Herb Kohl spoke to the media last night, and addressed a number of the criticisms he's faced lately. Kohl was visibly upset with how the season has gone, and while he's taken plenty of heat from fans and the media this year (us included), it's worth noting that he's not happily counting his money while the Bucks pile up losses. Check out the Bucks.com link for video and audio of the press conference, but here's a quick recap with some of our own comments:
"It was for me a very difficult decision," Kohl said. "Larry Harris has been a very good and highly valued member of the Milwaukee Bucks for 20 years. My heart and my head were at a different place. My heart certainly wanted to maintain our relationship.
Harris really did grow up as a Buck, watching his father Del coach the team before beginning an even longer career of his own in the Bucks' front office. It's difficult to imagine what it must be like to have spent so long in the same place, only to reach the top and then now be faced with the need to move on. While Harris proved the ultimate salesman for his ability to overhype the Bucks every fall, he was also a good soldier for his owner, jumping on grenades and serving as the charming front man of the organization in often trying times. Harris will leave a lot of friends behind in Milwaukee, and while all Bucks fans wish he were leaving under different circumstances, kudos to him for ending the charade and looking to move on sooner rather than later. Best of luck, Larry.
"There has been a minimum of second-guessing, if any," Kohl said. "The only time I stepped in to differ with him to some degree was on this recent rumor of a trade for Zach Randolph. I personally thought that was not the right thing for us to do."
On the one hand watching Bobby Simmons and Dan Gadzuric rot on the bench of a lottery team while earning a combined $15 million per year is a pretty painful sight--could Randolph possibly be any worse? But I will give Senator Kohl credit here: Randolph was never going to provide the Bucks a miracle cure, he could have adversely impacted the development of Bogut and Yi, and his contract wouldn't provide any additional cap flexibility. Well played Herb. That said, the conventional wisdom is that Senator Kohl is picking a favorable example of his intervention here to obscure the less favorable ones (such as the rumored Carlos Boozer trade from a couple years ago).
Kohl was asked about the status of coach Larry Krystkowiak, who was hired last March to replace Terry Stotts.
"Those kind of evaluations, with respect to players and coaches, are normally made at the end of the season," Kohl said. "I don't think it would be appropriate for me to start engaging in that at this point, even though it's late in the season."
Even when the Bucks started to struggle in December and January, I always assumed the team could scrape out 30-some wins and spare Krystkowiak from a summer axe. Now with the Bucks looking to hire an outsider and the team worse off than most could have imagined, Krystkowiak's return looks increasingly unlikely. If that happens it would represent the third time since 2005 that the Bucks dump a young coach just as he's getting his feet wet, a vicious cycle that has turned the Bucks into a training ground for inexperienced coaches--who inevitably get fired after a year or two and replaced with someone similarly inexperienced. The Bucks gambled in firing Porter in 2005, hoping that they could get Flip Saunders, who smartly waited the Bucks out and took the Detroit job. With the team mailing it in on Krystkowiak over the past month, the Bucks' new GM (whoever that turns out to be) would seem to have little choice but to replace LK with an experienced coach this summer. Rick Carlisle? Jeff Van Gundy? Stay tuned.
Asked what qualifications he would be looking for in a new general manager, Kohl said: "You want success and I don't say that lightly. It's very, very important. I'd like to get somebody who has had success. I would expect that we're going to hire someone with some level of experience and some level of success.
"I think we need an outside person who will take a fresh look. That's my inclination right now."
This is probably the most significant--and promising--thing we learned from the press conference. Dave Babcock has a long track record with the Bucks in scouting and personnel, but bringing in an experienced outsider has more to do with changing the way the Bucks make decisions than necessarily saving the Bucks from what Babcock might do. Had Kohl permanently elevated Babcock to the GM position, many hardcore fans would have seen it as an endorsement of the Bucks' dysfunctionality and further license for Kohl and his "cronies" to maintain the decision-making status quo. While we now have as many questions as answers, Bucks fans can harbor at least some hope that the next GM will be granted the autonomy that has seemingly been absent from the job for some time.