Wizards’ Michael Winger Talks New Role, Clippers Tenure, Beal, More

Having passed on the opportunity to interview for a general manager role with at least one other NBA team in the past, Michael Winger tells Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times that he had begun to wonder whether he’d get an opportunity to become the lead executive in a front office. That was the impetus for his decision to pursue the job as the Wizards‘ president, a position he officially secured on Thursday.

“Seldom, I think, in pro sports do those opportunities come along where almost all of your boxes, if not all of your boxes, are checked,” Winger said. “And this was I think the rare and supremely fortunate opportunity for somebody like me to check all the boxes: ownership, market, fan base, already a talented team.”

Winger has some familiarity with the Washington area already, as Greif notes. The former Clippers general manager lived in Baltimore during his final year of law school and often visited friends in D.C. during that time.

“I just felt like if I’m ever going to challenge myself, now’s the time and (Wizards owner) Ted (Leonsis) is the right person,” Winger said. “I think D.C. is the right fan base.”

Here’s more from the new Wizards executive on the challenges that await him in D.C. and the six years he spent in Los Angeles as the Clippers’ GM:

  • According to Winger, he achieved most of his goals with the Clippers over the last six years, having helped turn the franchise into a desirable destination for stars. Of course, there’s one notable goal that will go unresolved. “I would have liked to have won one or more championships in the four years that we’ve had Paul (George) and Kawhi (Leonard), but every team that tries to win a championship and doesn’t wishes that they would have won a championship,” Winger told Greif. “I mean, certainly winning at the highest level would have been awesome. What else? That’s really it.”
  • Winger added that he still has full confidence that George and Leonard are a “championship tandem” capable of leading the Clippers to a title: “I believe that to my core that those two guys when healthy can absolutely win a championship, so I’m a little sad that I’m not gonna be there when they finally do.”
  • Most of Winger’s conversations with Leonsis during the interview process focused on a “big-picture vision” for the Wizards rather than on specific roster moves, writes Greif. The plan is to dig deeper into specific plans for the roster once Winger brings in a second executive who will focus exclusively on the Wizards in a GM-type role.
  • Winger said he’s thrilled about the prospect of having Bradley Beal as the cornerstone of Washington’s roster: “His former coaches, his former teammates, they all have extraordinarily high regard for him, and he is unequivocally a superstar. The hardest thing to do in the NBA is acquire a superstar talent and it’s even harder to acquire superstar talent with his level of character. And so, I think it’s an extremely, extremely fortunate starting point. So to me, that’s really exciting to have somebody like Brad on the team.”
  • Winger is confident that Leonsis will “put forth both the resources and the patience” to build the Wizards into an organization with a winning culture, pointing to Leonsis’ work with the NHL’s Washington Capitals as proof of his ability to steward a successful franchise. “It’s just a matter of taking some of those principles, injecting the equivalent of the NBA’s nuances into those principles, and hopefully building something that is sturdy, sound, attracts good players, attracts good staff, keeps good players, keeps good staff, and ultimately wins basketball games,” Winger told Greif.
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