Wizards Fire Ernie Grunfeld

The Wizards have decided to part ways with longtime president of basketball operations Ernie Grunfeld, league sources tell Marc Stein of The New York Times (Twitter link). According to Stein (via Twitter), Grunfeld was informed of the decision today by team owner Ted Leonsis.

The Wizards have confirmed the move in a press release, announcing that senior vice president of basketball operations Tommy Sheppard will assume interim GM duties. The club will launch its search for a permanent head of basketball operations at season’s end, and will consider Sheppard a candidate.

“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,” Leonsis said in a statement. “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, who had been one of the NBA’s longest-tenured top executives, took over as the Wizards’ president of basketball operations back in the summer of 2003. Since then, the team has compiled a record of 568-724 (.440) and made the playoffs eight times. Washington has never advanced beyond the second round of the postseason during that 16-year stretch.

In recent years, the Wizards failed to live up to lofty expectations with a roster that featured All-Star guards John Wall and Bradley Beal. The team finished eighth in the Eastern Conference a year ago and was bounced in the first round of the playoffs before missing the postseason entirely this spring.

Grunfeld has also made some questionable salary-cap decisions in recent years, including long-term, big-money deals for Wall and Ian Mahinmi. Wall’s four-year super-max extension, worth a projected $170MM, will go into effect this summer, so the new head of basketball operations will have to work around that contract.

It remains to be seen which direction the Wizards will go under new management, but with Wall expected to miss most or all of the 2019/20 season due to an Achilles tear, a retooling – or even a full-scale rebuild – appears likely. Beal will be a key player to watch going forward — Grunfeld and Leonsis had stated they were committed to keeping the star guard in D.C., but it’s possible a new general manager will view things differently.

It also makes sense to keep an eye on head coach Scott Brooks, though as Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today notes (via Twitter), Brooks still has two years and $14MM left on his contract. He seems like a good bet to be back for 2019/20 at least.

While no specific names have been cited yet as Grunfeld’s potential long-term replacement, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports (via Twitter) that team ownership has been active in pursuing search films to help with the hiring process. Wojnarowski suggests that it should be an attractive job, given the geography and the resources available.

The Pelicans, the Suns, and perhaps the Timberwolves will be among the other teams competing with the Wizards for general manager candidates this spring. Stein hears from league sources that Sheppard, Grunfeld’s interim replacement, will receive consideration from the Pelicans for their GM opening (Twitter link). New Orleans is also interviewing executives Larry Harris (Warriors), Trajan Langdon (Nets), and Gersson Rosas (Rockets), all of whom could be of interest to Washington.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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20 thoughts on “Wizards Fire Ernie Grunfeld

  1. acarneglia

    And they are partying in the streets of Washington. Going straight up Stanley cup parade Alex Ovechkin

    • yinzburgh

      Yah right the Caps will choke like they normally do. They got so lucky last year

      • halethorpe

        You’re cool.. just the life of the party aren’t you. Bet everyone wants to be your friend.

  2. julyn82001

    Sorry, not a Wizards fan, but I’m curious, was this on lack of results or else?

    • D$!LLKU$H-og

      Poor contract/roster decisions also contributed to his canning. Mahinmi getting 4 years 60 something Mil. Probably should’ve just let the Nets get Otto Porter instead of matching 106MM over 4 when you had Wall, Beal and Mahinmi taking up most of the cap space already. Giving Dwight a Player Option? He would’ve taken a 1 year offer for sure. Trading Oubre who was 22 and a building block, drafting terribly, not resigning Bojan Bogdanovic and the list goes on.

  3. Nebraska Tim

    So who’s the worst in the biz now?

    Probably the front office in Chicago, right? Or the Knicks. Can’t believe I almost forgot about what a gong show the Knicks front office always is.

    • K3vin

      Laker GM LeBron James isn’t looking good. Let’s see what he does this offseason.

      • Nebraska Tim

        First time LeBron’s missed the playoffs in forever…

        The difference? Rob Pelinka was helping pull the strings this time.

        Pelinka (and Magic) need to get the recognition they deserve for putting together such a bad team around LeBron.

        That said, I honestly thought they were good enough to make the playoffs. Lots went wrong.

        But I’d put Pelinka right near the bottom of the league right now.

  4. Jason Lancaster


    Call Parker a cab. Don’t bring anyone back that isn’t a rookie or playing for the minimum. Tank next season.

    Trade Beal next February for picks and bad contracts, and use Mahinmi’s expiring to take on a long term salary (hello Wiggins!) along with some draft picks.

    Stretch Wall in 2021, pray to God for good picks between now and then, and hope Dolan, Sarver, and Reinsdorf don’t sell in the meantime so you aren’t the worst team in the NBA.

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