As a bad season winds down, the Washington Wizards have fired longtime president of basketball operations Ernie Grunfeld.
The Washington Wizards are 32-46 this season and officially eliminated from the playoffs now. Facing another rebuild, and sorely in need of a fresh perspective, Marc Stein of the New York Times was first to report the team has fired vice president of basketball operations Ernie Grunfeld.
Grunfeld joined the Wizards in the summer of 2003, and he has overseen multiple resets with a lot of draft pick misses and bad contracts over 16 seasons. He wasn’t the only one who passed on Stephen Curry (2009, via a trade out of the No. 5 pick) or Kawhi Leonard and Klay Thompson (2011, Jan Vesely at No. 6 overall), but those were some big misses on draft night.
During Grunfeld’s tenure, the Wizards have a 568-724 record (.440 winning percentage) with eight playoff appearances and no runs past the second round of the postseason.
Wizards’ owner Ted Leonsis offered a statement on the move. Senior vice president of basketball operations Tommy Sheppard will take over in the interim and will be a candidate to permanently replace Grunfeld.
We did not meet our stated goals of qualifying for the playoffs this season and, despite playing with injuries to several key players, we have a culture of accountability and a responsibility of managing to positive outcomes,” said Leonsis. “I wish to thank Ernie for his service to the Washington Wizards. He and his family have been great leaders in our community and have worked tirelessly to make us a top NBA franchise.
Grunfeld struggled to put pieces around the star backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal. Wall has been increasing banged up over the last couple years, and he’s set to start a four-year, $170 million max contract next season as he rehabs a ruptured Achilles until roughly the All-Star break.
Grunfeld’s departure turns the spotlight toward the status of coach Scott Brooks, but he seems safe heading into next season.
Whoever takes over Washington’s front office has a big challenge ahead, with Wall’s immovable contract hanging over things and one year left on the incredibly bad deal given to Ian Mahinmi. The need for change has lingered for a long time though, and Leonsis’ loyalty to Grunfeld has finally expired.