Okay, I'm the new owner of The Washington Bullets. Here is what we are going to do.
Step one: no more Mr. Nice Guy. Abe Pollin was a nice-guy owner. But I'm hanging a picture of George Steinbrenner on the wall and taking a walk over to the I Street offices of Red Auerbach. He may bleed Boston Celtic green but as a fellow Washingtonian Auerbach owes me at least one lesson in how to raise hell in the media, intimidate referees, create a mystique for my team and best of all fire a general manager when he doesn't deliver.
Inspired by Auerbach, the first thing I'm going to do when I get back to the office is fire general manager Bob Ferry. Oh, Pollin already did that? Well, I'm not one to hold a grudge. Then let me be the first to recommend Ferry to some other owner. After all, toothpick-thin 7-foot-6ers like Manute Bol and 5-3 guards like Muggsy Bogues need somebody to draft them. But since that's history let's get on to step two.
I'm selling Capital Centre and buying a chunk of land between Union Station and New York Avenue -- near to downtown, near to a subway stop and near several major roads leading in and out of town. And right there I am going to build a new home for professional basketball in Washington. Big-time basketball belongs in the city -- that's where it is in New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Atlanta, the other big East Coast cities. The Bullets need to stress the team's tradition -- Wes Unseld is great for this. And the team needs to stress its connection to the Washington area by becoming a part of the region's heart.
Bullets' games should be a second home for President Bush and Babs, Jesse Helms and Jesse Jackson, disc jockey Donnie Simpson and Superwoman Linda Carter, John Riggins next to Sandra Day O'Connor, Oliver North and Fawn Hall. I want the Big Names in the arena the way the Lakers have Jack Nicholson and the Knicks have Woody Allen.
You go into the city to see the monuments, talk to the President, see the stars at the Kennedy Center, attend first-run films, eat great meals, root for the Redskins and now the Bullets.
Step three: get me a phone. I'm calling the also-ran teams in this year's NBA playoffs: the Chicago Bulls, the Phoenix Suns, the New York Knicks and the Boston Celtics. I'm telling them that the Bullets have the one player they need to get into the Finals and take home the prize -- Jeff Malone.
Malone is the best jump shooter in the game, plays better defense than anyone gives him credit. He will pull defenders away from Michael Jordan, Tom Chambers, Patrick Ewing and Larry Bird, the overwhelmed stars of the also-ran teams, and make those teams winners.
In exchange I want a first- and a second-round draft pick. They'll try to push the price down but no deal without high picks. If necessary I'll trade him to an expansion team for several high second-round picks.
Next, we put an even bigger prize on the trading block: John Williams. He is the Bullets' best player, he is young and if he loses weight could become a very good player if not the next NBA star with his own series of Nike ads. But with the Bullets he never will be great because we don't have the cast of supporting actors right now to force him to raise his game to a superstar level and make him Mr. Showtime. In exchange for Williams I want two No. 1 picks.
Next, I'm taking a lesson from that quintessential Washingtonian, the late Edward Bennett Williams. He started the rebirth of the Orioles by getting rid of all his players over 22. Let's just do it. Now. Again, we want draft picks. I'm looking down the road to Alonzo Mourning of Georgetown, Kenny Anderson of Georgia Tech and the stars of NCAA champion Nevada-Las Vegas and I'll need draft picks to get them.
Williams also was willing to spend money to bring head-case ballplayers, some with loads of talent, to the Orioles to do it. Let's buy some free agents. Sam Perkins and John "Hot Rod" Williams are coming here and that's it. If we need some money let's get guaranteed sell-outs in nearby smaller cities -- Baltimore, Richmond, Pittsburgh -- and play 10 games out of town every year. It would make the Bullets all the more an attraction when they're here.
After buying the free agents I'd also call Danny Ferry (first, apologizing for what I said earlier about his lovable dad) and tell him his father has confided in me that his greatest wish for his son is that he not report to Cleveland but insist on a trade to come here and be Washington's hometown star. If Cleveland charges me with tampering I'd tell them the father-son relationship is sacred.
And I'm not just going after Americans. I'm going to Cuba to talk to Fidel Castro about his athletes. "Fidel, mi amigo, comprende 'In Yo Face, Sucker.' I want some Cuban ballplayers with bad attitudes and a burning to play against some arrogant, over-paid American athletes." I'm going to Eastern Europe, Australia and South America too; somebody around here has to know how to play this game. And we are going to dare to win or lose big time around here -- right now.
Next, I'm going to promote Wes Unseld. If he wants to coach for another year or two, that's fine. But I want him as the steady hand in this organization as general manager. And I'm going to give him a strong staff of scouts to dig up the Dennis Rodmans and Joe Dumarses who went to no-name colleges but are marquee names in the pros. And on the sideline I want an exciting, hot-shot coach who is a cutthroat winner. I would love John Thompson. Jim Valvano, Jerry Tarkanian and Nolan Richardson would fit in here, too.
And finally, no more amateurs singing the national anthem, no more midget basketball at halftime and no more allowing a liquor company to sponsor the cheerleaders. Every halftime is going to be a slam-dunk contest, competition for prizes, acrobats, and beautiful women. Win or lose this is going to be fun.
Juan Williams is a Bullets season-ticket holder.