Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Carroll Dawson is Retiring

I have no comment that can improve upon this photo.

When it comes to professional sports, the job that any average jerk will tell you that he could do better is general manager. This is a natural thing to do. As fans we want to believe that we're the final piece that could make a difference for our teams. But, players and coaches tend to have an actual background in sports. People like us, we don't have a background in sports. We have a background in eating and watching sports on TV. So, being a GM becomes the daydream. What does the boom in fantasy sports leagues represent, other than a desire to call the shots?

But, a look around any professional sports league demonstrates that not very many people are good at managing a team. And, as easy as pointing and clicking players around seems, being a real GM involves so much more. You have to have an incredibly perceptive eye for pro talent. You need a shrewd sense of finance and long term budgeting. You must differentiate between a time to be patient and a time to demand results. You're forced to manage some of the largest egos in the world. And this just scratches the surface. We think of the rare few in this profession that do it well as geniuses. Well, right along with the Theo Epsteins and the Bill Bellichicks of the world, I believe there's another name to consider: Carroll Dawson.

You probably have no idea who he is. But, he's been leading the Houston Rockets for 26 years. When he steps down after this season, he'll have 4 division titles, 4 conference titles, and two championships to his credit. More importantly for the fans of Houston, he'll leave his team healthy and with a powerful and well balanced roster. Dawson has had an incredible track record when it comes to recognizing talent and taking risks: Hakeem Olajuwon, Sam Cassell, and Yao Ming are demonstrations of this. He has also been skilled at efficiently fixing mistakes and moving the team in the right direction. And, if you dispute this one, I have two words for you: Steve Francis. But, perhaps most importantly, Carroll Dawson knows how to spend money.

The quickest way to hurt your team long term is to spend their money foolishly. The best player available is not necessarily the best player for your team. High performing squads are rife with guys that aren't dominant. They simply do a few things very well, and have a coach that puts them in the position to do them. A good GM looks for players like that. Bad GMs treat their jobs like fantasy sports and look for the biggest names and highest risk. Here's an example: the Houston Rockets currently pay four players more than $5 million a year. The New York Knicks? Eight players. Unless there's some new kind of eight on eight basketball that I'm not aware of, that's a whole lot of money for splinter duty. In fact, he's paying over $7 million for Malik Rose. Malik Rose! That's not even beginning to consider the people who don't play for the Knicks that Isiah Thomas cuts checks to every month.

Truly, there's no better point of contrast to emphasize Carroll Dawson's superb record than Isiah Thomas. It only took Isiah a couple years to run the CBA straight out of existence, and a couple more to turn the New York Knicks into a flaming car crash. Dawson has been in Houston for two and a half decades and things are still humming along nicely. So, when he steps down after this year, be grateful, Rockets fans. The next Thomas or McHale may be waiting for you around the corner. Let's hope not.


Masoud said...

The saddest thing besides CD retiring is that more people don't read this article. Good work, and I literally couldn't have said it any better myself.

J├╝rgen Kalwa said...

Well you gave us the good news: the Rockets had a great guy in charge. Now how about the bad news: Somebody will have to take over. And he might not be as good as this gentleman by a long shot. There's more Isiahs out there than New York can employ.

notorious said...

Yea, the guy who's lined up to be his successor previously worked for the celtics...hoo boy.