Kohl has high expectations for Bucks
Sitting in the aisle seat of the back row of four Monday evening during the Milwaukee Bucks media day, Herb Kohl listened intently as members of the team, many of them new, answered questions from a gathering they won't see again unless the BMO Harris Bradley Center hosts playoff games for the second straight year.
Each player spent some time standing behind the microphone, shuffling in or out to photo shoots, and there were occasional breaks in the parade. During one such lull, Kohl got up, and walked to the front for an impromptu question and answer session.
The act alone may not be unique. There are owners in the NBA, and across the other three major North American sports leagues, that attend media functions and are otherwise available.
It's certainly not an odd thing for Kohl to do, a man who spent over two decades of his adult life representing the people of Wisconsin as a U.S. Senator.
Since retiring from that role at the start of the year, Kohl has become more of a presence around the franchise he's owned since 1985. Part of it may be his new-found free time; part of it might have to do with his next campaign – securing a new arena for the team.
To Kohl, a new arena isn't a personal goal to benefit his franchise or fatten his wallet in future sale, but yet another civic duty.
"Looking ahead, for all the reasons you might imagine looking at me, I'm not going to be the owner forever," the 78-year-old said with a smile. "And the important thing to me is that we get there. Not who the owner is. We'll see how that plays out. I will do whatever I need to do in order for us to get there."
"It's not about me. It's about getting to a new facility with the Bucks playing there under a long term lease. It's not about me."
This will be my second full season around the organization and I've gotten the impression that Kohl has viewed the team as sort of a public trust, and that the public has trusted him to put a winner on the court.
It's why it seemed like he struggled to say the word "tank" in the context of basketball.
"I've never been a person who uh … to use the word, 'tank?' Maybe there's a different word," he said with sort of a quizzical look.
When a member of the media affirmed to him that that was the word, Kohl continued.
"I've owned the team for 20-some years and never once did I go into a year saying let's not try and be a good team," he said.
"So this year is no different. We want to be as good a team as we can be. There are some teams that buy into one kind of philosophy, and I'm not commenting on what other teams do, but I don't believe in not competing and doing everything you can to be as competitive as you can and then looking for the breaks along the way that will give you a chance to maybe elevate to a high state."
That hasn't always worked, though. In 28 seasons since Kohl purchased the team, the Bucks have made 13 playoff appearances, produced 11 winning seasons and another two seasons with a .500 record. Four times the team made it out of the first round, including trips to the Eastern Conference Finals in 1986 and 2001. Larry Drew is the team's 12th head coach since 1985.
But I can see why Kohl has hesitated at green lighting a complete tear down and rebuild. Since he took over as owner, the Bucks are one of only eight teams to hold the number one pick twice, in 1994 (Glenn Robinson) and 2005 (Andrew Bogut). Only the Orlando Magic, the Los Angeles Clippers (three times each) and Cleveland Cavaliers (four times) have drafted No. 1 overall more often.
And of the eight teams with multiple No. 1 picks since 1985 only the San Antonio Spurs have won a championship, though the Magic and Cavaliers made trips to the NBA Finals between those picks.
Success at the end of that path is not guaranteed, so Kohl allowed general manager John Hammond to rebuild, but with an eye on making the playoffs.
"I can also say that this is a team that we have high expectations for, that we set high standards and high goals," Kohl said. "And no good player doesn't want that. Players want to start seasons having realistic hopes that they can be good, that the team can be good, because as the season wears on you know that if you don't win your share of games, it ain't fun. And that's what we want to do. We want to be a good team."
Enter Caron Butler and his 47 career playoff games, Gary Neal (41), Carlos Delfino (41), Zaza Pachulia (40), O.J. Mayo (20) and Luke Ridnour (18). That group of veterans joins seven others who will be 25 or younger on opening day.
The players themselves stated that earning the fourth or fifth seed this year and competing for at least an Eastern Conference semi-finals appearance isn't out of the question, and there is hope for growth in one or two more years.
"We think we are ready to go out there and compete, which is what you want to do every year," Kohl said. "We don't want to stand here and talk silly and talk about we're sure going to win a championship. We want to be realistic and honest about who we are. We're experienced. We have talent. We have good character.
"We want to be a good team. We expect to be a good team. We don't have a single play that doesn't think that he can be a contributing member on a good team. We all feel that way."
"There are some teams that buy into one kind of philosophy, and I'm not commenting on what other teams do..." See: 2013-14 Boston and Philadelphia. Both of which will win an NBA Championship before the Bucks do. Herb must forget that getting the #1 overall pick helped them place a cornerstone of 3 players who guided them to the Eastern Conference Finals, and a game within the NBA Finals. In the NBA, unless you have big money, you need to suck terribly bad before you can get any better. That's the way it is. Being a perpetual 6-9th place team in the East will get you nothing but more 6-9th place finishes.
Well that makes 1 person, after 25 plus years of ownership he has nothing to show.
A new stadium did turn the brewers franchise around. If only Antansio would buy the bucks.
Herb Kohl's one and only goal every year is to be the #8 seed and get a couple home playoff games. They don't sell out anyways but, hey, at least it's a little bit more money. Every year there are at least 6-7 new players on the team (out of 15). Making the playoffs in the NBA is as easy as getting out of bed in the morning and Herbie and his minions have done it 13 times since he bought the team??? (I'm amazed it's that many times). Even giving him the 1985 post-season since he bought the team in March of that year, before he was owner, the Bucks had made the playoffs in 12 of 16 years. And actually went deep into the playoffs. Do the math. Find the common denominator. Giving him credit for '85, '86 and '87 is iffy because the nucleus of those teams were there when he bought the Bucks. Then he drove Don Nelson out of town and it's been all downhill since then. Hiring Del Harris (who traded the #16 overall pick for a 36-year old Danny Schayes and signed a 40-year old Moses Malone) started the franchise on the road to ruin. Personally, I don't care if the Bucks left town tomorrow. And I used to be a HUGE basketball fan. Now I can't stand the sport.
Blah Blah Blah...another year of mediocre basketball...with players we never heard of...and tickets we can't afford.
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