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JR Interview with Bob Whitsitt

JR Sports Brief / JR
The Truth Network Radio
November 16, 2023 1:05 am

JR Interview with Bob Whitsitt

JR Sports Brief / JR

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November 16, 2023 1:05 am

Legendary Sports GM Bob Whitsitt joins JR talks about his very unique career and new book called Game Changer: An Insider's Story of the Sonics’ Resurgence, the Trail Blazers’ Turnaround, and the Deal that Saved the Seahawks


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We have to bring on someone qualified to talk about both. He has a book out right now. It's called game changer. This is Bob Whitsitt. This man ran president GM of the Portland Trailblazers, the Seattle Supersonics, Seattle Seahawks. Bob has done it all. Bob, welcome to CBS sports radio, the JR sport brief show. Thanks, JR. Happy to be here.

No, happy to have you. Before we get into the book, why the book, your tenure with the Seahawks and the Blazers and also the Supersonics. Man, basketball. What the hell are your thoughts on what took place last night with Draymond Green? I mean, what's the deal? He has to be suspended a whole lot of games. Well, I have a lot of thoughts.

First, I'll start from the one side. I love players that play with passion and energy. And although it's still pretty early in the season, I think it's one of the deepest leagues I've seen in a long time. There's a lot of talent, a lot of teams that think they have a chance to win it all. And although we're only about 10 games in, teams are already getting a little chippy. But to answer your question, my view is he crossed the line and he's always been a guy who takes it up to the line and probably steps over. But if I was the commissioner, if I was Joe Dumars today, without knowing everything else, but just watching the game and the clips last night, my sense is he'll probably be on vacation for a few games. Rightfully so, by the way. I mean, you can't go around putting people in WWF moves from the 80s.

Not going to work. Bob Whitsitt is here with us, the chair of Sportbreeze Show on CBS Sports Radio. I know people in the Pacific Northwest very familiar with you from your time with the Blazers. Your time with the Blazers, the Supersonics and the Seahawks. You drafted Gary Payton.

You brought in Shawn Kemp. You put together those teams that ended up going to the finals and then also the Portland Trail Blazers team that went to the Western Conference Finals. You went to the playoffs, what, 16 out of 17 years, correct? Yeah, we had some great runs both in Seattle and in Portland and both those teams that when we finally got them built, they were both championship caliber teams. Both came very close and both have left me a little bit of an ulcer scar from the standpoint.

We didn't get it done. I think we should have won a championship in Seattle and I think we should have won a championship in Portland. But you can only have one champion and sometimes getting close is a lot more painful than being miles away.

But as I tell anybody in sports, I'd rather get really close and lose than to never even get close to tasting it. So great teams, great fans, a lot of fun and proud of those teams. Bob, you continue to be active in the sports world from consulting to business, media, arena deals and the like. You helped the Seahawks and helped convince Paul Allen to get involved there and also build the new Quest Stadium that was exist at that point. What was that transition like for moving from a basketball space to now doing football?

That was actually both a lot of fun and extremely challenging. At the time, I was the president and general manager of the Portland Trailblazers, had no interest in getting involved with another team nor did Paul Allen. But it was a simple matter of the Seattle Seahawks had moved to Los Angeles and the league was in an uproar, the community was in an uproar, everybody was trying to figure out a way to keep the Seahawks in Seattle.

And it's probably the most important chapter in my book in terms of how we saved it for Seattle. But at the end of the day, when we got through all the, cleared all the hurdles and got everything done that we had to get done, Paul insisted that I also become the president of the Seahawks. And I told him, running your team in Portland is enough. But I think because of our working relationship and his desire not to have a lot of people reporting to him, one of the conditions he placed on it was, you have to run the Seahawks. At the same time, you're running the Trailblazers, two teams, two different cities. You know, obviously, the NFL is different than the NBA, but it was probably too much, but I'm glad we were able to do it. I'm glad we got it done. And so excited that the Seahawks have stayed in the Pacific Northwest.

