The Washington Post

First Things First - Tracee Hamilton talks sports

Mar 26, 2010

Every morning, Post columnist Tracee Hamilton discusses the most amazing and outrageous news from the world of sports.

Now that both sides have agreed on a fair price for the Washington Wizards and Verizon Center, Ted Leonsis is one step closer to becoming the next owner of the Wizards. It's a dubious honor at best, considering the current state of the franchise.

Let's assume Leonsis eventually takes over. What should his first move be as owner? I say clean house, from the front office on down, and start over. Too much "he said, he said," too many discipline problems, too much finger pointing ... what's worth saving here? 

Butler, babeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

Morning, everyone! Thought this question from Dickie V. was a good place to start.

So the upsets aren't quite over yet. Is this the year that some child or non-basketball-following spouse wins the office pool? Someone who made their picks based on uniform colors or mascots? That happened once when I was in Detroit; my friend's wife, who never watched a game in her life, won the pool. This feels like that kind of year.

You are spot-on. The only things worth keeping at this point are the jerseys and team colors. It needs the equivalent of "Extreme Makeover" (minus the makeup).

Hmmmm, Ty Pennington coming in and redoing the place. Not a bad idea. Can't watch that show; always makes me cry. But not as much as the Wizards!

I moved to DC in 1984. The Bullets/Wizards have been close to a minor league team for the entire time I've lived here.

What do you think the odds are that Ted Leonsis can work his magic on the Wizards?

I'm in about the same position; came here in 1983 and have never seen the Wizards as a truly good team. Sure, they made the playoffs a couple of times, but they've never been a team that was going to go anywhere once they were in.

Basketball and hockey are two different animals entirely, of course, but Leonsis does what smart owners do: He hires the right people and gets out of the way and lets them do their jobs. He doesn't try to make line assignments or pull goalies; instead he focuses on something he knows a lot about -- customer service. Put a good product on the ice and give fans a good experience for their money in the arena and you can put butts in seats and have a successful franchise. So yes, I tihnk he can work some magic on those magic-less Wizards.

It will be interesting to see where he'll start once he takes over and how deep he'll dig. Because it's not just the players at this point.

I recall the D.C. area Ticketmaster franchise was part of Washington Sports & Entertainment, but I did not see any reference to it in the story. Also, Leonsis owning Verizon Center and the Wizards should be very good news for the Capitals. It means he can point more revenue to the Caps and also control the facility which means he can actually doe something about ice conditions.

I thought it was, too. I'll have to ask Tom Heath that question, if I'm ever released from house arrest.

I agree with you that owning Verizon Center itself is a key to this deal. I think Leonsis, with his background and expertise, can get more revenue out of that building. And I think the Caps have been treated like tenants, and the Wizards like owners, for awhile and that will stop, too.

Did you stay up to watch the late game? That was super exciting!!!! Two great teams.

Well, we lost power in beautiful Vienna, and I tried to stay awake, but finally fell asleep. Not much else to do in the dark, and I'm still pole-axed with this pneumonia.

Power went off after Butler was done and I think K-State was at the half and Kentucky was pulling ahead. I would like to have seen that double OT. I have a lot of happy friends today. (Congrats, Caroline!)

Forget about keeping the team colors. Change them to match the Capitals. Then the Caps, Nats and Wiz (please change the name) will use similar colors.

So "Rock the Red" could be used all over D.C. Hmmmm. That's an interesting idea. Plus teams love to change names and colors; more sales! What's a good name for the Wizards? Can't go back to Bullets!

Ted's been great as Caps owner. But will owning all of the teams and arena spread him too thin and weaken the Caps?

If he lets it. I think he'll have to hire some very good people right under him to help him oversee the whole empire. In other words, he'll have to let go of a few responsibilities, perhaps. But I think he'll keep a close eye on all of it and I'm sure he has a plan in his desk, all ready to go, and a list of people to interview, etc. He's an amazing multi-tasker, from what I've observed.

Or maybe I'm too optimistic (which seldom happens). But there has literally been one good piece of news about the Wizards THE ENTIRE SEASON, and this is it. Clutching at straws, perhaps, but better than sitting around moaning about it. Time to move on.

Tracee, I don't mean to take anything away from these great mid-major teams. Clearly there is more equity now in talented players, funded programs, excellent coaching.

But I have to wonder if the difficult regular seasons of the Big Conference teams aren't taking so much out of the players that it makes it difficult to remain in top shape through the NCAA tourney.

For example, Butler played well and deserved to win, but a full-strength Syracuse with Onuaku and a 100% Rautins would not have lossed by 4pts. Playing major schools throughout the year might get you a good seed, but might the strain of it also reduce your performance once you've made it to the Dance?

