Rod Thorn hire proves that these are not the same old Washington Wizards

Washington Wizards Rod Thorn (Photo by Rocky Widner/Getty Images)
Washington Wizards Rod Thorn (Photo by Rocky Widner/Getty Images) /

The Washington Wizards have made a lot of front-office changes since last season, and their latest move only proves these aren’t the same old Wizards.

When Ernie Grunfeld was dismissed as the general manager of the Washington Wizards, there weren’t too many people complaining in Washington. Ask anyone who had struggled through Grunfeld’s frustrating (although sometimes winning) seasons, and they’ll tell you it was long overdue.

However, as weeks passed and rumors of David Griffin, then Tim Connelly, and then Masai Ujiri all crashed and burned without much legitimate action, some started to sour.

When Tommy Sheppard, Grunfeld’s second in command, was named as the team’s new general manager, some rolled their eyes. New face, but same old Wizards was the fear.

However, every move since that initial announcement has proven that these aren’t the same old Wizards we’ve been watching for years. The latest addition, Hall of Famer Rod Thorn as a senior advisor to Sheppard, should dispell any doubt that we’re dealing with the same devil in different clothing.

Thorn has decades of basketball experience under his belt and has worked with some of the greatest players and minds in NBA history. He drafted Michael Jordan in 1984 as the Chicago Bulls‘ general manager. He helped assemble the USA national teams that won gold in the 1992, 1996, and 2000 Olympics. He pulled off a blockbuster trade as the general manager of the New Jersey Nets that landed them Jason Kidd. Back to back finals appearances followed in 2002 and 2003 for Kidd and the Nets.

Thorn is the real deal. There’s no question about it. And now he joins an impressive list of front office and coaching additions that includes the likes of coaching legend John Thompson III, rebuild visionary Sashi Brown, analytics godfather Dean Oliver, and defensive guru Mike Longabardi. Oh, and they’re brought back Antawn Jamison as the director of pro personnel just for good measure.

While Grunfeld notoriously had the final say in a Wizards’ front office that lacked additional voices and perspectives, Ted Leonsis has created a new holistic and collaborative structure with Monumental Basketball.

Leonsis laid out the plan when the team first announced the Sheppard hiring.

"“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. “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.”"

And Sheppard echoed Leonsis’ same sentiments after the team added Oliver, Longabardi, and others to the coaching staff.

"“Coach Brooks and I worked closely to pinpoint what areas we needed to improve and identify the best candidates, both internally and externally, to make the appropriate changes,” said Wizards General Manager Tommy Sheppard. “We’re very confident that we have a strong staff in place that is in line with the vision we have for our rebuilding our culture and focusing on the overall development of our players.”"

The team’s slew of hires matches the vision that both Leonsis and Sheppard have laid out. There wasn’t one person who took to the podium on media day that didn’t mention the team’s “new” or “growing” culture. The changes aren’t just empty talk, they’re real, and they’re happening right in front of our eyes.

Next. Washington Wizards: 5 key quotes from media day. dark

If a summer full of finding cheap, young, and valuable players didn’t convince you that this is a truly new regime in Washington, then hopefully the front office changes and coaching hires will.

Thorn’s just another smart mind in a room that now has quite a few of them. The wins may not come this season, but Washington is showing that they have a plan for the long run. When was the last time we could really say that?