I want to get back to your thoughts on some of the relocation elements currently in professional sports. Bob Whitsitt is joining us here, CBS Sports Radio, the book Game Changer. Why now?

Why now? So many experiences. You're still very active in the space. Why did you want to release this book now? Well, I've always been telling stories and giving speeches and people are always telling me you need to write a book. I really didn't have the desire or the time, but I just completed law school, which is a different story for a different question. And I was used to working long academic hours.

And I thought, what a great time since I'm used to putting in the academic days, if you will. Why not tell some of the stories now? And I wanted the book to be more than just NBA and NFL stories. I wanted to include things like how do you get a job in professional sports? What does a GM really do? I wanted the inside the front office look, you know, how do you make a trade? How do you hire a coach? What's the dynamic with the GM, the owner, the coach? Put some things in there, some lessons, probably one of my favorite chapters is a chapter on how to negotiate.

And every tip I give on how to negotiate is backed up by real life stories, whether I'm negotiating a player contract, I'm negotiating a player trade. So it's a little bit of something for everybody, including, you know, 16 pages of pictures, which I think any sports book should have some pictures. So it's just a little bit of a, if you're a sports fan, you'll love it. If you want to get into the business, you'll like it. I've had a lot of people who really aren't sports fans, but they liked it for different reasons. So it's an easy, fun read. I feel really good about it. And people inside the business and outside the business have given me some really good feedback. So I just thought it was the right time.

If not now, I guess when would be the question. The book is called Game Changer by Bob Witsitt. It's the JR sport re-show here on CBS Sports Radio.

You have so many, well, that's why you have a book, so many experiences that you're able to share. And unfortunately, relocation has always been a part of professional sports. Right now, it's a huge story as we see franchises and teams going out to Vegas and we know the Seattle Supersonics. I don't think there was more of a published relocation than them moving down to Oklahoma City. What are your thoughts on, on relocation and sports? Someone actually called earlier this week and said, do the owners care about us, the fans, or are we just numbers?

What are your thoughts there? And when are we going to see those Supersonics back up in Seattle? Well, that's a loaded question and I don't want to sound like a hypocrite, but I start with, I do not like to see franchises relocate. I think having tradition, history, loyal fan bases, rivalries, that's what it's all about. And I think it's incumbent upon the ownership and the management to build a quality product that a community will want to support. In the rare cases when things are being done right and you can't get the community support, it still is a business.

And if you check a lot of boxes and the league agrees with you in those rare, rare, rare occasions, I think it's probably the right thing to move. And full disclosure, I was a point man for leading a relocation of the Kansas City Kings in 1985 to Sacramento. It hurt me to be a part of that. We gave it every shot we could in Kansas City, but on the flip side, it's become a very, very well-supported franchise in Sacramento. In terms of Seattle, it hurt me immensely to watch the Sonics go. It was a gut shot. It was a blow to the fans.

It was a blow to our community. But I'm very, very optimistic that there's hopefully a possibility in the near term that the league will consider expansion. I'm very public in saying I'll do everything I can to be a part of bringing the team back to Seattle. I'd be proud to be a part of ownership. I could be part of management.

If they ask me to sell popcorn, I'll do that. And if there's no role for me, I'll be the first guy to buy season tickets because Seattle deserves a team. We want to get a team back. And I've always been bullish on the NBA. I think it's the most exciting sports league out there.

And I can't wait to see it return to Seattle. Well, Bob, I got to get a basketball question in here. What did you see in Shawn Kemp that made you say, I want to go ahead and take a chance on this dude? I was a young general manager.

I was just 30 years old. And as I was learning the business, I watched a lot of the older GMs. Some did really good jobs, some didn't. But they all sort of had this armchair quarterback mentality. They always looked at backwards and they rewrote history. Oh, I wanted to draft that guy.

I wanted to do that. And they always pointed to the great deals. But the one guy I got to know a little bit was Red Auerbach. And Red would always swing for the fences. He struck out a lot.

