Monday, August 21, 2006

GM Talk

All the GM/President/Team Official talk both here and elsewhere over the weekend got me thinking...

In many ways it must be a royal pain in the butt to be an NBA GM. Here are guys who have dedicated their whole lives to studying the game. Sure there are a couple of former-star-player GMs out there but for the most part guys still come up the hard way: coaching in other leagues, becoming a scout, maybe serving as an assistant coach or in a minor front office job with more hours than power or pay. Let's face it, you never hear the names of most eventual GMs until they actually take the main seat. That's because they spent the last ten years taking notes on a clipboard in places like Minot, North Dakota or Eastern Europe (take your pick which is more hospitable) or teaching your 11th man how to set his feet properly or watching 92 hours of tape a week and hoping to get a word in at the meeting. In many cases they've taken away from their families, their homes, their finances, and everything else in their lives to pursue this passion and goal.

Most people would be overjoyed to be in the top 10% in the world in some endeavor. Being in the top 1% would put you in another stratosphere. When you're an NBA GM you're sitting somewhere around the 10 millionth percentile. That's how fully ensconced in the elite you are. And yet with all that, any and every yahoo with a mouse, keyboard, and a head full of incomplete information is fit to criticize your work. And they will...constantly. Every time one of your guys underperforms, every time some other team makes what looks like a flashy deal (whether you had any chance to go after that player or not), every time somebody likes the draft pick from their alma mater over the player you selected, and every time (heaven forbid) you just make an honest mistake like everyone else in the universe, you will be skinned, shish-kabobed, and grilled over an open flame with hate sauce.

How many of your critics have scouted one game in Minot, watched one hour of tape, or even know proper footwork when they see it is up to debate. That you're their target is not. I imagine it's frustrating. Even if you had the time and energy to defend your work you couldn't. You'd have to divulge information that fans can't know (like who you're interested in or willing to trade) or that fans don't want to know (like what's really wrong with their favorite player off the court). And even if you did lay it out there for all to see, half the people wouldn't understand and a good portion of the rest would disagree. So you learn to keep your head down and your mouth shut, isolating yourself from the criticism while trying not to appear distant or uncaring. The best GMs successfully walk a tightrope, balancing good public relations with keeping their sanity. It's no accident that most of the best GMs are relatively quiet and nondescript, flying below the radar until there's something tangible to announce.

And we haven't even tackled the potential problems in dealing with your owner, who may be a meddlesome fan looking over your shoulder and pushing for a fantasy-league approach or may be a businessman for whom winning is an incidental convenience as long as the bottom line is good. Nor have we talked about dealing with your coach, who more often than not is strong-willed, demonstrative, and completely convinced of his own vision, which may or may not coincide with yours or that of the players you've acquired. He has greater access to the media (and sometimes your owner) and half the time he's thinking he could do your job too. And don't even start with the agents, constantly angling for sweet deals and more exposure for their clients whether it's in the best interest of the team or not. And there you are, at the crux of all of it...relatively powerless to affect any individual part but largely responsible for making sure it all works together.

Maybe the appropriate question isn't why we don't have a GM yet. Maybe it's "Are you sure you want to be one?" I hope I'm at least a semi-knowledgeable fan, but I know that I fall so far short of what would be needed in that position that I'm like a sub-atomic quark on the butt of a giant. It's easy to pick out one or two examples of people who have failed in the position and say, "I could do better than THAT" but that's not reality.

I imagine that the Portland GM position at this point is fairly complex relative to the rest of the league. We may be headed in a positive direction, but we're still a long way from normal around here. The fact that we're even dealing with the GM issue and nobody knows what's going on (just like nobody has for the past five years) illustrates the point. Do you see other teams having these kind of discussions/issues? The good ones don't. We're reminiscent of a recovering junkie who's off the stuff but whose life is still so full of wild extremes that you don't quite trust him yet. And we're looking for somebody to come in and be the conscience and guiding force in this mess. That isn't going to be easy. In fact if nothing changes I'd presume a very high rate of failure for whoever takes the job.

I'll be glad if Pritchard does get the spot, but in reality probably more for us than for him.

--Dave (


Blogger BLAZER PROPHET said...

Very excellent post, Dave! I also was musing the situation over the weekend in light of the hopelessly stupid Canzano article. I was wondering if we really need a GM at this time. If I’m not mistaken, Patterson was the Rockets GM during their championship era. Also, since Vulcan seems to have taken over most of the day to day team operations, he may not have enough to do these days and between he & Pritchard can handle the job. We also don’t know fur sure Pritchard really wants the job or if he’s simply willing to tackle it for the sake of the team and/or his career. It’s a interesting dynamic.

12:54 PM  
Anonymous fatty said...

no prophet he was fired during
the 93 season and carroll dawson
drafted s.cassell and the rockets
won 2 titles,i get an eerily
feeling that patterson will be
the g.m. and look for pricthard
to be in either ny or philly
in 07.... which would be another
blazer blunder....

1:27 PM  
Blogger BLAZER PROPHET said...

Thanks for the correction, fatty.

Pritchard may very well leave- but while I do like him, he's not indespensible. Remember when Gergs left? We've very adequately replaced him.

2:45 PM  
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great post...

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