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10 names to watch in the Wizards' GM search

10 names to watch in the Wizards' GM search

After 16 years, the Ernie Grunfeld era in Washington is officially over. That means the Wizards will be in search of someone new to lead their front office.

Here are some names to watch as that search begins...

Tommy Sheppard, Wizards senior vice president of basketball operations

Sheppard is serving in the interim as leader of the Wizards front office with Grunfeld out. He has been with the organization for 14 years working under Grunfeld. 

Sheppard is considered a candidate in the search for a new person to lead their front office, but could have the team's recent history working against him. He has not been a GM before, so could lend a fresh perspective in that regard, but has been part of the same decision-making process as Grunfeld through the John Wall era.

David Griffin, NBATV analyst

Griffin might be the biggest name out there due to the fact he ran the front office in Cleveland when LeBron James and the Cavs won the title in 2016, and because since getting fired he has found success as a TV analyst. He also interviewed for the Sixers job recently before Elton Brand was hired. 

But there are a few reasons why Griffin may not be a good fit in Washington. For one, there may be more enticing opportunities to wait for, ones that don't have the salary cap issues the Wizards do with John Wall's contract and injury. And also, he reportedly didn't fit in Philly because he wanted final say and the Sixers were looking for a collaborative front office effort. If the Wizards have similar priorities to the Sixers in choosing a front office boss, Griffin may not be the guy.

Arturas Karnisovas, Nuggets general manager

The Denver Nuggets have done such a good job of building their roster in recent years that it is only natural their front office will be poached by other teams. Karnisovas is already a GM, but serves under president of basketball operations Tim Connelly. 

Karnisovas has interviewed for jobs in recent years like the Brooklyn Nets, but has also sent out signs he wants to remain in Denver. He was promoted to the GM job in 2017, turned down a chance to interview for the Sixers job in September and received a contract extension in February.

If Washington wants to look elsewhere in the Nuggets' organization, Karnisovas' assistant GM happens to be Calvin Booth, a former Wizards center.

Marc Eversley, Sixers VP of player personnel 

Eversley has been with the Sixers since 2016 and interviewed for the Hornets job before Mitch Kupchak was hired. Before joining Philly, he was the Wizards' vice president of player personnel. Before that, he served as the assistant GM of the Raptors. Eversley also interviewed for the Sixers job last summer before they went with Brand. 

Gersson Rosas, Rockets VP of basketball operations

It seems only a matter of time before Rosas gets a general manager job. Though he technically served that role for the Mavericks briefly in 2013, he hasn't had an extended opportunity to run his own front office. In the time since leaving Dallas, Rosas has been a hot candidate, interviewing for the jobs in Charlotte and Philadelphia before they were filled. 

Rosas has extensive experience managing a G-League farm system. He would also bring analytics credibility as a disciple of Daryl Morey. And keep in mind, in the event of a head coaching search down the road, that he has a history with Jeff Van Gundy, whom some have speculated could return to the sidelines.

How things ended with Rosas and the Mavs, though, should be considered. He was hired as their GM, only to resign three months later due to what was reportedly a power dispute.

Milt Newton, Bucks assistant GM

The Wizards could dip back into their past with this one. Newton was in the Wizards' front office from 2003 to 2013 and worked his way up to VP of player personnel. He went from that job to Minnesota where he was their general manger from 2013 to 2016. Newton had a strong relationship with former Wizards coach Flip Saunders and rejoined him with the Timberwolves.

Newton was fired from his job in Minnesota and currently serves as the assistant GM for the Bucks. He joined them in 2017 and has been a part of their meteoric rise to one of the best teams in the NBA.

Pops Mensah-Bonsu, GM of Capital City Go-Go 

Wizards could go in-house with Mensah-Bonsu, who has NBA scouting experience beyond his one year running their G-League affiliate. He also played for the Wizards during their 2013 training camp and was a star at nearby George Washington University. 

Troy Weaver, Thunder VP and assistant GM 

Weaver has for years been considered a future GM, having interviewed for various jobs in the past including the Blazers and Hawks. He has a local connection having attended Prince George's Community College. Weaver helped create the highly successful, Washington-based AAU team 'D.C. Assault.' Weaver also has a history with Wizards head coach Scott Brooks.

Brian Wright, Spurs assistant GM 

Wright could be the next in the long line of Spurs front office execs to end up running other teams (see: Sam Presti, Dennis Lindsay, Sean Marks). He spent time with the Magic and Pistons in various roles before joining San Antonio three years ago. He grew up in Silver Spring, Md.

