Former Charlotte Bobcat coach Sam Vincent doesn't have to make nice with Charlotte Bobcat owner Michael Jordan. Sure, Jordan hired Vincent to coach his team in 2007, but he also fired him a year later. But that didn't stop Vincent from clarifying, in a thoughtful and spot-on interview with Bulls.com scribe Sam Smith, the comments that he made to the Washington Post earlier this month about MJ's dedication as Bobcat owner.
We detailed this story soon after it came out, with the crux of Vincent's appeal coming in telling writer Rick Maese that the "additional time you spend on jump shots, running, dunking, I don't know if he puts in that same amount of time as an executive or if he even cares to." Now Vincent is attempting to clarify, while not exactly backtracking, to Smith:
"There is going to be a very fortunate man coaching the Bobcats soon. I love what Michael is doing and the patience he is showing in building what I think will be a winner. I will always appreciate the experience I gained while working with the Bobcats organization and the insights MJ shared with me during my season as head coach. He was always there when I had a question or concern."
Vincent told Sam that he "didn't do the best job expressing myself," which is a little odd, because I thought he was spot-on in his take on Jordan and the Bobcats.
As we mentioned in our take, Jordan the owner puts in about as much time with the team as most NBA owners outside of Dallas' Mark Cuban tend to do. Even if the owner isn't a figurehead, and knows the game inside-out like MJ, he doesn't have to be around all that much or in the owner's box every night.
The distinction here is that when Vincent worked for the Bobcats, Jordan wasn't the owner. He was the ostensible GM (if not in name, then in execution of role) in charge of paying attention to 450 NBA players, the 15 guys on the Bobcats, and the hundreds of potential NBA prospects the team could possibly employ. And for that role, I'm sorry, Jordan did not put in the same amount of work of some of his contemporaries. At the same time, he also put in about the same amount of work as some NBA GMs. He wasn't alone, in playing a lot of golf.
And, to be sure, he definitely put in far, far less work than the MJ that sweated for hours in the gym, during his playing days. Vincent wasn't wrong in that regard, in making the comparison to the Washington Post, because no GM has ever worked as hard as a personnel boss as Jordan did as a player.
This is a long way of saying that Sam Vincent, Jordan's former teammate and one-time boss, has nothing to apologize over. And if Jordan is going to truly hand the reins of the Bobcats over to current team GM Rich Cho, then the hours he's putting in are absolutely appropriate.
In talking with Smith, a Hall of Famer himself, Vincent accurately went on:
"The route MJ is taking isn't popular, but it's the right thing," said Vincent. "He had a team built around good, but not great players in Stephen Jackson and Gerald Wallace, and had a ceiling of just making the playoffs. That's nice for an ongoing story during the season, but it's dishonest with your fans. MJ is about winning and winning big. He's been adding talented, young players through the draft and is in position to land a high level player in a good draft this season. He hasn't been impatient and gone recklessly into free agency for a quick fix player and he has a nice management team in place now. He's positioned himself well under the salary cap and players will want to play in Charlotte.["]
It's certainly no guarantee, completely clearing house and loading slowly through the draft doesn't always work (as Jordan's former team in Chicago found, in the years following his second retirement), but it still is the smartest and most potential-laden rebuilding route. And Vincent is correct in pointing out that the former core surrounding Gerald Wallace and Stephen Jackson absolutely would top out with a lower-rung playoff berth, and that MJ is right to start over.
Where Michael could go wrong, as has always been the case, is refusing to trust his teammates. Years ago and in Chicago, Vincent was one of those guys; especially after he was brought in after a controversial trade that sent Sedale Threatt to Seattle. If Jordan doesn't trust Rich Cho, his track record (selecting Kwame Brown in the 2001 draft, and Adam Morrison for the Bobcats five years later) and rumors about work ethic don't speak highly of the mind behind a team that is going to have all eyes on them as they attempt to dig their way out from the bottom of the NBA, and well-intentioned ridicule.