CHICAGO — Chicago’s Gar Forman and Miami’s Pat Riley each got 11 votes, among the 30 cast, to share the 2010-11 NBA Executive of the Year Award. But the Bulls’ John Paxson was third with three votes, one more than San Antonio’s R.C. Buford.
So are Forman and Riley really co-winners? Or did Chicago deserve the trophy by virtue of getting more votes than the Heat?
The award, voted on by executives of the league’s 30 teams, wound up with a muddled result because it remains a simple ballot in an increasingly complex world. These days, there aren’t just “general managers” who make all the personnel moves for an NBA team – there are, and have been for quite a while now, people holding a variety of titles who handle those duties, sometimes in multiples in the same front offices. The days of one-man shows like Red Auerbach making the trades, scouting prospects, scheduling flights and paying the beer vendors are ovah!
Forman, for instance, is the Chicago “GM” while Paxson is the “executive vice president of basketball operations.” Riley is the Heat’s “president.” But he didn’t split any votes with Nick Arison, Miami’s “VP of basketball operations,” or Andy Elisburg, the Heat’s “assistant GM,” because in Miami everyone knows that Riley’s voice is first and last.
In Chicago, maybe that’s not always so clear. At least it didn’t seem to be to the NBA execs – a hodgepodge of GMs, VPs, executive VPs and presidents themselves – who did the voting.
This has reared its head before. In 2008-09, Denver VP of basketball operations Mark Warkentien won the Executive of the Year Award with nine votes, but Rex Chapman – the Nuggets’ VP of player personnel – got named on one ballot instead. It was a close race, too, with Cleveland’s Danny Ferry finishing with seven votes and Orlando’s Otis Smith with six.
The problem is that the ballot is simply a fill-in-the-blank form, with voters free to choose – or left to guess at – whoever and whatever title they choose. Mark Broussard, NBA senior director of communications, confirmed that there is no list of 30 candidates, one per franchise, to guide the voters.
This is a little sloppy for a league that prides itself on precision in its voting processes. It won’t, for example, let certain players be listed at alternative positions for awards and honors – Tim Duncan for years had to be a “forward” on the All-Star ballot even though he played some center for the Spurs and the Western Conference needed centers. (Of course, when West coach Gregg Popovich picked a replacement starter for Houston’s Yao Ming this year, he went with – that’s right – Tim Duncan in the middle.)
Here are two suggestions for fixing the ballot and avoiding this year’s split result:
- Send out a list of 30 candidates – one from each front office – from which the voters must select. If need be, make it a pre-printed punch card.
- Tweak the definition of the award and maybe even the name – “NBA Front Office of the Year Award” – and make it a team entry.
If the league would have gone with a team entry this year, Chicago would have beaten Miami, 14-11.