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GM Watch: Welcome to Milwaukee, John Hammond

ESPN is reporting that Pistons' VP of Basketball Operations John Hammond will be officially named the Bucks' new general manager as early as Monday. Especially in light of the recent speculation about names such as Rick Sund and Billy King, the hiring of Hammond looks to be a great fantastic start to the offseason. Assuming it all becomes official, Herb Kohl deserves serious kudos for attracting a well-respected executive, who despite never officially carrying the GM title has played a major role in leading the day-to-day operations of a championship-winning organization. Only a week ago Chris McCosky at the Detroit News reported that negotiations hit a snag and Hammond would remain in Detroit next season, but Kohl's persistence paid off:

Hammond, who has been with the Pistons in various capacities since 1994 (with one brief, two-year interlude with the Clippers), appeared set to take the job a couple of weeks ago. Something snagged the deal and Hammond pulled out. But it looks like Bucks' owner Sen. Herb Kohl persisted, and maybe sweetened the pot.

Hammond has been pursued by numerous teams over the years -- Portland, Toronto, Seattle. Since he has been a coach, a scout and an administrator, he has a complete understanding of how team-building works within the confines of the modern NBA economic structure. If the Senator leaves him alone, Hammond will get things turned around in Milwaukee.

Reading between the lines, it's unlikely Hammond would have taken the job if he didn't see himself having full control over the team's rebuilding effort. We've long wondered if a respected candidate would subject himself to the decision-making constraints that Kohl has grown notorious for, so Hammond's willingness to take the plunge would suggest he will have the freedom to make over the franchise the way he sees fit. Which is a great thing. (ETA: Dan at RealGM speculates Kohl could also have simply upped his offer enough that Hammond would tolerate less than ideal operating conditions. That's very possible as well, but let's be optimistic!) The ESPN report also names Rick Carlisle as Hammond's possible top target to replace Larry Krystkowiak, a welcome choice given Carlisle's recent success in Detroit and Indiana.

Hammond has been Joe Dumars' right-hand man since returning to Detroit seven years ago and has connections to many of the names mentioned for the coach/GM jobs--he was an assistant to Larry Brown with the Clippers, an assistant to Doug Collins with the Pistons and was in the front office while both Carlisle and Brown coached in Detroit. In Detroit he also worked with current Bucks assistant Brian James:

"He’s a wonderful person, a smart basketball man, a very hard worker, and was a good coach on the floor," said James of Hammond. "The thing about John that everybody liked was he was a good a person off the court as he was as a coach or an executive."

For more on Hammond, check out his Hoopedia bio:

John Hammond enters his sixth year as vice president of basketball operations for the Detroit Pistons. He was promoted to his current position after serving as the club’s director of player personnel during the 2001-02 season. Hammond is responsible for directing day-to-day operations of the basketball operations department, handling player personnel issues and assisting in roster development. The 52-year old brings over 27 years of coaching and administrative experience (16 professional/11 collegiate).

Hammond spent five seasons with the Pistons as a scouting director and assistant coach from 1994-1999 under Doug Collins and Alvin Gentry. Collins appointed him as an assistant coach in 1997, a position that he remained in until 1999. When Collins was replaced by Gentry, he named Hammond as his top assistant. Detroit made three playoff appearances during Hammond’s tenure as an assistant coach (1996, 1997 and 1999), winning 54 games during the 1996-97 season.

The Zion, Illinois, native completed his second tour of duty with the Los Angeles Clippers during the 2000-01 season, again serving as the top assistant to Gentry. Hammond was a large factor in the club’s 16-game turnaround, helping to develop first-year players Darius Miles, Keyon Dooling and Quinten Richardson. The Clippers enjoyed a large amount of success with Hammond around as the club made two consecutive playoff appearances (1992 and 1993) when he served as an assistant coach to Larry Brown during his first stint with the organization from 1990-93.