But when he hit, they were big. He took Larry Bird as a junior eligible. He traded a number one pick for what turned out to be Robert Parrish and Kevin McHale. He drafted a baseball player named Danny Ainge who would never play in the NBA. These were all decade-long deals that led to championships. So when I saw Shawn Kemp playing, I saw this guy that in my mind was a combination of Charles Barkley and Dominique Wilkins.

He was a powerful powerful guy, but he could jump out of the building. And he'd been away from the game for a year. He'd never played in college. And I kept thinking, well, you know, if this guy went to college, played two or three years, he'd be a top one, two or three pick in the draft. I had multiple picks that year. And I thought I'm going to get a high lottery pick for a 16th or 17th pick in the draft. And if he becomes the kind of player I think he can become, it's a red Auerbach move. So I was a hundred percent convinced this was the guy to take.

The challenges I had were primarily the ownership. The coaching staff was on board pretty soon because I took them to a game, an AAU game, and they got to see Shawn and they were excited. And as long as I drafted the point guard they wanted to help the team immediately, I could use the other pick to take the future hopeful in Shawn. But it took a long time to get ownership on board because they'd never heard of the guy.

He would never sell tickets. Nobody was drafting players who hadn't played in college. I think it'd been 14 years since we had a guy go from high school to the pros.

So it was a very unusual challenge and that was the hard part. And if it didn't pan out, you wouldn't be talking to me today because my career would have been maybe a one or two year career and then I would have been out. So thank goodness Shawn turned out to be a great player and I think he paved the way for other superstars coming straight from high school, guys like Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James. I'm not sure a lot of those guys would have come straight out and they probably would have gone to college for a couple years had Shawn fizzled. So kudos to Shawn. Players make you successful and Shawn helped make me successful. Bob Whitsitt is here with CBS Sports Radio, the JR Sport Reshow.

The book is called Game Changer. With all of your experience, this is going to be my final question here. What is the biggest challenge in running and operating a team in both the NFL and the NBA side? We know there's some similarities, differences when it comes to the salary cap, etc. But what are some of those unique challenges in each league?

I think there's two things. One is probably hiring the right coach and coaching staff to develop and coach the type of team you're building. But I think the greater challenge is to build a championship caliber team, meaning what kind of style are you building? Are you making the right draft picks? Are you making the right trades? Are you signing the right free agents?

And are you managing the salary cap? Because especially in the NBA today with the second apron which can take away draft picks and different things that can make you a good team, you can't make these mistakes anymore. They're too costly financially and they're too punitive in terms of your player building and your roster construction. So I think having the right people on board, hiring the right scouts, the right coaches, having the right eye, the right analytics, you can't be missing on draft picks.

When there's hall of fame players on the board and you whiff and take somebody else, it puts your franchise back 10 years. So I think roster management, the construction of the team, salary cap management, building a staff and a coaching staff and a scouting staff, and having fewer misses and having many more hits is the key. So it's probably the hardest thing for owners because they don't know how to hire management because they don't really know what they're looking for. It's a very unusual, difficult thing to do.

So that would be the area I think that is probably the most challenging. All owners are committed to winning. They'll all spend the money, but they don't really know how to get the right race car and the right race car drivers, but they'll spend the money on it. They just don't know what the right pieces are. And that's kind of the challenge.

Well, you've had the experience and a high level of success from the Supersonics down to the Blazers and the Seahawks. Bob, tell everybody where they can go ahead and get the Game Changers book. Game Changers is available now. You can get it on Amazon. You can get it on Barnes and Noble.

It's probably available in many retail bookstores, but the easiest way is just to go online and look up Game Changer, an insider's story to the Sonics, Resurgence, the Trailblazers turnaround and the deal that saved the Seahawks. So I think it'll be a fun read for everybody. Hey, Bob, thank you for coming through and sharing your perspective, man.

It's certainly a unique one. Thank you, JR. No doubt about it. We've been chatting it up with Bob Whitsitt.

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Whisper: medium.en / 2023-11-16 02:11:10 / 2023-11-16 02:19:34 / 8

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