Earlier today, Marc Stein tweeted that Dirk Nowitzki returns to the organization as a “Special Advisor”. This seems to contradict the recent news that the Mavericks had hired a consulting firm to run their search for a new General Manager and Head Coach.
At first glance, the return of the franchise’s best player to the organization should be met with collective glee and joy. A look at replies to Stein’s tweet will reveal how much love fans of the team have for the superstar. It should be a day of celebration. Fans have waited to welcome Nowitzki back to the team from the moment he retired. The timing, however, could not be worse.
It is a poorly kept secret that Mark Cuban is the team’s unofficial General Manager. Tim Cato’s recent article made it quite clear that was the case. “Mark Cuban is the most powerful person in the organization,” one team source said, “but whoever he’s listening to is second. The recent departures of Donnie Nelson and Rick Carlisle were supposed to be the beginning of a new era in Dallas. The news that the Mavericks had hired an outside firm to run their GM search was supposed to be an indication that, at last, Mark Cuban would be relinquishing some of the control. We are supposed to believe Mark would finally allow someone else to make the decision and be comfortable living with the results. The addition of Dirk signifies we are wrong.
Dirk Nowitzki is the perfect public relations shield. Nowitzki is beyond reproach and adored by everyone. In theory, we are being led to believe Dirk will serve as Mark Cuban’s conscience and help keep his worst impulses at bay. He is the only person with enough clout to be able to tell Cuban “NO” without fear of being ostracized. But, unless Dirk is being given true veto power, Cuban will continue to have the ultimate say in what happens next for the organization. An owner having the final say is par for the course. An owner being so hands-on in regards to actual basketball decisions is not. If there were ever a time for Cuban to take a step back and hand the reins over to someone else, this is it.
Because of the recent article and subsequent fallout, making the right choice is simply not enough. It’s possible that Michael Finley and Jamahl Mosley are the perfect duo to lead this organization moving forward. In fact, had they been announced as the new faces of the organization prior to Cato’s article, most fans would have agreed it was the right time to inject some new blood into the organization. Finley has worked diligently to learn the ins and outs of being a General Manager. Jamahl Mosley is a tenured assistant coach that is respected and well-liked by many within NBA circles. He also appears to have a great relationship with Luka Doncic. It would have been a slam dunk.
Unfortunately for them and us, the recent firestorm may have taken that possibility off the table. Promoting and hiring from within would not give the appearance of a new way of doing things. The move can and would be seen as more of the same. This is among the most important decisions in the franchise’s history and the optics surrounding the decision will be as important as its’ outcome.
In a vacuum, the role of General Manager for the Dallas Mavericks should be an attractive one. Acquiring a top 10 player is the hardest thing to do in the NBA. Teams spend years trying to position themselves for the mere possibility of acquiring one. Dallas will be signing one of those rare commodities to a supermax extension in the coming days. The hard part is done. The job will entail surrounding the team’s generational star with a roster capable of contending for an NBA championship. It’s a difficult task given the teams’ cap sheet and lack of draft capital, but not an impossible one. It would be easy for someone to talk themselves into taking on that challenge.
The problem, however, appears to be the same problem this organization has dealt with for the past two decades - a meddlesome owner insistent on having his hands in every decision. The thought of building a team around Luka is alluring, but the thought of having to work under Mark Cuban may not be. If the recent hiring of Dirk is any indication, the team and its’ fans may be dealing with more of the same moving forward. History has proven that simply isn’t good enough.
Here’s our episode of the Mavs Moneyball Podcast discussing the Dallas Mavericks moving on from Donnie Nelson. Here’s the episode about Rick Carlisle moving on. Search Mavs Moneyball Podcast on your favorite app to find the episode, click the link, or press play in the player below.