Washington Wizards Make Big Front Office Changes

Washington Wizards Rui Hachimura Tommy Sheppard (Photo by John McDonnell/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Washington Wizards Rui Hachimura Tommy Sheppard (Photo by John McDonnell/The Washington Post via Getty Images) /

The Washington Wizards started the week off with news of a big shakeup to the front office. Introducing Monumental Basketball.

We all knew that the official announcement naming Tommy Sheppard as the next general manager of the Washington Wizards was coming up. We didn’t expect the slew of front office changes that came along with it.

Bright and early on Monday morning, the Wizards made it official that they were dropping Tommy Sheppard’s interim tag. But that wasn’t all. Ted Leonsis also announced the formation of Monumental Basketball, a sports collective made up of the Washington Wizards, Washington Mystics, Capital City Go-Go and Wizards District Gaming.

As GM, Sheppard will oversee strategy, analytics, player personnel, scouting and coaching for the Wizards, Go-Go and District Gaming. Mike Thibault will still handle all those duties as head coach and GM of the Mystics.

But Sheppard isn’t the only “new” face joining Monumental Basketball. Former Cleveland Browns vice president of football operations Sashi Brown was named Monumental Basketball’s chief planning and operations officer. He’ll be responsible for efforts relating to technology, finance, communications, security, research, and player engagement.

Daniel Medina was announced as the chief of athlete care & performance of Monumental Basketball. Medina has served in similar roles for the Philadelphia 76ers and FC Barcelona.

But wait! There’s more! Washington basketball royalty John Thompson III is joining Monumental Basketball as the leader of the new athlete development & engagement department, focusing on developing and maximizing potential both on and off the court. The Wizards former vice president of community engagement Sahsia Jones will join him in her new role, vice president of player development and engagement.

What Does It All Mean?

The GM search seemed like a messy, unorganized, process that took way too long. Little did we know they weren’t just hiring a new general manager.

The flurry of changes are evidence of one thing that many thought was absent from the Wizards’ summer plans: a coherent, holistic vision. With Monumental Basketball, Leonsis is investing in and committing to the Wizards in a way he never has before as owner of the team. After Grunfeld was fired, the organization needed an overhaul. Now it’s gotten one.

“We have formed a new leadership team with a forward-thinking structure to adapt to the ‘new NBA’ that requires every possible strategic advantage to compete and win,” said Leonsis in a press release. “We are building a leadership brain trust with deep Wizards/NBA experience and with sports professionals from inside and outside the NBA to challenge our thinking and adapt to an ever-increasing competitive environment.”

None of Monday’s moves make this creative problem solving more evident than the hiring of Sashi Brown. Brown has never worked in basketball. He’s a football guy. But he’s also a rebuild guy. And whether you’re going to call what the Wizards are doing a rebuild or a retool or a re-whatever, the Wizards need to turn things around fast. That’s where Brown comes in.

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Although he’s not currently there to reap the rewards, it was Brown’s leadership that set the Cleveland Browns up to be one of the NFL’s most exciting teams heading into this season. He may not know basketball, per se, but he understands value, he understands asset building, and he understands team building. If he can bring that insight to his current role and help inform the basketball minds around him, the Wizards might have struck gold with this unique set up.

The Monumental Basketball announcement is a step towards modernity and collaboration. It’s a step away from the single-voice of Grunfeld that led to nothing but misery for the Wizards. Anybody worried that Sheppard was proof of business as usual in Washington should be comforted by this news. This is certainly something different.