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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014

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In Sports Commentary

"Fixing" the Milwaukee Bucks is a complex issue. (PHOTO: David Bernacchi)

There's no silver bullet for fixing the Bucks


I want to start by saying there is no sports franchise in the state that I have closer ties with or more affection for than the Milwaukee Bucks.

My longest and best friend in the world is John Steinmiller, who is the executive vice president of business operations. He's been with the team since its inception and we have been friends that long. He is one of the most able, loyal and dedicated people I know.

I've known Herb Kohl for better than a quarter of a century. We are not close, but we are friends and I have a lot of respect for his quiet abilities and dedication and his often below the radar philanthropy. I also respect his burning desire to have a successful basketball team.

I started covering this team in its second year of existence. I can't begin to count the number of games I've seen, at home and on the road. It has been an incredible opportunity for rare experiences. I have shared beers with Oscar Robertson in a hotel room in Atlanta. I managed to threaten Bill Walton unless he talked with me, and he did. I saw the first meeting between Lew Alcindor and Walton in an arena in Indianapolis.

I also want to make it clear that I understand how every fan with a computer and an internet connection can pass himself off as some kind of expert. Most of those bloggers I put in the same category as sports talk radio hosts. The only thing about bloggers is that they are generally more single-minded and focused than the radio guys who have to talk about every sport.

Having said all of that, I was intrigued by an item I saw on a blog called Brew Hoop by someone named Eric Buenning. Now, I have no idea who Eric Buenning is, but he wrote that Caron Butler wants to buy the Bucks from Kohl. My guess is he got his information from a speculative piece in the Milwaukee Business Journal.

And oh, by the way, Dave Begel would like to have dinner with Barack Obama, sing some songs and slow dance with Christina Aguilera and play Hamlet on Broadway.

The chances of all those things happening are all just about equal. Butler doesn't have the kind of money it takes to buy a professional basketball team. He'd have to find a group to put together to do it. And I tend to wonder if he has the kind of draw to do that. I mean, Michael Jordan had a hard time finding investors to buy the Charlotte Bobcats.

However, the issue of what's going to happen to this team and this franchise is still something that deserves serious, serious attention.

I know there is a small minority of the thoughtless and brainless who think we should just let the Bucks go because nobody cares. Well, those folks ought to go stand on the corner of 4th and State and watch as fathers, mothers, kids, husbands, wives, boyfriends and girlfriends all have a special glint in their eyes as they approach the Bradley Center for a Bucks' game.

It is a special occasion for many people and, although they always want the team to win, the most important thing is that they have a team.

There seems to be this headlong rush to get Kohl to sell the team. They point to his age, but he is only 79 years old, not that far away from me and I don't feel incapacitated by the years.

There is one overriding issue about our team, though, and we ought to talk about it.

The Bucks seem almost to be like a car stuck in the mud. The wheels turn and they move forward a little and then they fall back. Over and over.

I think people love the Bucks. I know my love is not the least bit diminished by anything they have or haven't done. I can't tell the team what to do to get better. Neither can any of you.

But if there is one thing I've learned over a long time it's that when you try to fix things like an educational system or a professional basketball team, there is no silver bullet.

It may make for abundant palaver for the chattering classes, but the search for the single solution is a waste of time. It's a complex matter and the solutions will be complex.

They will certainly involve Kohl and John Hammond and the rest of the organization. They will involve this community. They will involve our ability to see the forest through the trees.

This team has given a great deal to Milwaukee, both on and off the court. To say they are an organization dedicated to being active in the community is an understatement of massive proportions. But there is impatience here. There are rumblings. There is almost too much wondering about what's going to happen.

I am as impatient as the next guy. I want the Bucks to be a winning team. I want excitement on a winter night at the Bradley Center.

And I want my love to be solid.

If a child of mine were having trouble I would never stop loving that child. I would help find a way on another path.

You never, ever stop loving someone just because they aren't all that you hoped they would be.


Talkbacks

Photodavie | Dec. 11, 2013 at 7:27 a.m. (report)

Brewcitypaul - You ever tried sitting in a lower section than you paid for at the BC? The ushers are trained to ask EVERYONE for a ticket. Unless you carefully sneak past an usher you are stuck in your $10 crap seat looking down at thousands of empty lower bowl seats. Going to a Bucks gme is just plain depressing these days.

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brewcitypaul | Dec. 10, 2013 at 12:59 p.m. (report)

TosaJim - If you get a $10 ticket and there's empty seats in front of you....move down. Regarding Sanders the smartest thing to do is to get him back on the court when he is healthy. Trading him now is foolish. Bucks will not attract a better free agent center. He's not the first athlete to get into a fight and he won't be the last. It's not good he put himself in a bad situation, but hopefully he's learned from it and becomes a better person.

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TosaJim | Dec. 10, 2013 at 10:03 a.m. (report)

Brewcitypaul....you're right...$10 tickets...terrible seats...and just curious....what do you thing should be done about Sanders?

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DT | Dec. 10, 2013 at 9:36 a.m. (report)

It's a rebuild coupled with injuries to nearly every starter. It's tough to win when you're always hurt and everything is still new to this very young team. The Bucks and the NBA still provide an entertaining product and it's far more affordable than the Packers and NFL. Support your teams. Win or lose. And, remember what we did when the Brewers were about to leave. We built them a stadium.

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brewcitypaul | Dec. 10, 2013 at 9:31 a.m. (report)

Tosa Jim - The Bucks have $10 tickets (and sometimes cheaper on stubhub) available for every game. Tickets have never been more affordable. You look uninformed if you complain about ticket prices. They are cheaper than ever. Begel - If you read the articles you would have seen that Caron Butler is looking to put together an investment group to explore purchasing the Bucks. He certainly can't do it alone, but I think it's foolish to laugh at him for having high hopes for the future of Milwaukee's franchise. If you've known Kohl & Steinmiller for decades then you know how little success the Bucks have experienced. The only success that has been experienced is when we have high draft pick talent like Ray Allen, Glenn Robinson & Andrew Bogut. You say there is no "Silver Bullet", but there just might be. The influx of talent that a Top 5 talent will bring can change the dynamic of the entire franchise. From the product on the floor to the talent in the locker room to the number of fans in the stands. The last time the Bucks had a Top 5 pick we actually won the Lottery with a #1 pick and selected Andrew Bogut. The next season the Milwaukee Bucks experienced a 15% increase in attendance. The talent in this years draft is undoubtedly the best in at least 10 years. Every team in the Top 5 is going to get a franchise talent. I know it is hard for members of the "old regime" to truly understand how today's NBA works. But I urge you to get a cup of coffee and sit down and read the website www.saveourbucks.com and look at the historical facts of success in the NBA and how it is achieved.

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