Brad Rock: Utah Jazz bosses don't think fan firings are a good idea
SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Jazz opened camp on Monday with a new general manager and a platoon of new players, too. It seems that during the offseason, former G.M. Kevin O'Connor was a busy guy.
Among other things, he added Mo Williams, Marvin Williams and Randy Foye, drafted Kevin Murphy from Tennessee Tech, and hired his own eventual replacement, Dennis Lindsey, from San Antonio. Henceforth, O'Connor will answer only to the title of v.p. of basketball operations, which is a fancy way of saying he's sharing his duties with Lindsey. Both will work on personnel matters.
All of the above means that expectations are fairly high. If the Jazz fail this season, it won't be for lack of trying on management's part. One thing Lindsey knows about his status: At least he's wanted. That can't be said of every general manger.
In an unprecedented move in American sports, Seattle Sounders minority owner Drew Carey, the comedian and "The Price is Right" game show host, has delivered his all-time greatest gag line. Beginning Sunday, season-ticket holders and fan club members will be allowed to vote on whether to retain Sounders G.M. Adrian Hanauer, as per Carey's request. Results will be announced at a board meeting in December.
Though the club would name a successor, the point is that the fans would have a say in a firing. A similar vote will occur in four years. By then, who knows, maybe Sounders fans will be choosing coaches and players, too. (It's a good thing for Bronco Mendenhall that he wasn't up for review after BYU's failed two-point conversion try in Boise.)
Asked his opinion on the Sounders' situation, Lindsey noted his appreciation for Jazz fans, but added: "It would be tough to run a team that way. Hopefully the Miller family won't subscribe to that philosophy."
In a way, Carey's idea makes sense. Voting gives fans a sense of investment and importance. As the comedian says, fans can see whether a team is progressing, same as the media. At the same time, they aren't informed as to what potential trades/upgrades are or were in the works. They also don't often know what salary cap/revenue/family/health/attitude matters exist.
Though fans have some idea on salary cap issues, they surely don't know whether a G.M. is being pressured by the owners to spend less or being undercut by the coach and undermined by players.
"I don't think it should be treated so casually, (just) because fans don't like the way you comb your hair or the way you dress," Jazz president Randy Rigby said. "You send the wrong message — that those things are trivialized. It's people's careers involved, and they need to be weighed much heavier than by just the fan base."
There's a lot of marketing savvy and a ton of silliness in the Sounders' promotion. Could fans have talked Dwight Howard into coming to Utah, or found someone that could have? Unlikely. Media members regularly assess the performance of professional and college coaches and management, but when did a team ever listen to their suggestions?
Besides, no owner ever gave the media permission to fire an executive.
Fan firings might engage the boosters but they could also disengage teams from their moorings. Jazz fans unfurled banners in the early 1990s urging owner Larry H. Miller to fire Jerry Sloan. That was before two trips to the NBA Finals.
"We're all judged by wins and losses, in one shape or form. We all understand that," O'Connor said. "People have got every right to do what they want to do. I think common sense would hopefully prevail in certain situations."
Fan input is one thing, but imitating Donald Trump on "The Apprentice" is another. Rigby estimates less than half the background on player moves ever gets to the public. Americans seldom pick the smartest people for their leaders. Now they get to decide how to run their teams?
Please, stop with the jokes. They're killing me.
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