Ted Leonsis says chat with Spurs coach Gregg Popovich was ‘like getting an MBA’
Washington Wizards owner Ted Leonsis had some deep-dive conversations with some of the best in the basketball industry, from coaches, to agents, to former politicians like former President Barack Obama. Yet none was more of an enlightening conversation than his 90-minute chat with San Antonio Spurs and Team USA head coach Gregg Popovich.
“I talked to Gregg Popovich for 90 minutes. Not about the job. About, ‘Tell me what you’re seeing in the league, tell me about the candidates that I’m talking to, tell me about how you built excellence in your team without breaching any confidence,’ ” Leonsis told Candace Buckner of The Washington Post. “It was like getting an MBA.”
Leonsis was determined to learn and most importantly to listen to what some of these voices had to say, hoping to soak in as much knowledge as possible before making a decision on the future of his franchise at the executive level after firing longtime president Ernie Grunfeld.
Ultimately the general manager job went to Tommy Sheppard, who had been with the organization for 16 years, as long as Grunfeld had when he first took him under his wing.
“Think about how great it is for me to worry about just putting a basketball team together, instead of having to be responsible for anything in the facility,” Sheppard said. “I’ll be basketball-focused, for sure. That’s what I want. I don’t really want to be in all those other areas because that allows my time to be focused here. I’m not a physical therapist. I’m not a doctor. I don’t manage facilities.”
Popovich might have had plenty bits of wisdom as a coach in college, an assistant in the NBA, a head coach and a front office executive in the league, along with multiple roles within USA Basketball. It seems Leonsis has taken as much of that wisdom in his hiring process after doing his due diligence.