Washington Wizards owner Ted Leonsis has reportedly gone to great lengths in an effort to turn his franchise around.
According to the Washington Post’s Candace Buckner, Leonsis spoke with roughly 80 people over the last 3 1/2 months, including Barack Obama, when researching how to rebuild the Wizards’ basketball operations department.
“It was a very, very long gestation process,” Leonsis said, per the Washington Post. “It wasn’t what people were expecting, which was ‘It’s a small pool of candidates; you’re going to hire a replacement for the last executive who was there.’ I knew I would get grief on it, but if I did the work, my partners and the executive team would feel good about it.”
Buckner reports that Leonsis spoke with Obama in late April, and the former President discussed ““beauty of the game, teamwork, sacrifice” and surrounding franchise stars with complementary pieces.” Additionally, Obama reportedly encouraged Leonsis to invest in scouting in Africa.
In addition to his chat with Obama, Leonsis reportedly reached out to NBA commissioner Adam Silver, as well as San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich and sports agents Rich Paul.
“I talked to Gregg Popovich for 90 minutes. Not about the job. About, ‘Tell me what you’re seeing in the league, tell me about the candidates that I’m talking to, tell me about how you built excellence in your team without breaching any confidence,’ ” Leonsis said. “It was like getting an MBA.”
In the end, Leonsis decided on Tommy Sheppard as the Wizards’ general manager. Sheppard had served as the interim GM since longtime president Ernie Grunfeld was dismissed in early April.