The Milwaukee Bucks have officially named former Director of Basketball Operations Jon Horst as their new general manager. Horst’s insertion into the GM conversation started yesterday, when Marc Stein reported that Horst was emerging as a potential candidate for the position. Adrian Wojnarowski expanded upon that news this morning indicating that while Zanik had the support of Marc Lasry, Jason Kidd and another minority owner, Wes Edens exclusion from that list illustrated his trepidation over moving forward with the reportedly one-time “GM-in-waiting.”
Assistant GM Justin Zanik had support of owner Marc Lasry, another top minority owner, Jason Kidd but full consensus was needed to hire him. https://t.co/FKPouwDpIy— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojVerticalNBA) June 16, 2017
Woj also mentioned this morning the Bucks hope to pair Horst with a more seasoned NBA front office official. Horst came to Milwaukee with John Hammond back in 2008 from Detroit, where he worked as a basketball assistant and then Manager of Basketball Operations for a year before shipping across Lake Michigan. Little is known about Horst given his behind-the-scenes role with the Bucks organization to this point. You won’t get much more analysis here either. To be honest, I didn't have the slightest clue as to what Jon Horst even looks like until today. You can hear more about Horst’s emergence in Frank and Eric’s ever-titillating Locked on Bucks episode from today.
So what does this all mean for the organization? Well, it’s the second time Bucks ownership has bumbled a hiring process, a universal task that happens at literally every business across the country. Amidst all this, they took a front office official held in reportedly high-esteem across the league and forced him to wade through a shoddy hiring process only to be left on the outside looking in when all was said and done.
At the risk of turning into a site pigeonholed into culinary comparisons following Mitchell’s wonderful one-act diner scene description about this very search, it seems like ownership basically picked up a fresh glazed donut from the case, bit briefly into the flakey crust, thought it didn’t have quite enough frosting density, and put that sucker right back in the display to grab a new one that was sitting there all along.
Even if they had instead went through this and simply rebooted the process because the initial search failed, that would’ve looked better than what’s transpired. Initial hiring searches can fail quite often, particularly at higher-level positions, but rarely would a company emerge dissatisfied with a first crop of candidates and then just cherry-pick someone internally to elevate to the position. Staring into the optics of this entire ordeal is liable to give someone temporary blindness.
Going forward, Horst will now be in charge of taking this organization to the level they hope to reach, which according to the owners original statements involve a championship. We have no way of knowing what sort of moves Horst was involved with before, or even whether his specialty lies in negotiating, CBA knowledge or personnel. He’s an enigma, which brings a level of intrigue and excitement. The same could’ve been said for the most part about Zanik though, but he at least had a shred of evidence to extrapolate from. Horst’s anonymity means we can’t really pass any judgment on him for the moment. How he handles the impending summer should tell us plenty about his choice of direction for the franchise, if he’s given the sort of autonomy one would hope.
The potential for veiled rather than real autonomy is what lingers as the most fearful part of this entire ordeal for me. Horst’s connection with the Hammond regime (whom the owners clearly didn’t want to commit to), relatively young age, lack of experience as a key decision maker and the fact his right-hand man will reportedly be an NBA veteran feels like an awful lot of question marks that could cause some level of steamrolling by other officials within the organization. It’s unfair to discredit Horst’s ability to lead, but it seems rational to question what sort of decision-making power he’ll feel as opposed to someone with at least GM or Assistant GM experience.
The Bucks have not announced what this might mean for Zanik’s future with the franchise, although it’s hard to imagine him being thrilled to stick around following this carnival of crap. Milwaukee said Zanik has been leading draft preparations to this point, which Horst has assuredly been a part of, so there at least shouldn’t be too much upheaval in that department. Even if Horst has completely different drafting philosophies than Zanik, at least he’s been working with the same information.
Regardless, this whole thing has felt deceptive. If Horst was truly a candidate, why not just include him in the initial pool of candidates? If one of your key ownership group apparently abhorred Zanik’s potential as a new GM, why hire him in the first place? We come out of this with far more question marks than last summer when the succession plan seemed relatively clean-cut if a little peculiar given we all assumed Hammond’s days were numbered. Here we are though. In Horst we (must) trust I suppose.