Michael Jordan As An Owner: “I’m In It For The Long Haul”

Michael Jordan, the player and legend, is easily definable. Say the name — even a specific season, really — and memories pop up. As an owner and executive, however, his track record offers few memories to grab hold to — and the one that is, last season’s record for worst winning percentage, is the polar opposite of the kind of accolades he collected as a player. He recently offered a small window into the mind of Jordan the owner, and why he’s not going to stop doing it anytime soon.

In a Q&A today with the Charlotte Observer, Jordan hits on a range of topics, from why he picked Michael Kidd-Gilchrist No. 2 in June (though nothing about if his criteria for this draft pick differed from his failed ones), to his management style around players. It’s a good read. You get the sense he’s not only frustrated, but frustrated all Charlotte players aren’t more compelled to buy in to a stark change in coaching philosophy (apparently 7-59 isn’t that worrisome). That he believes he’s found an answer to the team’s foundational woes but sees the long road ahead before he sees the results. But the most interesting was his resolve for not being run out of ownership after a rough, to say the least, record with Washington and Charlotte.

“I’m in it for the long haul. I was frustrated. For a guy who played the game of basketball, I could only do so much sitting in that (owner’s) seat. I think some of you guys (asked) why I wasn’t sitting in my normal seats. It was too close and I couldn’t control my emotions. I moved myself back up, so that I could scream and yell without you guys hearing me.

“You’re not going to run me out that easily. Losing is not something I take well, but it’s not something I run from, either. It’s my nature that when someone says I can’t do something, I focus on trying to do it. So when people say we can’t win here, it drives me nuts and gets me motivated to do everything I can to bring a winner here.”

This is precisely what we never knew about Jordan, was how he could be so transcendant as a player but seemingly disconnected and uninvolved given the chance to build a different kind of winner. It’s the reason legendary hoops writer Rick Telander, from the city of Chicago, nonetheless, wrote last April that Jordan’s appearances at Cubs and Blackhawk games while the Bobcats were being “annihilated” should have prompted action from David Stern. “They are legendarily pitiable — to the point of embarrassment for the NBA, to the point that commissioner David Stern should step in and take them away from Jordan the way a government service will remove a child from an absent, uninterested parent,” he wrote.

Jordan, who let on that Charlotte may apply for the “Hornets” nickname if New Orleans’ new ownership group seeks to rebrand itself, also talks about why major free agents would want to come to his franchise. He cites the new CBA as a way to make this a financial possibility, but he’s leaving out the main reason why: Michael Jordan. Players still want to be around him, to learn from him, get a tip from the master himself. I’m not so sure he understands that ownership, like hoops, should be approached like he’s back on the court. It’s only a matter of positioning. Right now, he’s choosing to do the right things by backing up new coach Mike Dunlap, who has essentially zero NBA cred, on his three-hour practices and the methods he’s coaching with (heavy on those boring, unexciting fundamentals some Bobcat players have apparently resisted, per MJ’s comments). He could do so much more, though, that wouldn’t undercut Dunlap a bit.

Q: How do the current Bobcat players react to you?

A: I don’t have direct dialogue with them as much as I used to. I created a little bit more of a distance. I came from a different era. I look at things totally different than the way they do. I send subtle messages, I try to. But If I sit here and debate with them, I’m bringing myself down to their level in a sense. And I don’t want to get there…. Where I am is where they want to get to.

Q: Do they act intimidated by you?

Some of them do, some of them don’t. Henderson doesn’t get intimidated. But that’s a Dukie for you. He doesn’t get intimidated but he listens. There are certain guys you can go right at and say, ‘I think you’ve been playing [badly]. I think you need to focus on being more consistent.’ He likes that criticism. But then the other players, you need to – not walk on eggs, but do it in a way you don’t break their morale or you don’t tear them down.

And I tend to stay away from those guys because my personality is a little bit more aggressive, a little bit more determined in asking for a lot. And I go to the guys I feel can receive that and I stay away from the guys who I feel get intimidated.

Jordan doesn’t want to get “down to their level”? That’s Jordan the owner thinking as if he’s still Jordan the player. As more distance comes between his playing days and present day, he has to know these players see him more and more as their boss, not the six-time champ. Jordan the owner is very much at these Bobcats’ level. He shouldn’t pick and choose where he plants his messages and hope he signs a big free agent who can lead by example. Right now Jordan is that big free agent, and creating distance won’t help bring these Bobcats out of last place any faster.

What do you think?

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