Recently, the Milwaukee Bucks extended the contract of General Manager John Hammond through the 2016-17 season, a move that solidifies the leadership of the team.
The action also puts to bed a report I wrote in July that Coach Jason Kidd was going to be named head of basketball operations and Hammond would leave the team or be put into another position.
It might be helpful to explain how this came about. I won’t go through every minute, but a little bit of explanation is necessary. And it may shed some light on how difficult it can be to use anonymous sources, which is something I based this story on.
The Sunday night after the Fourth of July I got a text from a sportswriter in another town who was very familiar with the Bucks saying he heard that Hammond was going to be fired the next week and that Kidd was going to take over basketball operations.
The first thing I thought was that the report seemed possible. The Bucks’ owners had hired Kidd without even telling Hammond. Kidd had tried to become the head of basketball operations with the Brooklyn Nets, and failed.
So, it passed the original smell test.
Then I recalled a conversation a few days earlier with someone who was in the draft room with the Bucks when Kidd and Hammond reportedly argued over whether to draft Arkansas forward Bobby Portis. Kidd won that argument.
I then decided that even though it was a Sunday evening I’d make some calls.
The first person I called was reluctant to talk. He was a highly-placed source but did not have any history of talking out of school. It was obvious that this was a difficult issue for him since he he is very loyal to his organization. I kept asking the question several different ways and finally the person said that he knew Hammond had something lined up with another team.
I made a second call to someone who worked for the Bucks in the basketball side of the operation. He said that he heard that a July 10 date (five days away) was being set for a big announcement and he had heard that it was going to be an announcement of this big change.
A third source, this one out of state, who had inside sources all over the league, said he knew that Kidd was trying to get the same thing in Milwaukee he wanted to have in Brooklyn.
I thought I had it. Nobody had the whole story but if I added, 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 I came up with the 10 I felt I needed.
I called Jake Suski, the spokesman for the Bucks, and he called back to say he had talked with the ownership and that the story was "unequivocally" false.
Normally a story like this would go through the strict editing process here at OnMilwaukee. But it was Sunday night before a holiday. It was hard to get hold of people. I sent out email notifications but in the end decided to put it on the site myself, without getting the go-ahead after editing.
The denials flew fast and furious and eventually, of course, the story proved to be false.
I’ve been a journalist for almost half a century. I’ve used anonymous sources before.
I’ve broken the stories about Herb Kohl buying the Bucks, Bart Starr being fired as coach, Dave McClain being hired as University of Wisconsin football coach, Dominic Olejniczak being replaced as the long-time president of the Packers, Kohl deciding to run for the United States Senate and Tommy Thompson deciding on a run for governor.
They were all true and all based on anonymous sources. I have been screwed at least once and maybe twice by sources who told me something and they were lying, not to get me but to get someone else.
I don’t think any of the sources I used in this story were lying to me.
I talked with three of them again after the Bucks extended Hammond’s contract. They don’t want to be outed in this, and I respect that. All three of them said they actually believed that the move was going to be made. Not one of them said that they made up their tip.
"I really thought it was going to go down," the NBA source said. When I asked what happened, or why it didn’t happen as they thought it would, none of them had an answer. I talked to the guy who had the July 10 date and he admitted that in hindsight he was less than positive about the accuracy of his information.
When a story or tip like this comes up it is always a risk/reward issue. I gathered as much information as I could and then rushed the story onto the OnMilwaukee site.
I don’t think there is any single person to blame here. My sources all thought they had a piece of a legitimate story. I thought the pieces added up to a legitimate story.
There are three alternatives to what happened:
My sources were lying to me, but I don’t think that’s true.
I made it up, and I know that’s not true.
There really was something there but after the story broke things changed. I continue to believe that is what happened.
In journalism it has always been a battle between getting it "first" and getting it "right." Sometimes the elements of getting it "right" are partially sacrificed in order to get it first.
That seems especially true in the digital age where there is no news cycle. Every minute of every day is a news cycle. If you have the story, you run with it. Plain and simple. At least that's the impression I was under. My editors have made it clear that they don't always agree.
"Getting it right is always more important than getting it first, at least at OnMilwaukee," my publisher, Andy Tarnoff, told me for this piece. Managing editor Bobby Tanzilo agreed. Neither was pleased with how this played out, and have made changes in how articles get posted on nights, weekends and holidays.
Nothing is simple in this world and like many things, this was a complex process.
Nobody was lying here, but that hardly makes a difference in a story that was inaccurate at the time.
With a history in Milwaukee stretching back decades, Dave tries to bring a unique perspective to his writing, whether it's sports, politics, theater or any other issue.
He's seen Milwaukee grow, suffer pangs of growth, strive for success and has been involved in many efforts to both shape and re-shape the city. He's a happy man, now that he's quit playing golf, and enjoys music, his children and grandchildren and the myriad of sports in this state. He loves great food and hates bullies and people who think they are smarter than everyone else.
This whole Internet thing continues to baffle him, but he's willing to play the game as long as OnMilwaukee.com keeps lending him a helping hand. He is constantly amazed that just a few dedicated people can provide so much news and information to a hungry public.
Despite some opinions to the contrary, Dave likes most stuff. But he is a skeptic who constantly wonders about the world around him. So many questions, so few answers.