Wizards Fire Pres. Ernie Grunfeld After 16 Years

by April 02, 2019
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Ernie Grunfeld of the Washington Wizards

The Wizards have dismissed president of basketball operations Ernie Grunfeld, Marc Stein of The New York Times reports, bringing to an end a 16-year chapter in franchise history.

The club confirmed the move in a press release, adding that current vice president of basketball operations Tommy Sheppard will handle basketball-related matters until the position is formally filled.

The news comes on the heels of a disappointing campaign for the Wizards, one in which the organization failed to qualify for the postseason and appeared to be trending in the wrong direction.

Naturally, some of Washington’s struggles in 2018-19 can be attributed to the absence of point guard John Wall, who missed all but 32 games before hitting the sidelines with an Achilles rupture, but even when the All-Star was in the picture, the club sat well below .500.

Prior to this year, the franchise managed to qualify for the playoffs in four of five seasons, winning a total of three first-round matchups between them. That promise of Eastern Conference contention was enough to convince the front office to commit to three max contract players, including a supermax deal that will pay Wall north $160 million through 2022-23.

The major investments didn’t pan out for Grunfeld but while Wall’s long-term deal looms large heading into the offseason, the Wizards have seen Bradley Beal develop into an All-Star and have slightly more financial flexibility now after a series of cost-cutting moves during the season.

Washington will narrowly miss the luxury tax mark in 2018-19 but even without Otto Porter Jr., who was sent to the Bulls at the trade deadline, still have approximately $80 million tied up between three players in 2019-20 (Wall, Beal and center Ian Mahinmi).

All told, Grunfeld served the Wizards franchise for 16 years, trailing only a handful of executives with more experience in similar positions. He oversaw two competitive runs (the first spearheaded by Gilbert Arenas, the second Wall) and went 568-724 with a winning percentage of .440 and eight playoff appearances in the process.