The game’s greatest player has become one of its most curious owners, a fanatical competitor who can’t field a competitive team. At 49, he is the most recognizable part of the franchise, but the basketball world questions how active he wants to be as an executive, much as it did during his time with the Wizards in Washington.
“The work he put in to be a great player and the work you put in to be a great executive, those are different things,” said Sam Vincent, whom Jordan hired as his head coach in 2007 less than a year after he became minority owner. “That additional time you spend on jump shots, running, dunking, I don’t know if he puts in that same amount of time as an executive or if he even cares to.”
The New York Daily News cited an unnamed source last week in reporting that Jordan might be preparing to walk away from the franchise if it can’t win soon. He became majority owner just two years ago. Jordan hasn’t granted an interview this year, but the team immediately issued a denial from its owner: “I am 100 percent committed to building the Bobcats into a contender and have no plans to sell the team.”
In the meantime, his squad continues to lose. Monday night pits the Bobcats, owners of a 7-47 record, against the NBA’s second-worst team. The Wizards are 12-44, and both teams are vying for better position in the draft lottery as the season winds down.
Jordan’s brief tenure as an executive with the Wizards was dismal. In his fifth full season with the Bobcats, he’s yet to improve on that record. The Charlotte community has been reluctant to embrace the franchise, and many NBA scouts say the Bobcats’ roster features the worst collection of talent in the league.
“It gets to you,” Paul Silas, Charlotte’s current head coach, said of the losing. “Yes, there is a plan. You have to look at that also. But we're dealing with the day to day. . . . It’s still tough for us. We want to do well. We want to win. That’s what I tell my players: We’re not in the basketball business. We’re in the win business.”
Shortly after he was hired, Vincent recalled, he would go to rotary clubs and business luncheons around Charlotte and inevitably hear the same questions, many shaped by the decision of the city’s previous NBA franchise, the Hornets, and their owner, George Shinn, to move to New Orleans in 2002.
“They wanted to know, how committed is Michael to the community? Has he bought a house here? That kind of stuff,” Vincent said. “It appeared to me that the relationship Michael had started off good, but somewhere it just really soured. I felt a big part of the reason why we could never get the support back then — and still today — there was so much damage from the relationship fans had with the previous ownership.”