Mike Zarren, Celtics assistant GM

Zarren has already been linked to the Wizards by Marc Stein of the New York Times as a potential candidate. He has been with the Celtics for 14 years and is considered a future GM in NBA circles. Zarren went to Harvard Law School and is credited with helping Boston make leaps in advanced analytics.

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Wizards' Go-Go to Hold Local Tryouts on Saturday

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Capital City Go-Go

Wizards' Go-Go to Hold Local Tryouts on Saturday

The Washington Wizards are trying to find their Mark Wahlberg from “Invincible” on the basketball court this weekend.

The Wizards’ G League Affiliate Capital City Go-Go will host its local player tryout at the Entertainment and Sports Arena this Saturday. Both head coach Ryan Richman and general manager Pops Mensah-Bonsu will be in attendance to evaluate the area’s talent.

The District’s under the radar ballers will try to impress the Go-Go’s front office for a chance at an invite to training camp in October. The team can invite four of the players at tryouts back to camp. Three invitees ended up playing in a total of 75 games in the team’s inaugural season in 2018-2019. Among them was power forward Isaiah Armwood, who started in 20 games and averaged 11.4 points. 

Not unfamiliar to the D.C. sports scene, the Go-Go finished right outside of the G League playoff picture last season with a 25-25 record. With the Wizards season on the horizon, some local talent could soon find themselves vying for those coveted two-way contract deals. 

The Wizards currently have 18 players on the roster, with 17 of those to be under contract for the upcoming season. Garrison Matthews, an undrafted shooting guard out of Lipscomb, has one of the two two-way contracts. 

Depending on how the first couple of months go for the Wizards, there’s a chance this season could pave the way for some of the Washington’s untapped talent.

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WNBA title has been elusive for Mystics coach Mike Thibault, star Elena Delle Donne

WNBA title has been elusive for Mystics coach Mike Thibault, star Elena Delle Donne

Mike Thibault is used to his teams playing at this time of the year. The WNBA's all-time winningest head coach, Thibault is set to lead the Mystics into the postseason for the third straight year. It will be his 14th playoff appearance as a head coach in 17 total seasons.

Thibault has enjoyed success all over the basketball world, including during his days as an NBA assistant. He won two rings with the Lakers in the early 1980s just down the bench from Pat Riley.

But the one accomplishment that has eluded him is a WNBA championship. No one has gotten quite as close as he has without winning one.

Last year, the Mystics fell in the WNBA Finals to the Seattle Storm. That was Thibault's third Finals appearance and also his third loss. He has 336 career wins in the WNBA. Everyone else with at least 135 wins has a ring.

Thibault even has more playoff wins than any other coach. Yet still, no title.

"Well, it depends," Thibault said when asked to describe his playoff history. "I've been in the playoffs a lot and we've won. I've lost in the Finals three times. But there are a whole bunch of teams sitting at home when you get to the Finals, too."

Thibault's dichotomy of regular-season success and playoff frustration is fairly unique in the world of professional sports. He does have a peer in Don Nelson, the NBA's all-time winning coach who also does not have a title. But the winningest coaches in the NFL (Don Shula), MLB (Connie Mack) and NHL (Scotty Bowman) each won at least four championships. 

Nelson also didn't get to the Finals as often as Thibault. In fact, no NBA coach has ever reached the Finals at least three times without winning it all. 

That type of misfortune is only seen in the NFL where two coaches - Marv Levy and Dan Reeves - lost four times in the Super Bowl. If Thibault gets to the Finals and loses again this season, he could join that group.

Thibault said he looks back on the second time he was in the WNBA Finals as the one that got away. That was back in 2005 when his Connecticut Sun went 26-8 in the regular season, same as this year's Mystics, to tie the best record of his career. 

In the Finals that year, All-Star Lindsay Whalen suffered a left leg injury in Game 1 that shifted the series in favor of the Sacramento Monarchs. It took Thibault 13 years to get back to the Finals last season.

Though the Mystics lost last year, Thibault believes they are on the right track.

"We lost in the Semifinals two years ago and we lost in the Finals last year. This year, we're back in the playoffs and in the Semifinals again," he said. "You just keep knocking at the door and hopefully your experience and your skill improvement makes the difference this time around. We're a better team than we were a year ago. That doesn't guarantee anything, but we are a better team."

The Mystics are also searching for their first title as a franchise. And Elena Delle Donne, who could win her second WNBA MVP award this season, is no stranger to getting close herself. After last year, she is 0-for-2 in the WNBA Finals.

The Mystics' mantra this season has been 'run it back.' But it could also be framed as unfinished business.

"He loves [the game]," Delle Donne said of Thibault. "He is just passionate about it, so to bring him something he's never earned, since I feel like he's done literally everything else under the sun, would be really cool for this team."

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