WashingtonWizards.com Mailbox: Abe Pollin
Abe Pollin will enter his 39th season as an NBA owner this season.
Ezra Shaw/NBAE/Getty Images
Since 1964, Abe, the longest tenured owner in the NBA, and his wife Irene have watched the NBA become the standard by which all other professional sports leagues are measured, exploding in growth from a small, regional league to a worldwide presence on the business landscape. With one World Championship title to their credit, Abe and Irene Pollin would like nothing more than to add another championship trophy to their collection.
Kathleen Bradley – Arlington, VA: Why did you get rid of Michael Jordan? Why was he dismissed in such an abrupt manner?
Abe Pollin: My decision not to bring Michael Jordan back as President of Basketball Operations was extremely difficult. But the bottom line for me was to do what I felt was best for this franchise. It is important to remember that I was determining whether to re-hire Michael Jordan as President of Basketball Operations, not whether to re-sign Michael Jordan the player. At this stage in our team’s development, I felt it was best to move in a different direction. Regarding the manner in which Michael was let go, I can only say that I respect Michael Jordan, I made a decision about the future of the franchise and I stated my decision to Michael. Any other characterization of what happened in this meeting is only hearsay and not worthy of discussion. This will be the last statement I make about this issue.
Josh Skinnell – Del City, OK: My name is Josh and I am 16. I have been a dedicated Wizards fan for the past couple of years. I sat on the edge of my seat last season as the Wizards nearly made it to the playoffs, I watched Jordan in the all-star game and I watched the number one pick go to Kwame Brown. I am just wondering, now that MJ is gone, do you think Stackhouse and Arenas can handle the team, and do you think players like Brown, Jeffries, and Dixon are going to mature into players that will make the franchise proud. Thank you for your time.
Abe Pollin: Josh, it sounds like you are a big fan and I am very happy to hear you’re a dedicated Wizards fan. Ernie Grunfeld and Eddie Jordan both feel that Gilbert Arenas and Jerry Stackhouse will form one of the best backcourt tandems in the East this year. We are an extremely young team, so naturally we are counting on continued development of players like Kwame Brown, Jared Jeffries and Juan Dixon, and also other young players like Brendan Haywood, Etan Thomas, and recent draft picks Jarvis Hayes and Steve Blake. We will make you proud to be a Wizards fan.
Casey Camarras - Boca Raton, FL: Mr. Pollin, Steve Blake has "risen to meet the challenge" during his entire basketball career. With the signings of Arenas and Whitney, where does Steve Blake fit in the Wizards immediate future?
Abe Pollin: Prior to this year’s draft, our scouting staff told me that they were targeting two players that they hoped would be available when we picked: Jarvis Hayes in the first round and Steve Blake in the second round – and we got both of them. Certainly most Washington area fans are familiar with Steve and know that he is a proven winner. Our staff feels that Steve has a good chance to be a solid contributor on this team at point guard. However, most rookie players take a year or two to really get the feel for the NBA game and that will probably be the case with Steve. Ernie Grunfeld felt that he had an opportunity to get a marquis free agent in Gilbert Arenas and we signed him. But Ernie also felt we needed a solid veteran to stabilize the point guard position and Chris Whitney fit that mold perfectly. As a result, we are very deep at the point guard position, something we have not been able to say for a long time.
Solomon Ajetunmobi: Why didn't you get a good big man in the free agency?
Abe Pollin: When Ernie Grunfeld came on board, we discussed the direction we felt the roster needed to go. Due to salary cap restrictions, we really only had an opportunity to sign one outstanding free agent. There was a very limited pool of quality big men available in free agency, so we felt Gilbert Arenas was our best option. Additionally, we feel confident that our young, big men will continue to develop – players like Brendan Haywood, Kwame Brown, and Etan Thomas.
Rafael Masakayan - Fairfax, VA: With Michael Jordan no longer with the Wizards, do you expect your attendance to decline? Are lots of people asking for refunds?
Abe Pollin: Good question. I made an offer to our season ticket holders, stating that upon the end of the summer, if they were not satisfied with our off-season changes, they would receive their season ticket deposit refunded in full. I’m happy to report that very few fans took me up on my offer and that our renewal rate is actually ahead of last year’s pace.
While I know that we will not sell out every game next season, I’m confident that our fans will enjoy Eddie Jordan’s up-tempo style of coaching, Gilbert Arenas’ exciting basketball talent, and the management decisions of Ernie Grunfeld.
Eric Samson - Springfield, VA: You have been a long time owner; will you ever sell this team?
Abe Pollin: You are correct. I have owned this franchise longer than anyone else in the NBA. It continues to be a labor of love and I get excited and nervous prior to every game. When I do decide to sell the team, it will be a very difficult decision. But I will know when it’s time. When that time comes, I have given the right of first refusal to my business partner, Mr. Ted Leonsis. Ted will have the first opportunity to by the Wizards.
Henny Nochimson – Laurel, MD: Why did you trade Rip Hamilton? Do you regret that trade?
Abe Pollin: Trades like the Richard Hamilton/Jerry Stackhouse trade are what make this game extremely interesting. I know that Detroit is very happy with Richard Hamilton and we are very happy with Jerry Stackhouse – both players have recently signed long-term contracts. As an owner, I have to trust my staff to make qualified decisions. Sure, the ultimate decision rests with me, but that’s why I try to hire the best decision makers in the business. I’m confident that Jerry Stackhouse will return to All-Star form this year after a transition year last season.
Delgardo Franklin – District Heights, MD: I'm a life-long Bullets/ Wizards Fan. What was the rationale, if any, for the team name change?
Abe Pollin: It has been awhile since I have been asked this question. Believe me when I say it was not an easy decision. I won a World Championship under the name Bullets. However, too often during the mid to late ‘90s, I would hear the word “bullets” associated with guns and violence instead of my basketball team. While the name was longstanding, I finally reached a point that I was simply tired of the association between the two. Then, my good friend, Prime Minister Rabin was assassinated in Israel. That was the final straw. It was time to change names. With regard to the name “Wizards,” we held a three-tiered contest to determine a new name. The name “Wizards” was selected by the fans and has adorned our uniforms since that time.
Nick C – Alexandria, VA: How do you feel about this year's team improvements concerning the new management staff and also new players?
Abe Pollin: I felt it was extremely important to find the best basketball minds to lead this team. Ernie Grunfeld has a reputation of having his finger on the pulse of this league and leaving no stone unturned in guiding the on-court development of a franchise. Ernie had barely been on the job a month when he landed one of the marquis free agents this off-season in Gilbert Arenas. In addition, Ernie has begun working behind the scenes to lead the development of several programs that will benefit our players in the long run. Eddie Jordan was the most sought-after young coach in the league and we had the opportunity to get him. I jumped at the chance of bringing him back to his hometown of Washington D.C. and he has worked non-stop since he arrived. Eddie brings a very exciting style of play with him from New Jersey, where he helped lead the team to two NBA Finals.
Charles Stewart – Quincy, MA: Mr. Pollin, first I would like to thank you for a very exciting off-season for the Wizard franchise. I am a long time Bullet\Wizard fan. My question for Mr. Pollin is as follows: With this young team that we have this year are the playoffs a real possibility? Bring back retro night!
Abe Pollin: I thought retro night was great as well! It was terrific to see the team in the Championship uniforms. To answer your question, yes, I think the playoffs are a possibility. I believe we have made some terrific additions to our roster, our young players have another year under their belts, we had a terrific draft this season and we are excited about our new leadership. All of that combined with an Eastern Conference that continues to be wide open, I think we have a chance to be successful this season.