In an outstanding piece for The Athletic, Josh Robbins details Michael Winger‘s journey from his days as a college student in Ohio to becoming the new president of the Wizards.
While attending Miami University, Winger saw a flyer stating that Ron Shapiro, a powerhouse baseball agent who represented several Hall of Fame players, was giving a talk on campus. Shapiro, who is also the father of Toronto Blue Jays president and CEO Mark Shapiro, became a mentor to Winger and wound up helping him get his start in the NBA, according to Robbins.
“It is gratifying for me to see Mike do everything that he has done because it’s like one of my own children doing those things,” Ron Shapiro said. “And it’s gratifying to me to see Mike not only be the professional that he is, but to be the person that he is. He is kind and he’s sensitive and he’s caring and he’s strong.”
Here’s more on the Wizards:
- Within the same story, Robbins asked Winger about his plans for the team. He says he wants to get to know the players off the court before he makes any major decisions. “If the visions align for being competitive and doing things the right way with a little bit of patience, absolutely there’s a path forward with them (Bradley Beal, Kyle Kuzma and Kristaps Porzingis),” Winger said as part of a larger quote. “I don’t think we’re going to be an overnight title contender; that I’m pretty confident about. And so, if they would rather pursue immediate winning, then they probably do have to pursue that somewhere else. But I think that there’s a very open dialog, a very open invitation to talk about the future of the team — the near-term future and the long-term future — and see where goals align and see where they don’t align.”
- In another story for The Athletic, Robbins provides some highlights of the introductory press conference featuring Winger, new GM Will Dawkins, new VP of player personnel Travis Schlenk and owner Ted Leonsis. “The eventual expectation is that we’re going to build a generational contender,” Winger said. “We’re going to eventually have a team that is competing for championships. I can’t promise when that will be. But there’s no excuse for the lone NBA team in Washington, D.C., not to be a perennial contender or at least be pursuing championships. So, that’s the goal. The goal is to pursue championships by any means necessary. It’ll take time.”
- As David Aldridge of The Athletic writes, the Wizards now have a group of high-level executives with varied backgrounds and experiences, and their preexisting relationships with key personnel around the league should help the organization moving forward. Dawkins said the team will be very focused on the new Collective Bargaining Agreement once it’s released. “Whenever (the CBA) comes out, and we’re obviously able to see it, you spend time with it, work with it,” Dawkins said. “And the goal is to find the advantages. And the team that learns it, and can find those advantages early on, is the team that’s going to find those benefits earlier.”
- While Winger made it clear he would be accountable as the team’s primary decision-maker, Dawkins will run the day-to-day operations of the Wizards and Schlenk will oversee the team’s scouts and all player evaluations, writes Ava Wallace of The Washington Post. Still, the group said it will be a collaborative effort. “We’ve all had a lot of shared experiences at high levels, and once you put all that in a room, it’s going to be a little janky for a little bit,” Dawkins said. “We’re going to figure it out, stumble on some toes, but we’ll realize, hey, you’re better at this, or, hey, your idea works here. But there’s no such thing as a bad idea. The more you throw it out, the more I’ll be able to apply it to something else down the line or another way of thinking. I’m excited. Those guys are going to be easy to work with.”
- Winger said Dawkins and Schlenk will primarily be handling the upcoming draft, which takes place June 22, per Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. Dawkins is confident the Wizards will find the right group of players on draft night despite the new-look front office being hired within the past couple weeks. “The draft doesn’t start right now. The draft started two, three or four years ago. That’s the mindset that we’ll have. I will say this: we’re not playing from behind at all,” Dawkins said. The Wizards control the Nos. 8, 42 and 57 picks.
- According to Hughes, Schlenk provided some insight into what he values when it comes to scouting. “One of the big things I’ve always focused on… is the character of the person,” Schlenk said. “That’s extremely important. These guys spend so much time together. If you have somebody that kind of brings down the environment every day, it can really be a drag on the team. That would be one of the first big things.”