According to OnMilwaukee.com, the Milwaukee Bucks will soon make Jason Kidd officially responsible for all basketball operations:
The Milwaukee Bucks are expected to turn basketball operations over to Coach Jason Kidd this week, replacing John Hammond, who has been general manager since 2008, according to three different sources.
The Milwaukee Bucks issued a statement late Sunday evening after the report broke saying the report was “unequivocally not true.”
This is kind of a fun exercise because it’s difficult to figure out who to trust. On a personal level, I’ve come to assume nearly every non-announcement communication originating from a sports organization regarding personnel or strategy is a lie. On the other hand, OnMilwaukee.com hasn’t been a source of breaking news very often when it comes to the Bucks, and I can’t remember the last time Dave Begel broke an important sports news story. But OnMilwaukee.com is a news organization with reporting standards, so I’m of the mind that there is at least something to this.
Maybe Jason Kidd won’t be taking the specific role of general manager any time soon, but that might just be semantics to some extent. Regardless of what his title is, Milwaukee’s moves over the past 12 months indicate Kidd’s involved in personnel decisions in a way recent Bucks coaches haven’t been.
Kidd was officially named head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks on July 2 of 2014. Let’s track Milwaukee’s transactions since that date:
Jerryd Bayless – Shares an agent with Kidd
Kendall Marshall – No obvious ties to Kidd
Jared Dudley – No obvious ties to Kidd
Kenyon Martin – Ex-teammate of Kidd
Jorge Gutierrez – Played for Kidd on the Nets
Michael Carter-Williams – Shares an agent with Kidd
Tyler Ennis – Part of the MCW deal
Miles Plumlee – Part of the MCW deal
Chris Johnson – No obvious ties to Kidd
Greivis Vasquez – No obvious ties to Kidd
Rashad Vaughn – Shares an agent with Kidd
Greg Monroe – No obvious ties to Kidd
Maybe it’s coincidental that Milwaukee has brought on a bunch of Kidd’s agent’s clients, but it seems like it’d be quite a coincidence.
It’s not even necessarily nefarious that Kidd is using his status around the league or maybe communicating with players who has common links with to recruit players to Milwaukee. One of the big draws to having Jason Kidd as a coach is his celebrity. Tyson Chandler seemed flattered when Kidd reached out to him about playing for the Bucks. Milwaukee may never have even gotten into the meeting with Greg Monroe if it weren’t for Kidd. There are very real benefits to having Kidd around, aside from his coaching ability, which has proven quite impressive.
But could Kidd succeed overseeing all basketball operations and coaching the team? If he did, he’s be one of the first guys to do it.
In the NBA last season, only Doc Rivers of the Clippers and Stan Van Gundy of the Pistons both had titles of coach and president of basketball operations, with Mike Budenholzer joining them after the season. All three organizations employ a general manager, Dave Wohl for the Clippers, Jeff Bower for the Pistons and Wes Wilcox for the Hawks. Rivers came under fire last season for stocking his bench with ex-Boston players (Glen Davis, Nate Robinson, Lester Hudson) and trading for his son Austin. Van Gundy has only been in Detroit for one season but made headlines when he released Josh Smith outright, eating more than $26 million in salary.
The most likely scenario to play out this summer is no public changes to the Bucks’ organizational structure. But if a change were to happen it seems likely that Hammond would remain in the GM role at least through next season – the last of his contract – with Kidd having the final say on all moves in a president or VP type role. It’s possible Kidd’s influence extends that far already privately, but the Bucks have denied that that is the case.
Milwaukee does have some history of coaches with final or almost final say on roster moves. Mike Dunleavy Sr. was effectively given the keys to the kingdom back in 1992. He signed a seven-year contract to serve as head coach and added the title of vice president of basketball operations four months later. Spoiler alert: He lost the coaching job four years later and the VP job a year after that.
In 1998, George Karl was hired as head coach but he certainly influenced on personnel matters. Karl seemed to work harmoniously with general manager Ernie Grunfeld throughout the late 90s and early 2000s until both left in the summer of 2003. It was clear Karl had a significant amount of input into basketball decisions from the moment he arrived in Milwaukee until the moment he left. That sort of influence allowed the trade of Ray Allen for Gary Payton (unfortunately for his sake) to be part of his lasting legacy.
Certainly it seemed like Karl the coach that was frustrated with one of his players let his day-to-day interactions with a player get the best of the organization. The Bucks traded a still burgeoning star and franchise player for a declining veteran seven years his senior because their coach used to love that dude. That’s where a coach overseeing a franchise can get a little dicey. Having a buffer is important and that buffer becomes even more valuable when the buffer has final say. A GM who can hold off on making a deal while trying to play peacemaker and weighing his options is a valuable commodity.
Hopefully for their sake, the Bucks have done their research, understand that value and weigh the risk of losing that sort of guy before making any major decisions this summer.