Wizards owner Ted Leonsis reached out to Barack Obama, Gregg Popovich, Rich Paul when reassessing front office
Washington Wizards owner Ted Leonsis had a massive concern on his hands after his franchise fell way shy of expectations, resulting in the firing of longtime president of basketball operations Ernie Grunfeld. In search for a new direction, the owner met with giants of their respective industries, including San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, sports agent extraordinaire Rich Paul of Klutch Sports and even the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama.
Leonsis talked about the lengthy process as he worked to restructure his front office:
“It was a very, very long gestation process,” Leonsis told Candace Buckner of The Washington Post, who said he talked to 78 people before restructuring his front office. “It wasn’t what people were expecting, which was ‘It’s a small pool of candidates; you’re going to hire a replacement for the last executive who was there.’ I knew I would get grief on it, but if I did the work, my partners and the executive team would feel good about it.”
Obama has never shied from giving Leonsis his frank opinion of the NBA, according to a person with personal insights into their relationship. The two spoke in late April about how important it was to build the right culture. Obama championed the “beauty of the game, teamwork, sacrifice” and surrounding his franchise stars (John Wall and Bradley Beal) with complementary pieces.
Obama, who took a role with the NBA’s Basketball Africa League, also encouraged Leonsis to invest in scouting in Africa.
That advice was taken well, as interim GM Tommy Sheppard drafted proven winners in Gonzaga’s Rui Hachimura and Tennessee’s Admiral Schofield, while trading Dwight Howard and signing Thomas Bryant to a long-term deal.
It seems Leonsis understands that to make a sound front office, he must first take lessons from some of the best in each industry. He clearly did that, giving him and his franchise a nice pillar of success, even through difficult and trying times of uncertainty.