To say that this was a long time coming doesn't really do it justice. Elgin Baylor had been the Vice President of Basketball Operations (essentially the general manager) of the Clippers for 22 years, longer than anyone else in the league - the second longest current tenure is 13 years for Kevin McHale and Geoff Petrie; no one else has been with their team more than 9 seasons. The year Baylor first took the job, Magic Johnson was the league's MVP. He's been around a long time. Unnaturally long. Too long.
But in typical Clipper fashion, they appear to have screwed up his departure. The timeline from Tuesday looks something like this:
- Art Thompson III, apparently given enough leash by the OCR to sniff out a story not colored purple and gold, gets suspicious when Baylor's bio is nowhere to be found in the Clippers' preseason media guide. He asks Clipper reps, who give him the run around, and then he calls his old pal Elgin who tells him "There’s a dispute going on. My attorney advised me not to discuss it." AT3 posts this at 12:36 PM.
- Lisa Dillman of the Times and Ramona Shelburne of the Daily News start following up. They talk to Dunleavy and coach tells them "the team came to me recently, just in the last couple of days and said that Elgin was retiring and they wanted me to take on the responsibilities as general manager." Dillman posted on the LAT's Fabulous Forum blog at 3:30 PM and had a brief story up on the Times' site at 4:18 PM. Shelburne had her blog post up at 4:07 PM.
- All of this apparently took the Clippers completely by surprise. The story was out there - Baylor was out, Dunleavy was in - and it seemed acrimonious. The coach had confirmed that he'd be taking over the GM duties, but in fact there was still no official word from the organization. So a press release went out at 4:19 PM. Better late than never, I guess.
For what it's worth, here's the official word from Clipper town:
The Los Angeles Clippers today announced that Head Coach Mike Dunleavy will assume the additional role of General Manager, replacing Vice President of Basketball Operations, Elgin Baylor.
In a related move, the team’s current Director of Player Personnel, Neil Olshey, will be elevated to the post of Assistant General Manager.
"We greatly appreciate Elgin’s efforts during his time with the Clippers, and we wish him the very best," said Clippers’ Owner and Chairman of the Board Donald T. Sterling.
Referring to Dunleavy and Olshey respectively, Clippers President Andy Roeser said, "In Mike and Neil, we're fortunate to already have talented people in place to make this transition a seamless one. Going forward, we have high expectations for our team. From a basketball standpoint, these are the people we're counting on to make those expectations a reality."
Dunleavy welcomed the opportunity, saying, "I really appreciate the trust that the organization has placed in me. We’re ready and excited to move forward, and we think we’ll have a team which can be dynamic and exciting, certainly one with enough talent to be a force in the Western Conference."
Baylor, an 11-time NBA All Star, joined the Clippers in 1986 as Vice President of Basketball Operations after a stellar 14-year playing career with the Los Angeles Lakers and a brief coaching stint with the New Orleans Jazz. He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1976, chosen as one of the NBA’s "50 Greatest Players of All Time" during the league’s 50th Anniversary celebration in 1997, and was named the 2005-06 NBA Executive of the Year.
Dunleavy, entering his sixth year as Clippers’ Head Coach, has manned dual roles before: he was Vice President of Basketball Operations and Head Coach of the Milwaukee Bucks from 1992-93 through 1995-96.
Olshey, originally hired as Clippers’ Director of Player Development prior to the 2003-04 season, became an assistant coach on Dunleavy’s staff in 2004-05. He has been the team’s Director of Player Personnel for the past three seasons.
It's hard to imagine that they thought no one would notice that Elgin was nowhere to be found at the new facility, or that his name was missing from the media guide. In fact, it's hard to believe that it took a week for someone to call Elgin and ask him what was up. When were they planning to announce this?
Ignoring the typically inept handing of the situation, at least the Clippers finally made this happen. Dunleavy has been acting as the de facto GM for many years now. He asked for involvement in personnel decisions in his first contract, and asked for more in his extension.
I'm not sure that 'ex-player doing double duty as head coach' is really the profile of a successful NBA GM in the Buford/Pritchard/Presti era. But at least we have some confidence that MDsr, with the broker gig on his resume, can do the salary cap math. So Dunleavy gets what he wants, which is full responsibility (he aked for it in January during his kerfuffle with Sterling: “As long as I am here, I’ll take full responsibility, and I guarantee you everybody is going to be happy"). And Sterling has one fewer salary to pay - which actually will make him happy.
Does it make ClipperSteve happy? Well, it's a start. Baylor is a link to "The Worst Franchise in Pro Sports" days. He should have been fired each and every year since, say, 1987. So that's about two decades of reprieves. And although not much will change in the short term since MDsr was already calling the shots, it's clearly better for him to have the title along with the responsibility.
Seems like it could have been handled better though. I hope Baylor doesn't end up suing Sterling for his salary like Bill Fitch had to. That's embarrassing.