5 Media Personalities Who Should Follow John Hollinger into NBA Front Offices
On December 14, shockwaves struck the NBA media world when the Memphis Grizzlies hired John Hollinger, a longtime ESPN columnist and arguably the biggest name in basketball statistics. Since creating the Player Efficiency Rating, an advanced statistical metric that purports to encapsulate a player's per-minute production in a single number, Hollinger has instead turned to words.
He wrote columns and edited basketball coverage for The Oregonian and Sports Illustrated before joining ESPN. This isn't usually the resume of a person who moves into the front office.
But Hollinger isn't the typical basketball mind.
If other teams want to broaden their view of who can help them create a better team, these are five other current media members whom they should consider hiring.
If you are looking for another high-level statistical mind who is not yet working for an NBA team, Tom Haberstroh is probably your guy. He writes for ESPN's Heat Index while covering the Miami Heat and has written the best analysis I've seen of the world's most-covered basketball team.
In breaking down the ways in which LeBron James has transformed his game, Haberstroh shows that he is more than just a guy with a calculator. He understands how the numbers can support—not define—what happens on a basketball court.
Every team needs somebody who can manipulate advanced statistics to fill in the gaps of what may not show up on game film. Haberstroh can do that. But he can also offer a nuanced view from a man who understands the sport and has been a first-hand witness to the daily routines a team followed in its quest to become an NBA champion.
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The Jalen Rose Show is the best thing to happen to NBA coverage in the past two years. His podcast features a candid, insider's view of the league that only a former player can offer.
But Rose is not just any former player.
He has played on enough excellent and terrible teams to figure out what makes a roster work. He has seen how the disputes of coaches and players can submarine a team's chances. He knows that some players care as much about their jewelry as they do about their team's record.
Rose would likely require some seasoning before he could become a player-personnel decision-maker for a team. But there is an example—in one of his old stomping grounds even—of how a former player can be molded into an executive.
Larry Bird spent years as a second-in-command under the Indiana Pacers' top boss, Donnie Walsh, in the Hoosier State. Though the reputation was never fully deserved, Bird was seen throughout his career as a hayseed, not somebody who should be negotiating million-dollar deals against sports agents.
But once Bird became the Pacers' decision-maker, he did well.
It is a path that the seemingly unrefined Rose could follow.
Zach Lowe is not a statistician, but he has followed a similar path to John Hollinger, working as a prominent writer for Sports Illustrated's online coverage before moving on to a more prestigious role with ESPN.
Lowe now calls Grantland his home, not ESPN proper, but like Hollinger before him, he pumps out columns with so much insight that they have become must-read articles for anyone who wants to be a die-hard NBA follower.
Some of this is rooted in his talent as a writer, but more than anything Lowe just understands the modern Association as well as anyone in the media. He blends X's-and-O's breakdowns with statistical analysis while never forgetting how the human element can outweigh any numerical- or execution-based explanation.
Such qualities are rare, and any NBA team could benefit by allowing Lowe to help inform its decision-making. His boss, Grantland editor-in-chief Bill Simmons, has famously proposed that every team should employ a VP of Common Sense.
I can think of few better for this job than the guy Simmons hired this year to provide the backbone of his site's NBA coverage.
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By the time next season starts, Hubie Brown will be an 80-year-old man.
So it isn't as if he should be running the basketball operations of any NBA team.
The experience and knowledge he has can be a vital resource, however.
Presumably, he will not continue to broadcast forever. The team that can convince the two-time NBA Coach of the Year and ABA championship coach to become its paid consultant will have an asset unlike any in sports.
The only downside will be for the viewers who no longer get to hear him teach the finer points of the game on national television every week.
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Chris Webber is the best NBA analyst on television. It's really not even close.
He understands the game as well as anyone and discusses it in such a manner that nobody in the room could possibly dispute how well-versed he is.
This, combined with a charisma and sensibility that relate to today's players, makes him an obvious candidate to become a general manager in the future.
Some former players make terrible GMs. Isiah Thomas, for instance.
It often seems that, in a position that requires negotiating against Harvard-educated lawyers-turned-agents, you want someone who has a more nuanced skill set than that typical of a guy who has spent such a large percentage of his life in gym clothes.
You do need a great basketball evaluator in the captain's ship, however.
Former player or not, two years of college or not, Webber can be that person.
Any team that brings him in to run its operations will be better off than it would be by turning to some retread GM who has bounced around the league for the past decade.