The Washington Wizards announced Tuesday that they have relieved team president and top basketball decision-maker Ernie Grunfeld of his duties. The move was announced on the team’s page on NBA.com.
Grunfeld, who both played in the NBA and had previous general manager stints with the New York Knicks and Milwaukee Bucks, had been the lead front office executive with the Wizards since 2003.
“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,” the team’s owner, Ted Leonsis, said in a statement announcing the move. “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.”
Tommy Sheppard, the team’s senior vice president of basketball operations, will report to Leonsis, while the team will begin searching for a new “head of basketball operations,” a position for which Sheppard will be a candidate, the owner said.
On Tuesday, Grunfeld’s Wikipedia page was vandalized to include the phrase “was trash, only took Ted Leonsis 10 years to realize.”
The Wizards’ on-court performance during Grunfeld’s tenure was very much up and down. Taking over in Washington shortly after Michael Jordan made his final, ill-fated comeback with the team and was fired as general manager, Grunfeld began his tenure by signing Gilbert Arenas, who was one of the league’s top players for a brief time. In 2009, Grunfeld traded the fifth pick in the NBA Draft for Randy Foye and Mike Miller; that pick could have been used on Steph Curry.
Official: We have relieved Ernie Grunfeld of his duties as Team President.https://t.co/a811eQj4Ws— Washington Wizards (@WashWizards) April 2, 2019
Grunfeld had better drafting luck later, when he picked John Wall with the top overall pick in 2010, Bradley Beal in 2012, and Otto Porter in 2013 to build the core of what was a contending team in the East for a few years. However, the team completely collapsed during the current season, with Wall suffering a ruptured Achilles, followed by further setbacks, and Porter traded to the Chicago Bulls in February.
The Wizards are currently 32-46 and well out of the Eastern Conference playoff race, although Beal, with 26 points per game, is having the best season of his career.
The replacement for Grunfeld will have to decide whether to proceed with the core of Wall and Beal, or to go in an entirely new direction.