Yes, this has been a topic of discussion. Is it better to tank your conference tournament and rest for the biggie? I don't know. KU won the regular season title AND the tournament, but I don't think exhaustion is their excuse. (Better not be. One senior -- they're young!)

But K-State played KU for the title, so played as many games as the Jayhawks, and they appear rarin' to go.

Injuries are different. Onuaku's loss probably cost Syracuse the game. But you're always going to have injuries.

The conference tournaments make money for the conferences, so there is zero incentive to pull the plug on them. Plus What in the world would ESPN broadcast that second week in March? So they want them to -- and they have a lot to say about it. I don't think we'll see the end of them. But we might see a team say, oh, let's just lose in the first round and go home. Sort of like the Colts pulling their starters last year.

The higher seeds, especially the No. 1's, have everything to lose, and a team like Butler or N. Iowa has nothing to lose. That's what makes these upsets, I think, and I'm not sure of a way to change that. I still say Kansas should be able to beat the other 64 teams in the field if they're the No. 1 seed. And Syracuse probably should be able to beat most of them.

Wasn't Butler-Syracuse just one of those cases where the underdog played the perfect style of basketball (moving off the ball and making jumpers) to beat the favorite's (a match-up zone)?

Butler had a perfect strategy and its shooting was "on." If they had come out cold, it would have been a different game. But a team that can sit outside and drain jumpers, especially threes, has a good chance, always.

Any favorites to take over the Wizards front office? It sounds like (former Jayhawk) Kevin Pritchard could be out in Portland over more of a personality conflict than for basketball-related reasons. He's done a great job of turning around a pretty miserable team.

I don't have any favorites but I love Kevin Pritchard and I think he's done a great job in Portland. There is already a Jayhawk in the front office, Milt Newton; not sure if he'll stay or go. I don't have an answer to this year; I'm sure some candidates will emerge down the road. They've gotta clear out the current batch first.

Tracee, I hope you are feeling better. (What kind of cheer do they say at K-State?) Mr. Leonsis is not a house-cleaner. He will want to find the people who are smart and effective and who want to contribute to his kind of team.

You are right about his predilection for smart people. Mr. Leonsis's first job is to identify the smart people in the Wizards' organization and on the roster. There are bound to be some. And then he'll bring in other smart people to complement them.

And he needs to develop a plan, in concert with other people who have plans. Ernie Grunfeld has the ability to react to situations, but we don't know whether he has a master plan for long-term success (compare Jed Hoyer, the new GM of the Padres, who got hired on the basis of his plan).

If he has a good plan that works, great. Otherwise, Mr. Leonsis should bring in someone else. Mr. Leonsis probably already knows that it takes less time to build a winner in the NBA than in the NHL, though it's not necessarily any easier.

But in both leagues, you can get a lot smarter if you get the chance to draft and then keep a great player to build around. So build through the draft, trade for picks, sign players from the D League, and grab the best players who have played through their rookie contracts.

They don't have anything to rival "Rock Chalk Jayhawk!", for sure. They do things like throw live chickens on the floor during playing introductions, and if you think I'm kidding, I'm not.

I think you're right about Leonsis. He'll talk to everyone in there first, no doubt. And he'll separate the wheat from the chaff and go forward. And I agree about Grunfeld. I think he's had a long enough stint in the job to prove himself, but maybe he has a plan in his drawer that the Pollins never let him implement. Certainly possible.

Then the rebuilding begins, as you say. Draft well. (Wouldn't that be a nice change of pace for this franchise?) And go from there. Your formula is what I think we'll see, truthfully. There will be some painful years, but after this season, could it get worse?

This is a good place to stop for the day. Thanks, everyone, for joining me. Join me again Monday if you're not on spring break!


Ah yes- synch up the Nats, Wiz, and Cap teams to adhere to the same color scheme. Wait, where was that done in the past? Oh yes- PITTSBURGH. Once again, the Caps are trailing the Pens, first in the playoffs, now in the idea department. Snap!

Yes, Pittsburgh is the epicenter of everything good and right in the world. Now calm down and have a good weekend!

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Tracee Hamilton
Tracee Hamilton has worked at the Post since 1993, toiling in office obscurity as an editor before someone said, "Hey, you've got a lot of opinons and can write a little. Why don't you become a columnist?"

Her interests range from geneology to Nordic combined to Kansas basketball. If ever there was a Jayhawk who once flew off a ski jump, she'd know where he was buried.

Her list of pet peeves is considerably longer, but includes Missouri basketball and poor subway etiquette. She welcomes dissenting opinions -- in the way Great Whites welcome open-water swimmers.

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