JUNKIES: Leonsis still not sold on Tommy Sheppard?

Ben Krimmel
June 26, 2019 - 3:47 pm

The Washington Wizards still have yet to name a permanent general manager or president of basketball operations.

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On April 2, the Wizards announced the firing of Ernie Grunfeld. That same day, owner Ted Leonsis said this: “One thing I will say, I think this is the best job in spots. I don't think we're gonna have any issues in attracting really, really great people."

Leonsis then added, "And I also wanna say that Tommy Sheppard is a candidate. Tommy was the first person I met with and I reminded Tommy of what happened with the Capitals. That our No. 2 to the GM wasn’t a known commodity, wasn’t a front-runner, (but) he had the best interview. And the reason he had the best interview was he was the most prepared and he knew all of the good things and all the not good things.

"And so, I’ve told Tommy it’s not lip service, you’re highly regarded and there’s other teams that want to talk to Tommy, and that when the time comes we will interview Tommy for the top job. But I don’t think we’re gonna have a problem with finding somebody who wants to come to Washington D.C."

That was 12 weeks ago.

"They said they were firing Ernie to get a jump start on the competition and months have passed, the draft has passed, and free agency starts in four or five days," J.P. Flaim said Wednesday on The Sports Junkies.

Back in April, Leonsis announced he was hiring an outside firm to review the Wizards practices during the search for a new president and gave out a loose timeframe: "And we’ll do all this work over the next two or three weeks, and then we’ll see what we hire, who we hire, how we bring that person in, and I’ll onboard them.”

When asked why he didn't wait until the end of the season to dismiss Grunfeld, Leonsis said, "Competitively, there's lots of jobs open, there will be more jobs open in the offseason." 

"Why don't they just give Sheppard the job already or are they not that impressed by him?" Flaim said. "You certainly can't be that impressed with the people that you've interviewed that are still in the running like two months later. Like if they wowed you wouldn't you have hired them? Like what the hell is going on?"

"It just doesn't make sense," Jason Bishop said. "That tells me that they really don't love Tommy Sheppard."

So far the Wizards have been turned down by the Nuggets' Tim Connelly and had Raptors president Masai Ujiri decide to stay in Toronto. And on Sunday, Leonsis said Danny Ferry was still a candidate for the position despite saying Sheppard would hold the job through the start of free agency

"I think Tommy Sheppard is Jim Zorn," Bickel said. "He's the last man standing, they don't really want him to have the job, but... I predict Tommy Sheppard is gonna be the GM."

"They know they're going to get killed if they just go in-house," Bickel said. "But they're just kinda saying to Tommy, 'It's your job until we say otherwise' and kinda giving him an opportunity to win this job. And they're just gonna slow play it and ride it out."

"Tommy Sheppard should just be announced as the GM," Bishop said.

However, that theory doesn't exactly mesh with Leonsis belief in stability, while he did not want to rush into making a hire and he also wasn't interested in a quick fix.

"Organizational stability is highly valued here – so finding a long-term solution as our leader is our primary goal," Leonsis wrote on his blog the day of Grunfeld's firing.

But can there be a long-term solution if there is uncertainty in the short-term?

"I just think they don't want to commit to him long-term," Bickel said.

But that is a bit of a different story than what Leonsis pitched in April when he spoke about a competitive job market. 

In April Leonsis said he was "hitting a reboot" on the franchise.

"I want to figure out together what the right strategy is and that would be way premature to say, ‘Here’s what our strategy should be on the go-forward.' We’re in deep exploration," he said.

So far, the right strategy has not been fully made apparent and the process of deep exploration has dragged on for three months.

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