Ted Leonsis on Ernie Grunfeld firing: 'It wasn't a cumulative effect'

Josh Luckenbaugh
April 03, 2019 - 1:17 pm

Wizards owner Ted Leonsis addressed Tuesday's firing of team president and general manager Ernie Grunfeld at a press conference Wednesday, explaining the timing and the reasoning behind the move.

"We didn't qualify for the playoffs last Friday, had another game, team had another game on the road, flew back, I wanted to be able to have everyone here together," Leonsis said. "Competitively, there's lots of jobs open, there will be more jobs open in the offseason."

"Once you make that decision, and it was a very binary decision: we set what our goals were, we didn't meet our goals, I had to make that decision."

Leonsis went on to insist the decision was based on this year's results alone as opposed to a "cumulative" consequence of Grunfeld's 16-year tenure. 

"As a leader of any big company, you have to have very, very clear goals and objectives," said Leonsis. "We had made the playoffs four of five years, we had three players who were max — Dwight (Howard), if you consider was also a max player.

"We had a new practice facility, and I was in the tax for the second time. Everyone seemed to be healthy, there was great optimism. And we are the worst team in terms of man games lost from our starting five. 30 out of 30."

"But I said, 'No excuses.' That was the culture that we had created and that we had a long-term plan: draft, develop well, trades, free agency. And we had the fourth-highest payroll coming in to the year."

"It was very, very binary on what would happen this year. And we didn't meet any of our goals, so that was what drove it. It wasn't a cumulative effect, it was 'Is there anything else that we can do?'"

"I can't manufacture luck, I can't manufacture health — 30 out of 30, in terms of man games missed — but I said 'No excuses.'" 

As far as finding Grunfeld's replacement, Leonsis expects the opening to attract the top talent in the industry. 

"I think Washington, D.C. and our fan base is fantastic. I think our investment in infrastructure is second to none, and I think people believe in our ownership group," Leonsis told reporters.

"We have the most diverse, one of the most powerful ownership groups, and we're very, very focused on trying to make everything we touch world-class. And I don't think we will have any doubts that this is the best important open job in all of sports right now." 

But for the next few weeks, Leonsis will be looking inward at the Wizards organization before making a new hire. 

"I'd like a next generation, more collaborative environment where I can hear lots of voices," he said. "Traditionally in organizations, especially one that's as large as ours is, you have divisions if you will and there's a hierarchy. And I have always and continue to respect the hierarchy. When I'm involved, that's not a good sign."

"And one of my personal concerns was breaking respect, and I didn't ever want to break respect. So for the next three weeks, I'm not gonna be externally focused at all. All of the focus is, what have done right and what have I done wrong with our organization? And the only way I'm gonna find that out is talking to people."

"Sometimes I talk too much, I have to listen. And we have really, really talented people throughout our organization, and I have to listen to them. And then after we do that and we see the talent that's within, then we can really do a smart job on what are we looking for, what do we need as a leader to coalesce all of that, and that we can tap in to a collective intelligence instead of just one-star player, and that's how we're gonna win."

Follow Josh Luckenbaugh and 106.7 The Fan on Twitter.