Below is a guest piece written by Alvin Hutchinson, a big Wizards/Bullets fan. Enjoy!
Former Wizard Kwame Brown signed a contract with the Charlotte Bobcats last week. Brown was the first pick in the 2001 NBA draft, a choice made by then Wizards executive, Michael Jordan.
It brings to mind the entire Jordan-Wizards affair and although many feel that the period was a disaster for the franchise, there was one positive benefit to come out of it. After Jordan was fired, Wizards owner, Abe Pollin then appeared to make a commitment to hire professional, competent leadership for the organization. He got Ernie Grunfeld, a general manager with a proven track record of success and Eddie Jordan, an experienced coach. One thing that had been nagging the franchise since the Bullets era was a lack of leadership at the GM and head coach positions.
For background, the reader will have to consult his Bullets history book. Pollin bought the franchise in the mid 1960s and not long after he drafted Wes Unseld out of Louisville. Unseld was a 6’8″ center who turned his first year into not only a Rookie of the Year but an MVP season. Only one other player (Chamberlain) has done that.
But more than that, Unseld was a hard-nosed player with what we commonly call a blue-collar work ethic. And Pollin loved it. Unseld eventually brought the Bullets conference championships, and won an NBA crown for Pollin. Unseld has been a part of the organization ever since.
But his hard-nosed attitude toward the game may have made him unfit for certain positions. Unseld was at one time coach and later held an executive position which he gave up when Jordan arrived. In hindsight it looks as if this tough-love approach to players, coaches and the team generally was what ailed the franchise in the 1990s and 2000s. Pollin evidently thought that’s what made his team great in the past and he stuck with it since he had a right-hand man who wrote the book on this method of management.
By the 1990s it was clear to most everyone in the league that this approach to players would not work any longer. Players like Alan Iverson and Dennis Rodman, who led teams to the championship would not take kindly to being treated the same way that players were treated in the 1960s and 70s.
So although we look back at the Kwame Brown/Michael Jordan period as a farce, the silver lining for Wizards fans was that it resulted in a near complete purging of management which brought in experienced and accomplished professionals like Grunfeld and Eddie Jordan.