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Ernie Grunfeld - President, Washington Wizards

Ernie Grunfeld is in his ninth season as President of the Washington Wizards. With 34 years of NBA experience as a player, broadcaster, coach and executive, Grunfeld’s vision and leadership have been paramount to the Wizards’ success. Now in his 22nd season as a top personnel executive in the NBA, Grunfeld’s long list of accomplishments includes two trips to the NBA Finals, four Eastern Conference Finals appearances, 16 playoff berths with three different teams (including 11 straight from 1991-2001 while with the New York Knicks and Milwaukee Bucks) and 17 seasons of at least .500 basketball.

Grunfeld joined the Wizards organization on June 30, 2003. In just his second year in Washington (2004-05), the Wizards won a playoff series for the first time in over two decades with a roster that was largely assembled under his guidance. Four years later, when the team made its fourth consecutive playoff appearance, Grunfeld’s Wizards reached an organizational goal of becoming perennial playoff contenders, and now aim to rebuild and reclaim their position as one of the NBA’s yearly postseason entrants.

In the process of building a contender in the Eastern Conference, Grunfeld’s attention to detail resulted in the renovating and upgrading of the team’s facilities at Verizon Center. The major overhaul included the interior and exterior of the team’s locker room and the basketball operations and coaching offices.

Prior to joining the Wizards, Grunfeld spent the previous four seasons as general manager of the Milwaukee Bucks, where the team’s 14 playoff wins during his tenure exceeded its cumulative total in the 12 seasons prior to his arrival. During his tenure, the Bucks posted a record of 177-151 (.540) and qualified for the playoffs three times. Included in the Bucks’ run of playoff success was a trip to the 2001 Eastern Conference Finals, where they pushed Philadelphia to a deciding Game Seven.

During Grunfeld’s reign as the Knicks’ top personnel executive, New York advanced to the Conference Semifinals of the NBA Playoffs for nine consecutive seasons (1991-99). His tenure included five 50-plus win seasons, three Atlantic Division Championships and two trips to the NBA Finals. In eight full seasons of decision-making for New York, Grunfeld’s Knicks teams compiled a record of 397-227 (.636) in the regular season and a 61-44 mark in the playoffs.

Grunfeld was named General Manager of the New York Knicks on April 23, 1991, and was later promoted to President and General Manager on February 23, 1996. His tenure in New York was punctuated by Eastern Conference Championships in 1994 and ’99, the latter of which marked the first time in NBA history that an eighth seed advanced to the Finals. Remarkably, after Patrick Ewing was felled by injury, the ’99 Finals squad featured an entirely different starting five than the previous Eastern Conference Champion Knickerbockers just five years earlier.

Under Grunfeld, the mid-‘90’s Knicks completely rebuilt and reloaded to an elite level without missing a beat. Under Grunfeld’s guidance, the Knicks played in front of a sold-out Madison Square Garden from 1993-99.

Originally drafted by Milwaukee with the 11th overall selection in 1977, Grunfeld played in the NBA for nine seasons. After two seasons in Milwaukee, he played for the Kansas City Kings from 1979-82 before signing with the Knicks as a free agent in 1982. Grunfeld retired following the 1985-86 season with a career average of 7.4 points per game in 693 career games played.

Following his playing career, Grunfeld served as the Knicks radio analyst for the MSG Network from 1986-89. Prior to the 1989-90 season, he served as an assistant coach for the Knicks under Stu Jackson before his promotion to the front office.

Born in Romania, Grunfeld came to New York City in 1964 with his father, Alex and mother, Livia. He enjoyed a stellar collegiate career at the University of Tennessee, where he left as the school’s all-time leading scorer with 2,249 points. He teamed with Bernard King at Tennessee to form the “Ernie and Bernie Show” and later played with King in New York. Grunfeld was a member of the 1976 Olympic Team that won gold in Montreal.

Upon his arrival in Washington DC, Grunfeld was quick to establish himself as an active member of the community in the nation’s capital. His participation in the organization’s community outreach programs, including Thanksgiving luncheons, holiday gift deliveries, and charitable bowling tournaments helped set an example of excellence for the Wizards and the community.

In May of 2005, Grunfeld was named by USA Basketball to a panel of nine basketball executives that will advise the United States’ men’s senior national program on matters including coaches and players selection.

Grunfeld and his wife, Nancy, have two children, Rebecca Grunfeld, a 2007 graduate of Georgetown Law School who is now a fourth-year associate at the law firm of Kaye Scholer in Washington, DC, and Danny, a former First-Team Academic All-American from Stanford University, who now plays professional basketball in Israel.

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