More than a week after the news leaked, the Minnesota Timberwolves announced on Friday that former Wizards vice president of player personnel Milt Newton has been hired as general manager.
Newton will work closely with Timberwolves president of basketball operations and former Wizards coach Flip Saunders, who will continue to have final say on basketball-related decisions but felt the need to have an experienced executive to maintain organizational structure.
“I have followed Milt closely during his career and have always been impressed with his basketball knowledge, work ethic and professionalism,” Saunders said in a statement released by the team. “His front-office experience in the NBA, as well as his ability to combine analytics evaluation with his basketball playing and scouting background will greatly benefit our organization.”
The Timberwolves haven’t made a playoff appearance since advancing to the Western Conference Finals in 2004 – the longest drought in the NBA – but have an intriguing mix of talent with all-star Kevin Love and promising point guard Ricky Rubio. The Wizards are tied with the third-longest playoff drought at five years, but in his 10 seasons in Washington, Newton played an instrumental role in helping the organization make four consecutive postseason appearances.
“This is a well-deserved opportunity for Milt to further his career,” Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld said in a statement. “We wish him and his family the best and thank him for his contributions to the Wizards organization over the last 10 years.”
Newton is well-respected throughout the league, having previously served as director of player personnel with the NBA Development League, a scout with the Philadelphia 76ers and assistant director of the U.S. Men’s National team. “Milt possesses an extraordinary skill set that is a great fit for the Timberwolves organization,” NBA Commissioner David Stern said in the statement. “His exceptional work ethic and basketball acumen played a large role in the launch and success of the NBA Development League. I am extremely pleased for Milt and the Timberwolves who will no doubt benefit from the tremendous experience he brings to their front office.”
Newton grew up in Washington and starred at Coolidge High before playing collegiately at Kansas – where he won the 1988 national title – but he has some ties with Minnesota. His wife, Shalaun, went to high school in the Minneapolis suburb of Minnetonka.
“Milt is like family to me. He’s a special person and I’m thrilled that he is getting this long-overdue opportunity,” Larry Brown, who coached Newton at Kansas, said in the statement.
In Minnesota, Newton will be tasked with assisting in scouting, salary cap management and other personnel decisions. He joins a small list of minority decision-makers in the NBA, along with Detroit’s Joe Dumars, Brooklyn’s Billy King, Toronto’s Masai Ujiri, New Orleans’ Dell Demps, Charlotte’s Rod Higgins and Rich Cho and Doc Rivers of the Los Angeles Clippers. The promotion wasn’t lost on long-time NBA executive Wayne Embry, the first African-American general manager in all of professional sports.
“I have great respect for Milt as a person,” Embry, who took over the Milwaukee Bucks in 1972 and also served as general manager of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Raptors, said in the statement. “I have great respect for his basketball knowledge and his philosophy as how to build an organization and team. Milt will be successful because of his hard work, his dedication and tremendous people skill. The Timberwolves have made a good choice.”