Kohl's dedication to the Bucks has never been an issue
One of the common wisdoms rolling around now that Herb Kohl has announced he's done being a senator is that Kohl will now turn his attention exclusively to his basketball team, the Milwaukee Bucks.
I think it's important to get one thing straight right away.
The Bucks have never suffered because Kohl wasn't able to pay enough attention to the team. His work in the Senate almost never got in the way of his work with the Bucks.
Kohl is a very interesting guy and we go way back. When he decided to run for the first time, the very first television interview he did was with me. Over the years we stayed in touch. The most frequent contacts I had with him were at a couple of restaurants we shared a fondness for and visited with some regularity.
He's unlike any other millionaire team owner I know of. He's plain and very simple. He eats at Solly's and Ma Fischer's, for God's sake.
Every time I've ever run into him he's busy eating and reading. And what he's always reading – always – is news and notes about the National Basketball Association. He's reading league memos, newspapers, team press releases, all kinds of stuff.
Kohl told me once, kind of joking but really not, that if the citizens of this state knew how much time he spent on basketball and how much on the Senate, they'd vote him out of office. Ha Ha.
I have never heard anyone in the Bucks family complain that Kohl couldn't pay enough attention to the team because of his work in the Senate.
If anyone thinks that Kohl is going to start hovering around the Bucks' offices or in the locker room and start having private talks with players or count how many towels the team uses after game is sadly mistaken.
I'm convinced that Kohl understands the peril of owner micromanagement. He's seen too many teams fall off the deep edge of the ocean by owners who think they've bought a toy and have the right to play with every day.
What I do expect Kohl to do is two things.
Number one will be some kind of enhanced philanthropic activity. He may be worth up to half a billion dollars. And he understands the power of money to be able to do good in this world. Kohl is one of those liberals who grew up in a Jewish neighborhood of Milwaukee. He and his friend, Bud Selig, have made tons of money and both of them, cut from the same cloth, have a deep commitment to do good things with their money.
I also expect Kohl to take the lead in the battle to build a facility to replace the Bradley Center. I think he's stimulated to get the new arena to make the Bucks much more attractive to sell.
Kohl is 76 years old and he knows he's going to sell this team before too long. Just as Mark Attanasio found the Brewers to be an attractive buy with a new Miller Park, a new arena with a favorable lease makes the Bucks much more attractive.
Kohl has pledged to sell the team only to somebody who agrees to keep the team in Milwaukee. There are not many, if any, people in this area who have the money to buy the team. So the ownership group will probably come from out of town.
Try to sell the Bucks without the new facility and it takes on the air of a fire sale. Get the new arena and you have an attractive investment for someone with deep pockets.
Kohl is really a very private person. As much as he likes sitting around and talking with small groups, he has a level of discomfort being a very public person. He's not about to become a recluse, but Kohl loves to operate behind the scenes, and I don't think there's any reason at all to expect anything else.
The bottom line is that under former Senator Kohl the Bucks have advanced out of the 1st round of the playoffs exactly ONCE in the last 20 years. as dedicated and sincere as he might be, that's a pretty sad record of accomplishment.
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