Memo to NBA Owners Looking for Front-Office Personnel

For some reason, a lot of you are hiring former NBA players to make basketball decisions for your team. I'm not sure what it is about playing basketball that would prepare one to excel at the collective bargaining agreement, hiring coaches, or winning complex negotiations with agents.

And the model franchise -- the Spurs -- is run by smart guys Gregg Popovich and RC Buford, neither of whom played in the NBA.

But that's cool, you keep hiring your big names if you want. Sometimes it works out, like with Joe Dumars in Detroit.

I'm not saying for one second that you shouldn't hire a former player. But I am saying that the rate at which former players get these jobs defies all sense -- unless part of the reason one buys an NBA team is to hang around with famous athletes.

But in the meantime, heed the research of Bradford Doolittle of Basketball Prospectus. His quickly arranged study, with an admittedly small sample size and crude factors, found that non-players performed slightly better as GMs than players.

Much more pointed, though, was that players who took the time to learn the position first -- players like Dumars, who paid their dues in the front office before taking over -- have turned out notably better. Doolittle writes:

The unmentored GMs in this study won 17 percent fewer games per season than their well-trained counterparts, they did not build squads that advanced in the playoffs, and their wins cost their bosses 17 percent more on a per-win basis. As I said, these groups aren't big enough to construct dogma but if I were an owner or team president, I would think long and hard about turning the keys to my basketball operation over to somebody who hasn't paid their dues.

(Via John Canzano's blog)