Is the General Manager of any professional sport out of work?

Has the title of general manager become obsolete?  (At season’s end – each professional sports league will award an Executive of the Year.)  Not discounting the work, the qualifications or even the input.  We’re just not sure at that very moment that an owner won’t swoop in and go, “No, that’s mine.”

TODAY – we examine the National Basketball Association – In the 80s and 90s, the general manager essentially stood as the final word on all things sports related.  It’s true because – he was the one entrusted to see all, hear all and know all.  During the NBA free-agency free-for-all of 2010, owners have as much influence in those meetings with LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh and Amare’ Stoudemire as their leading team executives.

  • In NEW ORLEANS, it’s become clear that Dell Demps hardly is the final word on basketball decisions. (Far from it)  David Stern is the FINAL word on all things concerning New Orleans Hornets Basketball.
  • In LOS ANGELES, Mitch Kupchak hardly could have viewed dumping Lamar Odom and the Kardashians to Dallas for a low end draft choice as a basketball move. But these days, who knows what Jim Buss is up to?  Please don’t ask Kobe Bryant – because he definitely doesn’t know either.
  • In DALLAS, Mark Cuban has long had final say on all matters personnel, with Donnie Nelson as much facilitator as closer.
  • In NEW YORK, Jim Dolan negotiates directly with free agents and is advised by Isiah Thomas, while (then) GM Donnie Walsh and Head Coach Mike D’Antoni are waiting at home to hear updates from its owner.  It’s another conversation and another article on who’s the real GM of the New York Knicks and it’s not who you think! (HINT: It’s not the FIU Basketball Head Coach)
  • In NEW JERSEY, it’s Mikhail Prokhorov that will wrestle Dwight Howard from the Orlando Magic and overpay Deron Williams to move to Brooklyn and not his chief executive Billy King.
  • In LOS ANGELES, while Neil Olshey worked to obtain the services of Chris Paul for the Clippers, it still came down to the ultimate whims of owner Donald T. Sterling.

The NBA lockout made it abundantly clear that there largely is a new breed of owner in the NBA – an owner with more at stake than the previous generation. No longer the investors, these are hands-on types who have their hands in just about every aspect of the operation.  Please keep the cameras on the people who matter during the game (that would be the athletes on the field). It doesn’t matter to me how much money these owners put forward or what antics they pull to get attention. The game is to be played on the field and not from the luxury boxes.

Polarizing owners that standout in each sport:

  • NBA Basketball – Marc Cuban, Jim Dolan, the Buss family, David Stern
  • NFL Football – Jerry Jones, Daniel Snyder and the late Al Davis
  • MLB Baseball – The Steinbrenner family
  • NHL Hockey – Jim Dolan, Charles Wang
  • MLS Soccer (Don Garber and his 2012 fast-track expansion plan) *HONORABLE MENTION*

The General Manager – once considered a heralded position, now – nothing more than an employee.  Would you like fries with that shake?

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