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Hunt: Kidd's hiring does not sit well

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Michael Hunt
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
July 1, 2014

A prominent executive from another sport I spoke with was troubled by the Milwaukee Bucks’ terribly awkward hiring of Jason Kidd.

He said such a move undermines trust and credibility, two things the new owners had going for them before they went behind the rest of the organization’s back to hire Kidd as their head coach.

I completely agree.

The goodwill Wes Edens and Marc Lasry had established with the community was solid. They came from New York with a blueprint to raise the franchise from obscurity—a plan that includes a new downtown arena and associated development that would cause the city and the team to be viewed in a new and positive light.

The momentum continued with the draft-night selection of Jabari Parker, the right star-power player for precisely the right time.

Yet while general manager John Hammond and now former coach Larry Drew were seated alongside Parker on Friday at the Milwaukee Public Market during a civic celebration of what the Bucks could become, the new owners were interviewing Kidd for Drew’s job.

On its face, I have no problem with new ownership bringing in their own people. Typically the expectation is that the coach, the front office and pretty much everyone goes, especially in a situation like this in which the Herb Kohl administration had grown stale and unpopular.

But it was how Kidd was hired that runs against the grain of propriety, especially in a town like this.

Edens and Lasry made their move for Kidd without telling the general manager, which put Hammond’s already tenuous position into a whole new level of awkwardness.

The way it typically works is that the GM hires the coach with ownership approval, a protocol that was subverted. And then, Hammond was placed in the terrible position of having to negotiate with Nets GM Billy King, the man Kidd tried to undermine in Brooklyn, for draft picks to secure Kidd’s hiring.

That does no foreseeable good for a healthy working relationship.

Then there is the matter of Kidd’s actions with his former employer, which do not vouch for his credibility.

With no front-office experience, Kidd made a power play to place himself above King. Kidd wanted full control over selecting the players he would coach, a brash, arrogant plan that backfired. Because Kidd had torched his own Brooklyn bridge, it makes you wonder if he’s merely taking the Bucks’ coaching job as a matter of convenience.

Again, I don’t begrudge Lasry for hiring his pal. That’s the way these things usually work. You surround yourself with familiarity until the working relationship becomes too strained, which is usually the case in professional sports. It’s the cutthroat way the Bucks went about it that isn’t palatable.

Not that it hasn’t been done here before. Kohl kept Chris Ford on a string an entire summer before hiring George Karl. That worked until Karl gained too much power and traded Ray Allen, a move from which the franchise still has not recovered. Kohl also waited until after the Bucks had used the No. 1 pick on Andrew Bogut to change coaches. That didn’t exactly work, either.

There also are questions about Kidd’s coaching credentials and character. He was nearly fired a couple of months into his rookie season. He undermined one of his assistants, Lawrence Frank. And Kidd has been involved in a couple of high-profile legal cases, one for DUI and one involving allegations of spousal abuse.

A lot of this will be forgotten down the road if Kidd is able to extract effort and talent from the Bucks’ core of young players, particularly Parker. He’s going to have his hands full with Larry Sanders, a dynamic that bears watching in the next few months.

But what won’t be forgotten anytime soon was the way the Kidd situation was handled. For a franchise that had made two big steps forward, this is one step back.

Michael Hunt is a columnist for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Send email to mhunt@journalsentinel.com



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