CAPITAL ONE ARENA -- The Wizards have bucked convention by hiring Sashi Brown as their chief operations and planning officer, as he comes from outside the basketball world. He has served as top executive but in the NFL, not in the NBA.
Brown and Wizards managing partner Ted Leonsis, though, believe there are plenty of skills that will translate. After all, there are many commonalities in running the front office of professional sports teams.
They are constructed similarly with executives, scouts, and medical staffs. And the same principles apply to contract negotiations and pitching free agents.
Brown admits it will take some time for him to acclimate to working in a new league, but is confident his experience as a sports executive, in business and as a lawyer will help the Wizards right away.
"There is far more that will transfer than I think people would imagine," he told NBC Sports Washington.
"When you have sat in that seat as a GM, the job is so big. These are now billion-dollar enterprises. We've got a lot of things that we want to accomplish and you really just can't have enough talent. That's what it feels like a lot of days. From technology to strategy to contract and negotiation and league initiatives, but also just operational support; things that we would like to get done day-to-day to be world-class."
What could take time is Brown's impact on basketball insight. He was known as a forward-thinking NFL executive when it came to analytics. But advanced stats and their utilization are very different in basketball.
Brown said during his introductory press conference on Monday that basketball decisions will ultimately be made by Tommy Sheppard, the team's new general manager. Brown's role will be making those decisions more comprehensive and informed by organizing and developing the team's resources.
Between Brown and Sheppard, no one is working for the other. Their boss is Leonsis and they are expected to work in tandem.
"They can focus on the team and the players and winning titles," Brown said of Sheppard and those running the Go-Go, Mystics and District Gaming.
"We're going to be a team. Tommy talked about being a team of teams. Ted would like that as a vision from the top down."
Over time, there will surely be some pain points. Everyone has their own philosophies. There will be disagreements.
But disagreements can be productive. The Wizards feel they need new, outside voices and Brown's fresh perspective will be very valuable to resetting their direction and culture.
Brown knows what that process is like, having started from the bottom with the NFL's Cleveland Browns three years ago. He laid a foundation there as GM that has helped lead to a bright future for one of the NFL's most moribund teams.
Culture is a nebulous concept in sports. It is hard to define. The Wizards just know theirs needs an adjustment.
Brown, for one, believes good culture leads to winning and not the other way around.
"I think that if you're relying on winning to develop your culture you probably don't have a very good culture," he said. "It really has to be the driver for winning. That's what we're going to do. We've got guys that are experienced and passionate that will hold the entire organization accountable."
Brown, 43, has little basketball experience to draw from as he joins the Wizards. He played the sport as a kid growing up. His best claim-to-fame in basketball is that his grandfather coached at Kentucky State University.
"It's been in my family for years. It's in my blood," he said.
What Brown does have a firm grasp of is what professional teams need in order to win. One is a cohesive message when pitching a free agent on signing with them.
Brown will part of that process for the Wizards. He is Harvard-educated and charismatic, the type of person you would want on your side in the negotiating room. And he has a plan to make the Wizards a more attractive destination.
"I think [players] want a commitment. I think they want a chance to win championships. We've seen that in abundance over the last two or three offseasons. The league is transforming itself and continues to evolve. We want to be at the forefront of that," he said.
"Our facilities are top-notch and we'll do everything to keep them there. Our people, our doctors and our medical care for players is great. Our coaching is going to be top-notch and championship-caliber. We want to be comprehensive in terms of what we offer all of our athletes."
Brown is smart, engaging and smooth. It is easy to see why Leonsis is enamored with his potential. Now Brown just has to prove him right.
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