Joe Dumars may be the longest tenured GM in the NBA, but he’s got the most to prove. Is he our best option for another chip?
I did a little research to evaluate the relationship between Championship teams and their GM stability. It covers the last 30 years, back to the 1983-1984 season when the playoffs expanded from 12 to 16 teams.
|Year||Champion||GM||Years as GM||Years with Organization|
|2010||Lakers||Mitch Kupchak||10||24 (+5 as player)|
|2009||Lakers||Mitch Kupchak||9||23 (+5 as player)|
|2008||Celtics||Danny Ainge||5||5 (+8 as player)|
|2004||Pistons||Joe Dumars||4||5 (+14 as player)|
|2002||Lakers||Mitch Kupchak||2||16 (+5 as player)|
|2001||Lakers||Mitch Kupchak||1||15 (+5 as player)|
|2000||Lakers||Jerry West||18||24 (+14 as player)|
|1988||Lakers||Jerry West||6||12 (+14 as player)|
|1987||Lakers||Jerry West||5||11 (+14 as player)|
|1985||Lakers||Jerry West||3||9 (+14 as player)|
GM turnover is surprisingly high; about a third of the league on average has had their GM 2 years or less. Of the 4 teams that make the conference finals every year, an avg of 3.1 of them have a GM with 3+ years. And the last 30 Champions have had a GM with 4+ years on the job, with the exception of 5. Most of those GMs had a substantial history with their organization
- R.C. Buford (Spurs) – Won his 1st year as GM, but was with SA for 13 years.
- Mitch Kupchak (Lakers) – Won his 1st year as GM, but was with LAL for 20 years.
- Jan Volk (Celtics) – Won his 2nd year as GM, but was with BOS for 15 years.
- Jerry West (Lakers) – Won his 3rd year as GM, but was with LAL 23 years.
Bob Weinhauer with the ’94 & ’95 Rockets is the only exception here, winning his first year with the organization. He actually took over during the '94 playoffs. It was a strange time for basketball…no Magic, no Jordan, no Kobe, and no Lebron. It was a big man’s league with the likes of Robinson, Ewing, Shaq, and ’94 MVP-winner Olajuwan. [Piston Connection: Weinhauer was assistant to Chuck Daly at University of Pennsylvania.]
So in general, a characteristic of a championship team is stability in the front office. Of course, that’s no guarantee of success. Many GMs have a long history of failure. The question is whether Joe will even have a chance to turn it around or not.
Joe D.’s proven successful, but what’s the longest gap between championships? Only the Lakers GMs have had gaps comparable to Joe, should he win another. They never sank to the depths that the Pistons have though.
|General Manager||Years Between Rings||Coaches During Gap||Playoffs Missed During Gap|
|Joe Dumars||9 & counting||5 & counting||4 & counting|
The following table shows how GMs fared after logging 5 straight years of sub-.500 basketball. All but Elgin Baylor were gone within two years.
|General Manager||Team||5-Yr-Streak Win %||Remaining Yrs|
|Lewis Schaffel||Heat (expansion)||.320||2|
|Garry St. Jean||Warriors||.257||2|
|Stu Jackson||Grizzlies (expansion)||.206||0|
Given the recent change in ownership, that only hurts Joe’s chances of retaining his position. Of the 49 ownership changes, 36 of the GMs were replaced in 3 years or less. Since Joe’s contract is ending on the third year, I wonder who Gores might have in mind as a replacement. (Note: I excluded ownership changes lasting 3 years or less, and ignored minority ownership transfers).
FILLING HIS SHOES
Given the history of what’s worked for past champions, pursuing the likes of a Phil Jackson or prying away the next Executive of the Year may not be the best option. Unless Detroit’s willing to blow it all up and wait another 5 years or more, my guess is an internal hire.
One such example is Detroit’s new assistant GM, George David. There is a similarity worth noting. When Joe Dumars was hired as Vice President of Player Personnel in 1999, he had this to say about General Manager Rick Sund:
I'm not after the GM's job. I would always want to work with somebody else. That's why having Rick is perfect for me.
Joe was hired as President of Basketball Operations the next year. CNN Sports Illustrated wrote the following about the move:
After winning the NBA championship in 1989 and 1990, the Pistons somehow lost their competitive edge. Some of the blame for the slide fell on the front office, which has hired six coaches in the past nine years.
Now we have George David, who has been with the Pistons for 15 years. He was made Director of Scouting in 2002, Director of Player Personnel in 2007, and Assistant GM in 2012. He’s certainly in a position to take over the reins. Much like the last GM change, Detroit will also have their seventh coach in twelve years. Vince Ellis has this quote from David about becoming a future GM candidate:
It would be a goal of mine to eventually do it, but I can honestly say that if the rest of my career path is simply being the No. 2 person to Joe Dumars, in a lot of ways I can honestly tell you that would be a complete career.
If George David takes over the big chair, I’m willing to bet there's room for Chauncey in the front office as well. Personally, I want Joe to be the one to get us back on top, and he’s got one year left to prove himself. It’s rare that GMs are allowed to learn from so much misfortune. Perhaps, adding those experiences to his championship history makes him the most valuable choice.