Some news trickled out Friday evening to little fanfare:
Clips hire Gerald Madkins to front office, NBA executives said, great hire by the team. LA Times story:latimes.com/sports/sportsn…
— Brad Turner (@BA_Turner) September 22, 2012
What’s the big deal, right? A suit is moving from a desk job in the Bayou to a different (but probably similar) desk in Tinseltown. This game is played with a ball, not TPS reports.
Well, yes and no. A lot has been publicized about the obvious and apparent culture change happening in the locker room:
“This time Chauncey Billups CHOSE the Clippers.”
“Grant Hill CHOSE the Clippers over the Lakers/Heat.”
“Chris Paul always wanted to be traded to the Clippers.”
Regardless of what you may think of every offseason acquisition, the mere fact that the Clippers could command the attention of free agents and attract the more incisive players signaled said change in the perception of the team. Players think the Clippers can win.
But one of the more glaring stains of the offseason was the flight of former GM Neil Olshey to the land of bike lanes. It doesn’t matter whether you think Olshey did a good or bad job, it only matters that he was viewed as a young GM on the rise and was credited as the architect of the Clippers’ resurrection (despite the fact that the assets used to acquire Chris Paul were from Dunleavy’s tenure).
Letting Olshey walk and then going the entire summer with the troica of Gary Sacks, Vinny Del Negro and Andy Roeser, before ultimately awarding the GM job to Sacks, simply doesn’t look good to the NBA fan or analyst, regardless of whether or not the offseason transactions yielded a net positive.
The general sentiment regarding the Clippers was that they were vastly improved on the court thanks to drafting Blake Griffin and trading for Chris Paul. But how sustainable was any of it without indications of change in organizational philosophy? From the outside it looked like business as usual:
“The Clippers let their GM walk and aren’t hiring a replacement. Typical Clippers.”
“They ran a fake GM search and then just gave the job to the next guy on the rung. Must have been the cheapest option.”
“Some Clippers exec will probably just slide into the Director of BBall Ops role, if they even keep that as a position.”
But the hiring of Gerald Madkins is a loud and clear indication that business is not as usual in Clipperland. If we’re discounting Mike Dunleavy’s ascension into the front office as an outside hire, I don’t even know when the last time the Clippers hired an individual unaffiliated with the organization for a prominent front office role (if any of you know, please educate me).
Now, to be clear, this isn’t some kind of pity acceptance on the part of Madkins either. Madkins was listed as the VP of Player Personnel for the Hornets. It doesn’t look like an upgrade to come to the Clippers to be Director of Basketball Operations. But when you look at the chain of command in New Orleans, Dell Demps (GM) and then Tim Connelly (Asst GM), Gerald Madkins is at least third in line for succession.
In the Clippers organization, however, Gary Sacks (VP of BBall Ops) is now GM having just risen from Director of Player Personnel. And Olshey, before him, was also Director of Player Personnel before being named by Dunleavy to Assistant GM. So to Madkins, the Clippers (an organization that has eschewed any titles referring to “General Manager” since Dunleavy’s ousting) would represent a step up the ladder to a de facto assistant GM role; the logic being that if Sacks is the GM and VP of BBall Ops, then the Asst. GM would be the person working directly under him, the Director of BBall Ops, Gerald Madkins.
Is this a good hire?
Before breaking down what little info I’ve uncovered on Madkins, I’m going to go out on a limb and say this is good for the Clippers for two reasons: 1. Madkins undoubtedly has some relationship with Chris Paul from their days with the Hornets, so bringing people Paul is familiar with only strengthens the likelihood of his re-signing, and 2. The Clippers hired away a well-regarded executive while also refraining to consolidate positions within the front office.
(It also helps shed some of the “cheap” label as I’m sure Madkins would not have left New Orleans if the Clippers did not offer a competitive wage, even if it meant a step up organizationally.)
Whether Madkins ultimately works out or not, the cultivating of self-awareness by the Clippers, that they need to improve in all aspects of the organization, is invaluable. And the outside hiring of a notable front office position, shows that awareness.
Who is Gerald Madkins?
Focusing on his front office experience (you can find an account regaling his college/pro play here), Madkins most recently was the VP of Player Personnel for the New Orleans Hornets from Aug 11, 2010 to present. Some of the notable Hornets moves during that time:
2010-11: Traded for Willie Green and Jason Smith. Traded for Jerryd Bayless. Traded Marcus Thornton for Carl Landry.
2011-12: Signed Lance Thomas. Signed Gustavo Ayon. Traded for Greivis Vasquez. Drafted Anthony Davis, Austin Rivers and Darius Miller.
Prior to that, Gerald Madkins was Director of Scouting for the Houston Rockets from Sept 10, 2008 to Aug 10, 2010. During that time, Houston drafted:
2009: Jermaine Taylor, Sergio Llull and Chase Budinger.
2010: Patrick Patterson.
But it’s impossible to know how involved Madkins was in any of these transactions. The bigger takeaway should be this: Daryl Morey (HOU) and Dell Demps (NOH) both thought enough of Madkins to hire him in roles larger than his previous. Those are two of the more well-respected GMs in the league. And when you see the Clippers’ name mixed in with the savvier teams in the NBA, that’s how you know the culture is changing.