The Optimist Goes One-on-One with Dan Gilbert

The Optimist
Here’s the thing: I don’t sweat Dan Gilbert.

I respect the man and I believe in him. And he's made all the right moves so far. But money doesn't intimidate the Optimist -- not when you knock down the kind of jack that I do. The Big O is about Cavaliers wins and (sometimes) losses and bringing the Larry O’Brien Trophy to Cleveland.

And Dan Gilbert -- the big-shot who just plunked down a boatload of cash for the Cavaliers -- wants the same thing. At least that’s what he told me when I interviewed him outside of his cubicle at the Q.

His bold moves have brought Dan Ferry back to the North Coast as the GM. And he had the chutzpah to bypass bigger names to land the universally-respected Mike Brown as his head coach. The three of them lured Donyell Marshall and Damon Jones and Larry Huge to the Cavaliers. He’s bringing jobs to Cleveland and is prettifying the Q, from the state of the art scoreboard to the wine-colored seats.

But for a guy who could buy and sell me 20 or 30 times over, Dan Gilbert was completely down to Earth. His Quicken Loans employees are enamored with him and I hope my Cavalier comrades – as well as our dyed-in-the-wool fans – will soon follow suit.

Well, that’s enough shilling for now, readers. Let’s get to the guy with the long green.

Like I said, I’m about Cavaliers wins and losses and so is the Man in charge. The Opener is approaching quickly, y'uns. And the proof will be in the pudding. While you wait for tip-off, why not check out this quick One-on-One I did with Cavaliers owner, Dan Gilbert ...

The Optimist: First question: Dan … Can I borrow $70?

Dan Gilbert: For what?

O: Mr. Gund never asked me ‘for what?’

DG: Fine … Here.

O: Thanks.

O: Dan, if the Cavaliers go 82-0 this year, will you take all the credit? If they don’t, will you take all the blame?

DG: If we go 82-0 I think I will give most of the credit to Mike Brown and his staff. Anything less than that and it’s your fault.

O: Well-played. The NBA Owner’s Combine in Secaucus, New Jersey is coming up in a few days. Last year, you stunned everyone by benching 315 pounds. How do you plan on defending your title as the League’s Strongest Owner?

DG: Well, the only real competition there is Mark Cuban. He is a fairly big guy, you know. But I did hear that he is similar to “Sampson” in that his strength comes from his longer hair. Now you know why he keeps that goofy hairdo.

I figure if I have someone sneak in his hotel room in the middle of the night with a pair of clippers and they can successfully buzz his globe, I should have no problem winning back-to-back titles.

O: Dan, how much input do you have in player transactions? If you wanted to trade TheBron for 15 second-rounders, could you muscle GM Dan Ferry into making that move?

DG: Now that Danny Ferry, Lance Blanks, Chris Grant and Co. are here, I think it is wise of me to let them make their own decisions when it comes to player moves.

Also, keep in mind that Danny is almost seven feet tall. Although I still can “bench” more than him, “muscling” him into doing anything is an entirely different story.

O: It’s widely known that Quicken Loans ranks among the highest in the country in employee satisfaction. How do you intend to pamper us at the Cavaliers? Can we get …
Pony rides?
DG: Only if Danny Ferry is running it.
O: Pudding cups?
DG: With or without the pudding? And what’s your fascination with pudding?
O: Heineken in the vending machines?
DG: If the Cavalier Girls, LeBron and Martynas Andriuskevicius were over 21 years old I would have said yes.
O: Heated cubicles?
DG: Are you too cold, Sally?
O: Free haircuts?
DG: Uh…you need to have hair for these. Danny Ferry, Lance Blanks and Mike Brown do not need this service. And if “everyone” can’t benefit by it, than we cannot provide it. I refuse to discriminate against the “follically-challenged”.
O: Personal Sous chef?
DG: What’s a “Sous”?
O: Personal geishas?
DG: What’s a “geisha”?
O: Finally, would it kill you to hook us up with a gelato bar?
DG: We don’t have any of these things in Detroit. Are you from the West Coast or something?

O: Can you confirm or deny the rumor that any Quicken Loans employee caught rooting for the Pistons spends a night in “The Box”?

DG: We are an “equal opportunity employer.” Who our people root for is their choice, of course, except if it’s Miami. Or New Jersey. Or Philly. And the Knicks. Or the Lakers, Mavs, Rockets or Celtics.

And we are fine with them as long as it’s not the Raptors, Pacers, Bulls or Bucks.

Really we are all about “choice” and “freedom”; it just can’t be the Magic, Hawks, Wizards and Bobcats.

Who really cares if our people at Quicken Loans like another team as long as it’s not the Spurs, Nuggets, Grizzlies, Hornets or Warriors? And why would they even think of rooting for the Kings, Suns or Clippers? It’s a free country and we would not resent their allegiance to another organization provided it was not the Jazz, Portland, or the Timberwolves or Sonics.

All other teams are fine with us.

O: You’re known to accept feedback from employees and fans alike. Check out this sweet play I drew up on a bar napkin for Larry Huge. Will you give it to Coach Brown and tell him to run it?

DG: Sure. You know I LOVE “passing notes” with plays on them to NBA head coaches in the middle of games. I’ll wait for the home opener for this one.

O: I don’t own any pro sports teams – not even a D-League farm team, like the Arkansas RimRockers. So my question to you is: do you think you’re better than me?

DG: Is that a rhetorical question?

O: Now that the check has cleared, what's your overall feeling about the organization -- from Danny Ferry, Mike Brown and the team right down to the lowest employee on the totem pole, webshill Joe Gabriele?

DG: I know we have not won (or lost) a game yet but I believe that Danny Ferry and Mike Brown and their staffs will show the NBA and the world that they are the best duo since Jake and Elwood, or Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid or maybe even since Starsky and Hutch.

In all seriousness, these guys are the real deal. Take a look and you will see two of the hardest working guys in the NBA, or anywhere for that matter. Guys whose "character and integrity" are second to none. Winners. Selfless. Guys you would be "in the foxhole" with.

These are two young warriors who our team will play for. Our guys are going to go the "extra inch" for Mike and Danny because they know their head coach and GM would not hesitate to do the same for them. They promote TEAM. They are "grinders" and you will see our team take on their philosophy and even their personalities. And these guys (and their staffs) lack any "cooties." You can have normal, honest conversations with them. They are self-confident and know "who" they are. I love that about them.

Danny and Mike are approachable, open to feedback, charismatic, treat all people with dignity and are born leaders. Oh...and they know the NBA brand of basketball as well as anyone we have talked to or come across. Over time, I believe the entire state of Ohio and beyond will fall in love with these guys.

This will be a "process" for our new organization. There will be some bumps in the road. Winning championships does not come overnight. It comes with consistently "doing the right things." Day in. Day out. Nothing this challenging comes easy.

I have no doubt we will get there. That day will arrive when we have "earned" the right to be there.

As far as Joe Gabriele goes. He needs to shave his beard, learn how to do a TV interview and stop trying to look like Dennis Miller.

O: Dan, final question: what’s a “mortgage”?

DG: It’s something that if you sell enough of them, they let you buy an NBA team!