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Updated: June 4, 2011
So much crap gets dumped on the head coach if his players don’t live up to expectations, but who takes the heat if those players simply aren’t very good? The General Manager.
Here, we’ll be taking a look at the Seattle Supersonics’ general managers and all of their mistakes. I’ll eventually get around to giving them credit where credit is due, but let’s face it: this is a team that never won an NBA Championship in my lifetime. Is it fair to place all of the blame on the following gentlemen? Of course not; you can do your best and still fail for any number of reasons. Nevertheless, I can’t help but look at these moves as having contributed greatly to the Sonics’ failings.
The Internet is a little unsure of who was running the Sonics in October of 1984 when we traded away our 1986 1st round pick for Gerald Henderson; Lenny was the head coach, but I don’t know if he was in charge of player personnel too. The Wikipedia page on the subject has a blank for that particular year (with Wilkins retiring as head coach and serving as GM the following year). It very well could have been NOBODY running the team when Red Auerbach committed armed robbery on us.
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better basketball man than Bob Whitsitt, though, when it comes to talent evaluation. He pretty much built the nucleus for our mid-90s blitzkrieg on the NBA (of course, he wasn’t without fault either; the Scottie Pippen and Kendall Gill deals were two of the worst this franchise has ever seen).
If you want an entertaining read, go to Wally Walker’s Wikipedia page. This thing HAD to have been written by the biggest Wally Walker apologist known to man (I’m guessing it was either Walker himself, or his mother; and kudos to the old broad for knowing her way around the Internet). By reading that page, you’d think Wally Walker was a fucking genius. I will grant you, the Sonics just HAPPENED to enjoy some of their greatest success while at the same time Walker was employed as the man in charge; but I argue that was mere coincidence (and in large part due to Whitsitt, who went on to more great things down in Portland once he left Seattle; oh, if only Paul Allen had bought the Sonics when he was in the market for an NBA franchise).
The truth is, Wally Walker KILLED this franchise, and all the crazy-rage he heard from fans on a daily basis was well deserved. Once AGAIN, immediately after the Sonics tasted glory (an NBA Finals appearance in the ’95/’96 season), a Seattle general manager made the biggest mistake of his life (and one he would pay for until he was finally dismissed from the organization). Jim McIlvaine will go down as the worst free agent signing any Seattle franchise has ever made. That set in motion a string of events that SHOULD have gotten him fired much sooner. Instead, in 2001, he was PROMOTED to team president (or some such lofty title) and handed over the reigns to Rick Sund.
Rick Sund was at least on par with Walker’s incompetence. Only, instead of coming from a strength (like Walker had in following Whitsitt), he was coming from an extreme weakness (following Walker’s bumbling). Basically, he had the unhealthy task of trying to find a center who wasn’t a total walking disaster (I say “walking” because, obvious joke: they couldn’t run to save their lives).
Calvin Booth was a fine How Do You Do as one of Sund’s very first moves as GM. Jerome James, Robert Swift, Johan Petro, and Mouhamed Sene all followed: each player worse than the last. Pretty much, you can boil it down to: Rick Sund never really made a GOOD move during his tenure. He was as ineffectual as Wally Walker (and, it’s no surprise – if you believe Wally Walker’s Wikipedia page – that Walker himself, as president, had his hands in a lot of these deals).
It’s a cruel irony that when the Sonics FINALLY had another competent individual in charge (the first since Whitsitt) with Sam Presti, it was also when the Sonics were owned by those Oklahoma City dickholes. Presti wasn’t here long enough to make a mistake; but he WAS here long enough to instantly build a franchise from nothing to an NBA powerhouse (who made it all the way to the Western Conference Finals in just his fourth season in charge). Obviously, I haven’t been following that team (or the NBA) since they left Seattle, but from what I know, he hasn’t made a misstep yet. And the knife twists just a little deeper into my heart.
Now, I’m left with bitter memories of Wally Walker killing my childhood, and the distant hope that maybe, one day, I’ll have the chance to see professional basketball once again in Seattle. Funny thing is, I would GLADLY take Walker’s trainwreck all over again instead of the nothing we currently have in this town.
Lenny Wilkins (or nobody) (1984 – 1985)
October 16, 1984 – 1986 1st Round Draft Pick to Boston Celtics for Gerald Henderson
Bob Whitsitt (1986 – 1994)
June 22, 1987 – Scottie Pippen to Chicago Bulls for Olden Polynice
June 26, 1991 – Rich King 1st Round Draft Pick
September 1, 1993 – Dana Barros, Eddie Johnson & 1st Round Pick to Charlotte Hornets for Kendall Gill & 1st Round Pick
Wally Walker (’93/’94 – 2001)
July 18, 1994 – Ricky Pierce, Carlos Rogers & Two 1995 2nd Round Picks to Golden State Warriors for Sarunas Marciulionis & Byron Houston
July 22, 1996 – Jim McIlvaine signs 7-year $33.6 million deal
September 25, 1997 – Shawn Kemp to Cleveland Cavaliers for Vin Baker (from Milwaukee Bucks in a 3-way deal)
August 9, 1999 – Vernon Maxwell signs 3-year $5 million deal
August 18, 1999 – Vin Baker re-signs for 7-year $86 million deal
September 20, 2000 – Emanual Davis, Greg Foster, Horace Grant & Chuck Person to Los Angeles Lakers; Lazaro Borrell, Vernon Maxwell, Vladimir Stepania & Two 2001 2nd Round Draft Picks + One 2002 1st Round Draft Pick to New York Knicks for Patrick Ewing
Rick Sund (2001 – 2007)
June 27, 2001 – Vladimir Radmanovic, 1st Round Draft Pick
July 31, 2001 – Calvin Booth signs 6-year $34 million deal
July 18, 2002 – Jerome James re-signs 3-year $15 million deal
June 26, 2003 – Luke Ridnour, 1st Round Draft Pick
June 24, 2004 – Robert Swift, 1st Round Draft Pick
June 28, 2005 – Johan Petro, 1st Round Draft Pick
June 28, 2006 – Mouhamed Sene, 1st Round Draft Pick
Sam Presti (2007 – 2008)