Bucks Diary

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Bucks must find their own Ron Wolf


"When I got (to Green Bay), it was the worst organization in pro football. Yet what people said couldn't happen here...happened here (building a winner in Green Bay)...I'm proud of that." -- Ron Wolf, former GM of the Green Bay Packers

The Bucks are searching for a new general manager. I must say the names being floated are not inspiring. Retreads like Donnie Walsh and square pegs like Doug Collins do less than nothing for me.

In fact, the Bucks should stay away from "name" candidates altogether. They tend to adapt themselves to their situations rather than seeking to transform them. That's exactly what the Bucks don't need. What the Bucks need is an innovative force majeure whose single minded obsession and sole mandate will be to eradicate the Bucks 20 year culture of losing... root and branch. A man whom Garry Wills and others would refer to as a "transformative leader". In sporting terms, the Bucks need a Basketball Ron Wolf.

You can bet he's out there. Somewhere in the recesses of some NBA office, there sits an anonymous, driven, and innovative leader in waiting with the right stuff to return the Milwaukee Bucks to glory. Senator Kohl's task is to identify him and bring him to Milwaukee.

Dateline 1991: Another proud franchise trapped in an endless winter

In November of 1991 the Green Bay Packers were in pretty much the exact same position the Bucks are in right now. Leaderless and nearing the end of yet another losing season. They were a once proud franchise that had just endured two decades of nearly uninterrupted drift.

Help was on the way. Having just fired the hapless mediocrity Tom Bratz, Packers President Bob Harlan set out to find the man who could get the ship back on course. He asked around. One name kept popping up... Ron Wolf, personnel director of the New York Jets. Harlan brought him to Green Bay.

At his core, Wolf was a football scout. He had a unique ability to identify both superstars and productive role players... the glamour boys and the grunts... all the parts you need to have a championship team. When he made mistakes in his evaluations, and he often did, he admitted those mistakes and moved decisively to correct them -- a seemingly obvious act but one that is rarely done.

Just as importantly, as a manager, Wolf was a force of one. He blew out the existing culture of mediocrity in Green Bay and immediately instilled one of excellence. No one was safe from Wolf's scrutiny -- I remember one of his first moves was to fire the equipment manager. I remember thinking that was an odd initial move. Actually, it was brilliant. He was sending a powerful message. Then he turned his attention to the roster.

"Then I met with the team," Wolf recalled in his magnum opus The Packer Way. "If looks could kill I would have been a dead man. The players knew things would never be the same. The free ride was over, the country club atmosphere was gone, and now performance would determine their future. The standards of the organization had changed. If that bothered them, good. Things needed to be shaken up. Mediocrity no longer could be acceptable. They no longer could feel secure within the Malaise of Excuses (his caps, not mine). It had to be different in Green Bay, and this was the day it would begin."

"I ended my speech with "Go Packers" and left."

Change a few words and that is a speech that has to be given in the Bucks locker room. The question is, can the Senator find the right man to give it?

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