We all knew it was coming, but it's finally official: Larry Harris has been relieved of his duties as general manager of the Bucks. Harris was in his fifth season as GM, having made the playoffs twice, but two straight disappointing seasons and a contract expiring this summer made his departure a certainty. Herb Kohl is about to address the media in an hour, so we'll find out then what the team's going-forward plan is in terms of preparing for the NBA draft and free agency. Frank Isola of the New York Daily News reported this morning that Kohl had reached out to Pacers' CEO Donnie Walsh about taking over the team's front office, but as of now it's difficult to say if the Bucks have a serious shot at luring the well-respected Walsh. After all, the Bronx native is now getting interest from the Knicks, where he'd get even more dysfunction but a bigger stage and much deeper pockets. Gery Woelfel reported on WSSP that Walsh told him he has not spoken personally to the Bucks, but that also doesn't preclude the possibility that Walsh's agent has done it for him.
Given the lack of information about an immediate replacement, it stands to reason that current director player personnel Dave Babcock will take over as acting general manager. That certainly doesn't preclude Walsh or someone else from taking over the GM position on a permanent basis tomorrow, next week, or next month. From a practical standpoint, simply replacing Harris with Babcock creates the additional issue of leaving the Bucks understaffed as they head into the draft, especially given that the Bucks also lost scout Scott Roth in January. Walsh may or may not be serious about taking the Bucks' gig--he could just be leveraging the Bucks to push the Knicks--but if Kohl did manage to pry him out of Indy it would represent a very promising start to changing the Bucks' culture for the better. Not only is Walsh an experienced, proven executive, but he would undoubtedly demand the sort of control over front office decisions that Harris never had.
It's for that reason that Harris' tenure as Bucks GM will always be a bit difficult to judge. No doubt he helped sow the seeds of the Bucks' current problems by signing Dan Gadzuric and Bobby Simmons for a combined $83 million in the summer of 2005, and he's been justifiably questioned for acquiring and retaining talented players that don't necessarily complement each other. But his tenure was also racked with rumors of Kohl vetoing trades and being the architect of the botched Porter firing/Stotts hiring and the more recent promotion of Larry Krystkowiak despite his lack of NBA coaching experience. Once the trade deadline passed, it appeared as though Kohl was content to let Harris ride out the season and hire a new GM at his convenience over the summer. But in the past week Harris reportedly asked that his situation be clarified (to put it diplomatically) in light of the possibility that he miss out on another opportunity while he twiddles his thumbs in Milwaukee. Whether that inspired the Walsh talk or not, the Bucks are now forced to move on, something they should have been thinking about months ago.
Harris had been with the Bucks for two decades, starting as a scout/video coordinator in 1987, and our money is on him catching on somewhere else pretty quickly. Best of luck, Larry.