ESPN.com recently embarked on a mission to rank front offices in the NBA. The Chicago Bulls came in fifth overall, with Tom Thibodeau ranked second amongst coaches, GM/President combo Gar Foreman and John Paxson coming in 14th amongst executives, and owner Jerry Reinsdorf ranking ninth amongst owners.
That Thibs would come in behind only Gregg Popovich doesn’t surprise me, nor does GarPax being considered middle-of-the-pack. What does surprise me is Mr. Reinsdorf’s place.
I have, in any number of contexts, expressed my annoyance with Mr. Reinsdorf. His general unwillingness to spend a single cent more than he absolutely has to on the Bulls drives me nuts, especially when it manifests itself in things like the dismantling of the bench from the 2011-12 team. And when he says things like how basketball is a game while baseball is religion, I want to tear my hair out. That he’s considered the ninth best owner in the NBA is mildly incredible to me.
But that doesn’t change the fact that Mr. Reinsdorf isn’t a terrible owner. He isn’t the worst owner in history, nor is he close. And it’s important to keep that in mind. Peter Holt, he ain’t. But he also isn’t Donald Sterling or even Dan Gilbert. He isn’t meddlesome, and he does have some ability to ignore the bottom line if he thinks it will help the team. Witness last season, when he was willing to hold on to Rip Hamilton at the trade deadline and pay the luxury tax rather than send out a first round draft pick, which would’ve hurt the team down the road. And he was all set to pay the tax this season, even reaching into the coffers for Mike Dunleavy, until … well, you know.
If you want to hate him, that’s your business. I’m not going to tell you he hasn’t done frustrating things. And there are plenty of organizational issues — like the fact that the Bulls seem to bad-mouth all their players on the way out the door, to name one — which concern me quite a bit and which I believe start from the top. But he’s not a terrible person, and he’s far from a terrible owner.