Wizards fire team president Ernie Grunfeld

Ben Krimmel
April 02, 2019 - 2:42 pm
Wizards announced the firing of team president Ernie Grunfeld.

Rafael Suanes-USA TODAY Sports

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The Washington Wizards announced the firing of team president and head of basketball operations Ernie Grunfeld Tuesday. 

Wizards owner Ted Leonsis said Grunfeld was fired because the Wizards failed to meet their goals for the season.

"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,” Leonsis said in a statement. “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.”

Grunfeld oversaw Washington's basketball operations for 16 seasons, coming aboard prior to the 2003-04 season. During his tenure, he compiled a record of 568-724 and made the playoffs eight times. His firing is a major signal Leonsis and the Wizards are finally going to rebuild a once-promising roster after a season of extreme setbacks. And a desire to reset may mean Leonsis' anti-tanking stance has somewhat softened.

"I'm hitting a reboot," Leonsis told the media Tuesday. "I want to figure out together what the right strategy is."

"We're in deep exploration. The organization also needs to heal right now. This was a tough day for us. Ernie has been with the organization for 16 years," he said.

Recently, Grunfeld had become an unpopular figure among Wizards fans as the team that once languished at the bottom of the standings was now entrenched in the middle, unable to reach the top of the Eastern Conference. This season the calls for Grunfeld's ouster seemed to reach a fever pitch, with many people calling for his ouster on many, many occasions

On the decision to part with his longtime team president, Leonsis told the media, “No one made this decision other than me.”

"I was sad to make this decision, but we began this season with a 'no excuses' mindset, and we just simply did not meet our goals," Leonsis said in a statement.

“I take responsibility," he said. "We failed and I failed.”

Prior to the season, Leonsis laid out his goals for the team to The Sports Capitol. 

"Well, we want to make the playoffs," he said. "We want 50 wins and I’d like to set a bar that says if we can’t get by the first round and the second round then we didn’t meet our goals. We have to improve upon last year." 

The Wizards, beset by injuries and poor play early, are closer to 50 defeats than wins at 32-46.

Leonsis gave some indication changes might come to the organization after a March defeat made making the playoffs unlikely.

"It doesn’t look like we’ll make the playoffs now," Leonsis told NBC Sports Washington. "We’ll have to figure out what to do in the offseason."

The team announced Senior Vice President of Basketball Operations Tommy Sheppard will take over Grunfeld's duties immediately and the organization will begin to a search for a new head of basketball operations after the season. The team indicated Sheppard would be a candidate for the position.

Leonsis also said Tuesday he has not made a decision about the future of Wizards head coach Scott Brooks and said he will evaluate everything over the next few weeks.

"I plan to take time to better understand our organization’s strengths and possibilities.  We will be running a process to review our structure, roles and responsibilities, and think through how we can build an organization for the next chapter of the NBA demands," Leonsis said.  

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