Corporate America has its CEO’s, as the iconic captains of industry whose power, salary, and job title inspire a sense of awe. The equivalent to the CEO in the world of professional sports is the general manager. Like a CEO is to a corporation, a GM is the most influential position in a sports organization because their job involves making decisions about how the owner’s money should be spent to yield a successful season year-after-year. That responsibility also makes a GM the scrutinized person in the organization because his or her decisions impact the players who are beloved by the fans, and constantly in the public eye. The former Boston Celtics forward, Kevin McHale, who went on to become the GM for the Minnesota Timberwolves is one example.
Forbes recently ranked McHale as the greatest GM of all time, mainly for his prowess at spotting and recruiting young talent. After all, McHale recruited Kevin Garnett, who some consider the best NBA player to have never won a championship ring. But Garnett’s nonexistent championship record tells the other half of the McHale GM experience. It under McHale’s tenure that the Timberwolves were caught making a secret deal with free-agent forward, Joe Smith to circumvent the league’s salary cap rules. In 2000, after word of the agreement leaked, NBA commissioner David Stern voided Smith’s final one-year contract with the Timberwolves, stripped three of the Timberwolves’ next five first-round draft picks, and fined the team $3.5 million.
As you can see, like the corporate world of CEOs, the decisions of GMs entail a balancing act that can make or break teams and players alike and dramatically impact betting odds from one game to the next. There are some who are really good at their job, and there are some who are good at certain aspects of the job and not so good at others. And then there are some who just suck rocks all the way around. The good ones deserve a little recognition. So we’ve compiled a list of five exceptional GMs who are currently active in American professional sports.
- Dave Dombrowski, Boston Red Sox (MLB) — Currently serving as the President of Baseball Operations for the Boston Red Socks, Dombrowski began his GM career with the Montreal Expos when he was just 31 years old. He was the youngest GM in the MLB at the time. Famous for challenging established paradigms, Dombrowski has made every team he’s been involved with better. The most notable example to date is his aggressive rebuilding that led the Detroit Tigers to winning the American League Championship in 2006.
- Kevin O’Connor, Utah Jazz (NBA) — Despite the fact that the Utah Jazz are the only NBA team to have never lost more than 60 games in a season, the team has never been the same since the retirement of the Hall of Fame duo John Stockton and Karl Malone in 2003. Since then, the Jazz front office has suffered a few other devastating defeats, namely the death of franchise owner, Larry Miller in 2009. Kevin O’Connor, who currently serves as Vice President for Basketball Operations with the Jazz franchise served as GM from 1999-2012 so he’s seen both the ups and downs of the organization. O’connor is known for his ability to spot young talent. He drafted Deron Williams in 2005.
- Billy Beane, Oakland A’s (MLB) — As the sabermetrics genius who is responsible for revolutionizing the way up-and-coming teams build their roster, Billy Beane is no stranger to challenging established norms. After assuming the role of GM for the A’s in 1998, Beane built up A’s roster into one of the most cost-effective teams in baseball by favoring player stats like on-base percentage over the literary tropes of veteran talent scouts. Beane’s contribution to the game of baseball was so significant that a book, Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, which was made into a movie starring Brad Pitt, was written about him.
- Bill Belichick, New England Patriots (NFL) — Bill Belichick has served as the head coach for the New England Patriots since 2000. But the extensive authority he wields over the Patriots’ football operations, makes him effectively the team’s general manager as well. Whether you like Belichick or not, one thing you can’t argue with is results. Four Super Bowl titles and six AFC Championships under his tenure pretty much speaks for itself.
- Adrian Hanauer, Seattle Sounders FC (MLS) — Alright so, Hanauer may not be the GM of the Seattle Sounders. He’s the majority owner along with partners Drew Carey and Paul Allen. But the fact that he built an MLS expansion team pretty much from the ground up earns him a spot on this list. The Sounders started out as a struggling USL team, which Hanauer joined as managing partner in 2002. In his first year he reduced the losses the team was taking from $1 mil. to $350k and led the team to a 24-4-1 season, the second best record in the USL. In the years following the Sounders won league championships in two out of three appearances. The Sounders were granted entry into MLS in 2007. Since then they have repeatedly set records for average attendance as well as season ticket sales.
Tags: Boston Red Sox, Utah Jazz