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The Chat House
Tony Kornheiser Mike Wilbon
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With Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon
Washington Post Sports Columnists

Monday, May 12, 2003; 1:30 pm ET

Welcome back to The Chat House!

Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon joined you live to talk sports.

The transcript follows.

Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.

Washington, D.C.: Good afternoon gentlemen:

I have never been a Wizards fan nor will I ever be.

Although I am not a fan of Micheal Jordan, his presence brought fans and economic growth to the MCI area, which in turn generated much needed employment for the community.

His presence will definitely be missed, particularly in the revenue area. Business will have to cut hours or even lay off individuals, which in turn decreases the tax base.

I wish Mr. Jordan well in next endeavour.

Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon: That's just one of the story lines here and there are many of them and I know that's mostly what we are going to deal with today. I have never seen such a firestorm of reaction to anything sports related in the time I've been in Washington, which is 23 years come June 15. And it doesn't even concern the Redskins!! Let me start off with a few comments that are going to address the things you are going be asking:

I think anybody can be fired. And when performance is in question I think most people know how to justify a firing. Michael Jordan had not proven himself to be such a great executive that Abe Pollin shouldn't have concerns, maybe even serious ones about Jordan the executive. But, where in America can you fire someone without stating cause? Can you do that in corporate America now even with your secretary and why would you want to? Why would you want to create that kind of animosity when your business is dependent on part on goodwill? And why would you want to create ill-will, not to mention at PR nightmare, when your franchise is one of the worst in its business? The thing that I find with most people in town and out of town who are talking about this is the tacky manner in which it was done. That's what people can't get over, even five days later -- just the classless way in which it was handled. --Mike

Warrington, Pa.: Michael and Tony!

Do you think The Philadelphia 76ers will make it to the finals this year? Which of these do you think will get there: The New Jersey Nets, The New York Knickerbockers, The L.A. Lakers or the 76ers?

-- Brett Ferino

Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon: Brett, I think the Nets will but let me say that I'm really impressed by Detroit and its ability to play quintessential team basketball. And you have to always been impressed by Alan Iverson. I still see Philly slipping past Detroit, but I think the Nets are a hair better than Philly or Detroit. And I think the winner of the San Antonio-Lakers series is the NBA champ. Does anyone out there really doubt that now that Chris Webber is injured? Let me hear from you if you do. --Mike

Alexandria, Va.: Hey Mike and Tony,

Give me your real picks to go in the NBA draft next month. I've got Anthony, James, Darkovic, and Ford as my top 4. Am I even close to yours?

Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon: It TOTALLY depends on team. Let's say for instance the Chicago Bulls win the lottery. If you were the Bulls GM would you want LeBron James with the first pick? Let's say that the Houston Rockets win the lottery. If you already have Yao Ming and Steve Francis would you pick James first or would you take either Carmelo Anthony or Darko? I think Cleveland and New York are places where LeBron would be the lock pick as the overall #1. But I don't know that Pat Riley feels that way about a high school kid, even though Miami does need to sell tickets. So I think different teams would react differently depending on who wins the lottery. Let's keep it closer to home. If you're running the Wizards, do you take LeBron, put him with Kwame and wait three years? Or do you take Anthony or Darco who according to scouts are more polished players? --Mike

San Jose, Calif.: Dallas looked pathetic last night! Why should it matter that they played the day before? Sacramento did, too, and they didn't have their leading scorer. Would you agree that the winner of the Spurs/Lakers series is the favorite to win the title?

Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon: As you read a sec ago, the answer to your question is yes. And I don't think for one minute that Dallas can beat either San Antonio more than one time in a seven-game series. --Mike

Washington, D.C.: Is it true that Sally Jenkins lives in New York? If so, I find it hard to believe that she could take issue with MJ's license plates when she herself is not a loyal Washingtonian either.

Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon: She lives in New York City. I love Sally like a little sister. We've been tight for 17 years. But you can't live in a glass house and start throwing stones. --Mike

What Planet Do You Live On?: Mike,

In every company I have ever worked at in my 18 year career in marketing, you could be fired without cause and without so much as an explanation. It is WITHOUT QUESTION the way business works today. Should we feel sorry because multi-zillionaire Michael Jordan got laid off? I don't think so. In a private business, things go the way the owner wants them to. Only thing different here is the spotlight (and the fact that MJ, with his Illinois tags, ain't gonna be collecting unemployment in D.C.).

Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon: Does that make you feel good? Are you happy about that? I'm not familiar with setting where people can be fired without stating cause? Granted I'm not in marketing and I'm happy not to be, but the three employers for which I work --The Washington Post, ESPN and WRC-TV -- that sort of behavior isn't tolerated, much less embraced or promoted so I hope that sword doesn't wind up in your gut. I don't feel sorry for any of the people involved. I still believe it's tacky and classless. --Mike

Austin, Tex.: Mr. Wilbon,

You have cracked back pretty hard on Abe Pollin's dismissal of Michael Jordan. But, at least Abe had the nerve to fire Jordan face to face. Ex Hornets coach Paul Silas lived next door to owner George Shinn, who not only didn't fire Silas in a face to face meeting, but then wouldn't come to his door when Silas rang, asking for a justifiable explanation after receiving his termination phone call. What a maroon!

Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon: Yeah and if you happen to catch "PTI" last week, you heard both Tony and me rip Hornets ownership, particularly George Shinn. And we had Paul Silas on our show. I don't feel sorry for Paul either because he's going to get a job working for a much more decent owner. --Mike

Re: What Planet Are You On?: Mike:

I worked for broadcasting for nearly 20 years and can't begin to count the number of people who were let go without a stated reason. Please return to us from your other world.

Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon: Let me say once again, that I am quite happy to be in my world and not in yours. I don't know what broadcaster you work for where you supervisor telling you WHY YOU WERE BEING LET GO? Other people out there are telling me they've been fired without being told why. I will not be returning to your world not without a damn good lawyer..... not in any scenario would I want to be in your world. And just because it happens in more instances than I understood, doesn't mean it's still not tacky and classless. -Mike

Sterling, Va.: Regarding the Pollin/Jordan disaster, you state that Jordan was fired without cause. I thought Pollin was pretty clear on his position regarding the reasons for the firing. He stated in effect that he was not happy with the performance with team and he didn't feel that Jordan had fostered a workable team chemistry. He stated that the players had problems with the way Jordan treated them and felt Jordan would not be able to get past this in his job of running operations. I don't know if this is right or wrong, but it does seem to make sense to me. I think, as do most, that Jordan was a great player and he may well develop into a great team executive. But, unfortunately, I think playing here hurt his transition to the front office ranks on this particular team. I wish him well and I am sure that he will use this as a learning experience in this career transition.

Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon: I didn't say he was fired without cause. I said he was fired without being told why. Surely you understand the difference. --Mike

Washington, D.C.: Mike:

I totally take issue with your statement that Sally Jenkins is throwing stones from a glass house. It's one thing to write a weekly column for a newspaper from another city. It's another to try to run the sports department. That's what Michael Jordan tried to do and it didn't work. She had every right to hold him accountable for that, even in her position. The Jordan autopsy is getting boring. It's time for Abe Pollin and the Wizards to justify the move with some clear idea of their future plans. We're waiting.

Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon: Who are you to determine how often the column runs? Sally Jenkins if you read the newspaper or web site wrote more than one column. Don't tell me because I've been writing a column for 13 years that you don't need to be in a city to take the temperature of that city and to know what is on the minds of the people who live there, regardless of the range of opinion. So, I know it to be hypocrisy. I don't care what you think. Michael Jordan was named the President of Basketball Operations three and a half years ago, not the GM who is often the one who comes to all the practices and has a different level of daily responsibility. --Mike

Silver Spring, Md.: I was really surprised that the Post pic of MJ driving off in that sweet Benz convertible included the plate number. Yes, seeing the Illinois tag added impact to the pic, but in today's stalker-crazy world, I would think you blur out the actual plate number.

Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon: That crossed my mind too. I certainly wouldn't want my plate number in the paper and people are nuts now. But since the car won't be driven much here, if at all, maybe it's a little less bothersome. --Mike

Washington, D.C.: What happened to rebounding? No one seems to box out anymore outside of MSU and Wallace in Detroit. (Is it a Michigan thing?) Why doesn't Shaq with his monster body have at least 18 a game? Is it not taught or what?

Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon: Nobody is going to have 18 in a game because so many people in a given team rebound. But you raise a great point. I think that rebounding fundamentals are not what they used to be. On the other hand, you have guards getting so much higher a percentage of the team's total rebounds now and I think that has something to do with it. That's a great question I'm going to ask some players and coaches when I go on the road to cover the NBA. --Mike

Deep in the Heart of Texas: Still think there's no chance of a Spurs-Mavericks Western final? More importantly, haven't the Mavs-Kings games been like the Indiana Pacers vs. the Kentucky Colonels circa 1973? Right down to the unfortunate hair choices?

Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon: I don't think I'll be deciding people's hair choices are unfortunate because I don't know that you and I have the same taste in fashion or that we should be imposing it on the rest of society... but I like your ABA analogy... love it in fact. Any time a team has home court advantage with the series tied 2-2, you can't rule that team out. But I still like the teams in this series because of what they learned last season playing against the Lakers. --Mike

College Park, Md.: Hey Tony, I agree with what you said about Bob Ryan on "PTI" this past week. The unfortunate irony of the situation is that Ryan received a worse punishment for insinuating that someone should smack Mrs. Kidd while Jason Kidd wasn't suspended or disciplined at all.

Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon: Well, Jason Kidd actually did pay a price. He went public with all of his regrets and has been taunted by fans in various cities and knows that what he did was wrong. I think Ryan is paying too high a price. I think a month out of all money making activities is an enormous penalty for a guy who is a sportswriter. But what both Ryan and Kidd share is the knowledge that they were both wrong. Was Kidd's offense worse? Sure. But they were both wrong. --Tony

Warrington, Pa.: This is for you, Tony!

Do you like Yao or Jordan better?

-- Brett Ferino

Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon: I like Jordan better. I think Jordan is a great, great player who gave 100 percent every time he walked on the court. I think Yao might be fun in the future, but MJ is one of the all time greats. --Tony

Silver Spring, Md.: How does Wes Unseld get to leave on his terms after at least 15 years (coaching and GM) of poor job performance, and MJ is scolded by many for three-plus years of the same? Is it because Wes is liked by the boss and MJ wasn't as it is in the American workplace?

Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon: Have you never read the paper? Have you NEVER READ CRITICISM of Wes Unseld as a coach and as a GM? How old are you? When did you start to read? We all know it's true that Abe Pollin is loyal to and partial to Wes Unseld, but please don't insult me by suggesting that Wes wasn't criticized. And he's not leaving on his own terms unless you consider poor health someone's own terms. --Tony

Washington, D.C.: Hey Tony,

After I read you column today (by the way it was awesome) I couldn't help but think that there was a little bit of a silver lining in this now extremely dark cloud that is the Wizards. It seems to me that if they were to just get a coach that was compatible with this team, like you said, they could actually be half decent next season. Do you really think that Paul Silas would come here though? I mean what respectable coach would want anything to do with this train wreck of an organization?

Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon: I believe that the Wizards can win 30 games next year. Steve Wyche who covers the team for The Washington Post believes they can win as many games next year as they won this year. But, the piece isn't about silver linings because the piece clearly states that the arena is going to be half empty next year. I'm simply suggesting that the only way the Wizards have to get through this is to put a good team on the court -- and they have only done that once in the last 15 years. The reason Paul Silas would come here is a five-letter word spelled: m-o-n-e-y. He is an NBA coach who is out of work at the moment. Do the math. --Tony

Washington, D.C.: Gentlemen,

So what free agent would now be willing to come to play for the Wizards? Are they now going to be looked at as the Clippers of the East?

Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon: No free agent will come to play for the Wizards. No free agent ever came to play for the Wizards... not for Wes Unseld, not for Jordan and not now. --Tony

Falls Church, Va.: The flaw in Sally Jenkins' argument (and Abe Pollins' for that matter) is that Jordan was let go after only three and a half years, while Wes and Les Souz have been kept on board despite 15-plus years of bad decision-making. How fair is that? Further, I'm not even convinced Jordan has done such a bad job -- he inherited a 19-63 time that was headed for 10-72. Don't you think the lineup ups better now than in 1999, when the starting five was Juwan, Richmond, Strickland, Jahidi, and Rip.

Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon: The flaw in your argument is that you think that because Group A was bad for 15 years that Group B ought to be allowed to be bad for 15 years. Wouldn't you try to get GOOD rather than stay bad? --Tony

Glenn Dale, Md.: Hi Guys,

Do you get in trouble when you are late every week?

Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon: No. --Mike and Tony

Bethesda, Md.: Let me break it down for you, yo. (That's for Tony).

You can be fired from almost any job WITHOUT cause. In that case unemployment compensation kicks in.

Your employer is NOT required to tell you why you were fired; most do, even if it is a lie, so that you will not get unemployment.

It IS tacky and classless. Newsflash: MANY employers are tacky and classless.

Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon: Yeah, sad but true. --Mary

Washington, D.C.: This is for Mike. I was gratified to read your appreciation of Sam Lacy. Your piece, and Bill Gildea's, were up to the standards I associate with you both.

Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon: Thank you. --Mike

We have to go. Have a good week. Talk to you next week. --Mike, Tony and Mary

Maryland: Hi Tony and Mike.

Most employees are considered "at will" employees (vs. contractual). "At will" employees can be legally fired for any non-legally protected reason (can't be based on race, sex, disability, etc.) without having to tell the person why. Whether it's the right thing to do is another issue. So as much as most of the world disagrees with Pollin, he didn't have to give Jordan a reason.

Did Pollin have any clue how much this all was going to blow up??

And aren't you guys sick of questions or comments about you being late? Who cares, you always show up.


Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon: Thank you Maryland and yes, we are tired of the late questions. It's true, we do always show up! --The Chat House

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