One of the early callers during Ted Leonsis hour on WTOP asked the Wizards and Caps owner how to deal with “today’s prima donna athlete.”
“I think it starts early with recruitment,” began Leonsis. “You can tell in the draft, or when you’re making a trade or gonna sign a free agent. Now you have to spend as much time around character and talking to coaches and people who have been around the individual just to make sure they’re not going to be a distraction, that they’re not going to be aside the team or above the team. And when someone does emerge that is taking on that role, you think you’re forced to cut them or trade them or do something.”
Leonsis went on to say that he has dealt with such divas on the Wizards.
“I’ve lived with that, frankly, with the Wizards over the last couple of years,” he continued. “We were forced to do that. They were some really, really talented players, but culturally, what we were trying to accomplish, we couldn’t get these players to kind of buy into what the collective good and plan was. And so you would sit them and, frankly, have to talk with their agents and their people and say, ‘This is what we’re trying to accomplish. This is the role that we’re hoping you can play.’ And the bigger agenda here is team success. If we have team success, the your individual success will be highlighted and spotlighted in a more positive way. And frankly, there are a lot of players that it’s hard for them to get over that. They really do think it’s about individual stats or me, me, me.
“And so now what I’ve learned is, you have to move quickly because one or two players that are all about me, me, me can really bring a locker room down. And you just can’t have that. And the leadership also on the team, has to inoculate the rest of the team from them. And so we’re trying, I’m trying, to get players that have high character, high integrity. They communicate, they act like coaches on the court and in the locker room. You want to coach to be able to communicate very well, the manager to be able to communicate very well what the expectations are and build a culture that supports and celebrates good teammates and says if you’re not, then there’s no place for you here.”
Feel free to play “Name That Wizards Prima Donna” in the comments.