayed to the employees that the odds of the Sonics staying are basically zero. The land that they wanted to use for Renton is now no longer available, and a release should be coming on that in a few days. The mayor of Renton basically said her good-bye to the project in yesterday's Times. Also, Bennett said that he is absolutely done dealing with the local government, so I guess the only thing left is the litigation to get out of the last 2 years of the lease? So hard to get excited about the new hires and/or draft when things look so glum. Pray for a miracle time.
My vote is for Harrison For--err... Kiki Vandeweghe.
He did rebuild the Nugs, AND was part of the initial Nelly group that started the Cuban rebuilding down in Dallas. He is FAR more qualified than Lenny, who really has done NOTHING for how many years now?
Get this-- in my work I spoke with a guy that is friends with Lenny, grew up with him, when I commented that Lenny was going to have a more active role with the team, he laughed and said, "Oh, no. We're old men now. Our time is passed, that's a young guy's job."
That, uh, concerns me.
Thanks for the tip on the TrueHoop comments (I really should start reading those instead of the columns only). For those who, like me, missed the item to which anonymous was referring:
Report ViolationRiseKing (4/25/2007 at 8:39 AM)
"Sooner, there is really no way the team will stay in Seattle. I'm a Seattlite, and a life-long Sonic fan. One of my best friends is an account executive with the team, and he told me that after an all-staff meeting with Bennett yesterday, there is absolutely no way the team stays in Seattle. Not only has Bennett given up on the legistlature, the Sonics have lost the piece of land in Renton that the new arena would have been built on (there will be a press release on that in the next day or two). The investor who was going to help buy the land is unwilling to risk the investment if there is no state money for the arena, so now there is no land for a new arena.As for the residents of the area supporting a public-funded arena, there's pretty much zero support. Key Arena was remodeled only 11 years ago at $220 million, and is already outdated. Safeco Field and Qwest Field have also been built, and all have been publicly funded. People are tired of helping finance these buildings when there are other serious issues to attend to (big transportation problems), even though the money for a new arena would come out of an existing tax. ..."
Ouch. Before we all get overly depressed, keep in mind this is an anonymous person posting on an espn message board. It very well could be someone like Nick Licata or Van Dyck, and all of his/her "inside information" could just be made-up twat.
I'll say this, though. I've lived in Vancouver, BC since 1998, so I was hear when the Grizzlies left, and I get the same vibes from Clay Bennett as I did from Michael Heisley.
Great point on that it COULD be a VanDyk or some other anti-sports dork that still wants to fight over Qwest and Safeco. I fear most of all that the Sonics are going to be made the "example" here, and the Licata's, Chopp's and everyone else in the more important things category will push like crazy to stop anything. But man, that ESPN post isn't exactly encouraging either. I did read the Renton mayor's letter in the ST yesterday and it sure sounded as though she was done as well.
I find it most interesting that there were supposedly 130 employees in that meeting yesterday. If Bennett was basically saying they were moving and he's done fighting the fight here, wouldn't there be some sources telling KJR, ESPN and whoever else beyond a post on True Hoop? I would think there would be leaks, no matter how much Bennett wants things tight-lipped.
The PI has already confimed the land story. Frank Hughes wrote about the staff meeting... Bennett told the employees there was a 99% chance the team would play in Seattle NEXT season.
What happened to that other 1%?
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