The Wizards announced on Tuesday afternoon that Ernie Grunfeld has been dismissed as the Wizards’ President of Basketball Operations. Wizards Majority Owner Ted Leonsis shared his thoughts on the move in the team’s press release.
“We did not meet our stated goals of qualifying for the playoffs this season and, despite playing with injuries to several key players, we have a culture of accountability and a responsibility of managing to positive outcomes. I wish to thank Ernie for his service to the Washington Wizards. He and his family have been great leaders in our community and have worked tirelessly to make us a top NBA franchise.”
The team announced they will begin a search for a new president immediately. Senior Vice President Tommy Sheppard (who is now serving as the interim president) will be among the candidates for the job, according to the team. Marc Stein reported last week that Celtics’ assistant GM Mike Zarren could also be a candidate for the job.
It goes without saying this move was overdue, but we’ll go ahead and say it: The move was overdue. Although Grunfeld deserves credit for bringing the team out of the dregs of the post-MJ era, his strategies constantly kept the team stuck in the middle of the Eastern Conference. The Wizards never won 50 games in a season, and never reached Eastern Conference Final during his time in Washington.
Getting back to the playoffs will be a clear edict for whoever comes next, but they’ll face some challenges imposed by recent moves from Grunfeld. Washington will not have much money to spend despite having several key players on expiring deals. They could also face a major decision with Bradley Beal if he makes All-NBA and gets supermax extension eligibility. To make things worse, Troy Brown Jr. is the only first round pick from the last five seasons that is still on the team and the Wizards do not have another second round pick until 2023. Whoever comes next is going to have to get very creative on how to shape the direction of the franchise to avoid the pitfalls of the last 16 years.
More to come.