As expected, all was quiet on the Bucks trade front last Thursday, as the only real "news" was that the Bucks still weren't interested in Zach Randolph (thank you, Herb, Ron, Mike, Larry, et al). Either way, the worst kept secret in Milwaukee seems to be that, barring something quite unforeseeable, Larry Harris will be the designated scapegoat for the Bucks' disappointing 07/08, raising questions not only about what moves the Bucks should make this summer, but who will be making them (and whether the GM will really be calling the shots in the first place).
While many Bucks fans have been wondering why an established GM-type would even want to bother running a small-market club that's grown notorious for its front-office dysfunctionality, we now have at least one familiar name who's openly campaigning for the gig: ESPN's Bill Simmons.
By the way, I'd like to officially apply for Larry Harris' job -- a job we knew would be open three years ago after his deer-in-the-headlights performance after winning the 2005 lottery. Bucks fans, lemme remind you that I pushed long and hard for Chris Paul as the No. 1 pick of that draft. Do you think you'd enjoy rooting for Chris Paul right now? I bet you would. I love the good city of Milwaukee, I'd love to live there, and I'd love to run the Bucks. Come on, you couldn't do worse! Start bugging Herb Kohl right now and vote Simmons for Bucks GM in 2008! YES WE CAN! YES WE CAN! YES WE CAN!
We're not sure if Bill knows exactly what he's getting himself into--we know Bill loves trades, and Herb Kohl's desk is where trade proposals go to die--but realistically he's probably no worse suited to being GM than anyone else who would be willing to take the gig. Plus, as Bucks fans we fully admit to being attention-starved, and what better way to garner some undeserved hype than by hiring ESPN's most popular sports writer for a job he's not technically qualified for? Yeah, we can't think of anything else either (winning games? Ha!). So in the name of desperation and in the spirit of political activism, Brew Hoop hereby formally endorses Mr. Simmons for the Bucks' soon-to-be-vacant GM job.
Herb, Yi and Bill: Let's make it happen.
We realize that Bill's candidacy is a longshot (read: impossibility), but let's go over some of the key issues at play and get Bill up to speed on what he's up against. First off there's his potential competition. In January the rumor mill was already mentioning Doug Collins and Rick Sund as possible candidates, though of late there's been little talk of possible replacements. You might remember Collins rebuffing Kohl's offer to make him team president (and possibly even coach) two summers ago, while former Seattle GM Sund was basically fired when the Sonics new ownership came into power (though he's technically still head of Antarctic scouting or something). Sund's most notable move with Seattle was ironically the Ray Allen/Gary Payton deal, but he's otherwise had a mixed record. Collins meanwhile has no prior front office experience that we're aware of, but he does have a lot of experience coaching Michael Jordan without winning championships. In other words, neither looks like much of a savior.
Kohl will also likely consider promoting Director of Player Personnel Dave Babcock, which makes plenty of sense if the Senator wants to maintain his close oversight of personnel decisions while leaving negotiating duties largely to Ron Walter and company. It's unclear whether a more respected general manager would accept that sort of power structure, though the hope among most Bucks fans is that the media's increased scrutiny of Kohl's management style will force changes beyond the name on the GM's door. Gery Woelfel has noted that only the Bucks and Clippers run their front offices in such a unique manner (ahem), but Simmons should appreciate that given he's been a Clipper season ticket-holder. Besides, the Bucks GM job is probably the closest thing to replicating Elgin Baylor's job, and we know how much Bill loves Elgin. As for Babcock, he spent seven years as the Bucks' director of scouting before taking on his current role as Harris' right-hand man the past few seasons. He's also been keeping busy lately by sitting in for Harris on WSSP's Pro Hoops Show, which basically involves taking abuse on the radio while doing his best to deflect fan criticism. Whether being a good soldier pays off with a promotion to GM remains to be seen. For more on Babcock's personnel philosophy, check out Charlie Bury's interview with Babcock two summers ago.
Though the next GM won't exactly have high standards to live up to, he will still have to answer to a fanbase that over the past few years has grown only in disillusionment (and certainly not in numbers). While Harris has reportedly gone through Kohl's right-hand man Walter for some time, his lame duck status this year and the resulting organizational paralysis has further underscored the Bucks' broken model of doing business. Harris shouldn't be absolved of blame for the team's current situation, but in the big picture he's just another name in a long list of GMs who have been unable to succeed under Kohl. And while coaches and GMs should be accountable for the team's play, so should everyone else who plays an active role in the decision-making process. Since the 91/92 season the team has been above .500 just four times and won more than 42 games just once, a rather remarkable streak of mediocrity when you consider that the team has had two number one overall picks in that period and that Kohl has been willing to spend money to retain talent. Aside from George Karl, no Bucks coach has finished above .500 since Del Harris turned the trick in 90/91.
Of course, Simmons has some skeletons in his closet, too, which we suppose goes with the territory for a guy whose every thought on the NBA makes it into the public domain. For one, he has a history of trashing Chinese guys on draft night, but fortunately he reversed field on both Yao and Yi pretty quickly. For better or worse, the future of Milwaukee is being simulcast in Mandarin, so making nice with our friends in China is now part of the GM gig. Perhaps more problematic is that he's openly questioned whether die-hard Bucks fans exist:
Besides, when's the last time you met a long-suffering Bucks fan? Didn't Kareem flee this city once upon a time? Doesn't everyone in Wisconsin care about the Packers, the University of Wisconsin, Marquette and the Brewers in that order?
Sadly there's a lot of truth in that statement, but rest assured, if you do find a Bucks fan, we are guaranteed to be long-suffering. So we'll give Bill a pass on that one. Either way, while we're not holding out much hope that Bill gets an interview for the GM job, we have a small piece of advice if he does: bring a resume. It's worked before.