Wednesday, May 06, 2009

A Minnesota Precedent for Bill Simmons

So, Bill Simmons has thrown his hat in the ring for another NBA GM job opening, announcing his candidacy for the Timberwolves GM job. I must say, Simmons really laid out a pretty compelling argument in terms of non-basketball reasons in a Q&A with Michael Rand of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. I certainly would be in favor, just based on the entertainment value.

However, those of you who care about piddling things such as Timberwolves wins and losses might be a bit concerned based on basketball reasons, based on his history of emphatically favoring Jay Williams over Yao and Okafor over Howard, coming up with some dodgy ideas for trades (see Trade 1A) and the Team USA roster, and wildly overrating guys who are prominent in college, such as Adam Morrison, Corey Brewer and Acie Law.

That said, it should be noted that there is no better precedent for him than in Minnesota, where the George Mikan-led teams which won five championships in six years between 1949-54 were built in large part by a sportswriter, Sid Hartman, who kept his newspaper job while working for the team, and still has a column for the Star-Tribune today at age 89. In fact, he L.A. Times had a story on Hartman's role in building the Lakers just a week or so ago.

Michael Schumacher's Mikan biography Mr. Basketball recounted how Hartman and his partner building the team, Max Winter, signed Mikan when he was something of a free agent in 1947:
    Getting George Mikan had taken some work - and a dash of trickery. A couple days after being drafted by the Lakers, Mikan flew up to Minneapolis to meet with Max Winter and Sid Hartman. The group talked for several hours but Mikan and the Lakers were unable to reach an agreement. Mikan, still prepared to walk away from basketball and pursue a career in law, asked Hartman to drive him to the airport.

    If he gets on that plane, Winter thought, there'll be no way he'll sign with us. It'll be with another team or nothing.

    Hartman, as it turned out, was having the same thought. There had to be a way to prevent Mikan from returning to Chicago before signing a contract. The Lakers' general manager quickly concocted a plan, and he communicated it to Hartman in an unusual way.

    "Winter suggested, in Hebrew so the others couldn't understand, that we get lost," Hartman recalled. "And we did. I drove Mikan around for more than an hour, until I knew the last flight had left Minneapolis."

    "The route to the airport," Hartman quipped, "took us to Anoka, New Brighton and other suburbs, and when we got to the airport, the plane had left. The next day Mikan signed."
Certainly, the job hasn't changed too much since 1947, has it? Kevin Love chimed in with a quick Tweet today:
    Bill Simmons "The Sports Guy"? I haven't heard much of the GM lately...I am representing the Wolves in the Draft Lottery on the 19th though.
Nothing yet from Mad Dog - looking forward to hearing his opinion.