WASHINGTON (AP) — Michael Winger made it clear he’s got work to do as the Washington Wizards’ new top basketball executive.
Winger, who spent the last six seasons as the Los Angeles Clippers general manager, has the title of President of Monumental Basketball. Hired on May 25, he’ll also oversee the WNBA’s Washington Mystics and the G League’s Capital City Go-Go.
“The goal is to pursue championships by any means necessary,” Winger said at his introductory news conference on Thursday. “It will take time. It’s going to start on the ground floor. It’s not just players. It’s not just coaches. We’re going to do everything a little bit better tomorrow than it’s being done today…Eventually we’re going to hoist a trophy here in D.C. I can’t promise you when.”
The Wizards, who last won an NBA championship in 1978-79, missed the playoffs the last two seasons with 35-47 records and haven’t advanced past the first round since 2016-17.
Winger said Monumental Sports Founder and CEO Ted Leonsis, has given him the go-ahead for a total teardown, if necessary.
“Full authority to reset the team, if that’s what we decide to do,” Winger said. “We just haven’t sat down and figured it out yet.”
Washington’s best player is guard Bradley Beal, who completed the first season of a five-year, $251 million contract. Forward Kyle Kuzma is a free agent who previously indicated he wants to return. Forward Kristaps Porzingis has a $36 million player option for next season.
“Right now, I have to defer to those guys to see where their heads are,” Winger said. “They’re principals of the teams, and they carry a lot of water. It’s important for us to get to know those guys.
“We’re versed on them as players. We just don’t know them as men. One of the things that’s important for us is to get to know these guys and figure out where they want to see this team go and what they want from us.”
The overriding theme is the organization isn’t expecting a championship contender next season.
“It’s going to take time. I’ve proven that I’ll be patient,” Leonsis said. “This will take a long time. Because of that, I wanted a next generation leadership.”
Winger has been an NBA executive for 18 years with the Clippers, Cleveland and Oklahoma City.
“The Wizards have an extremely bright future, if appropriately managed,” Winger said. “The eventual expectation is that we’re going to build a generational contender. We’re going to eventually have a team that will contend for championships. I can’t promise when that will be.”
Leonsis emphasized he’s open to exceeding the salary cap and paying the tax that goes with it.
“But we better have a really good team,” he said.
Winger was joined at the podium by his new general manager Will Dawkins, who spent the past 15 seasons with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Washington also announced Travis Schlenk, formerly with the Atlanta Hawks for six seasons, as the new director of player personnel. Former Georgetown coach John Thompson III, who had been with the organization, is the new vice president of Monumental Basketball.
Wes Unseld Jr., who has coached the Wizards for the past two seasons, will return.
The first task for Winger is preparing for the draft on June 22. Washington has three picks at No. 8, No. 42 and No. 57.
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