Photo by Dan Shafer
Marc Lasry and Wesley Edens are beginning to show Milwaukee how this fresh start for the Bucks is going to look.
The two billionaire owners spent the day enjoying a few activities that just scream “Milwaukee!” – drinking beer before noon, eating bacon doughnuts, talking about where they’ll be drinking later on, etc. – while setting the groundwork for the still very new Edens/Lasry Era.
Thursday’s schedule included breakfast at Cranky Al's in Wauwatosa and meeting the media at the Cousins Center after a midday draft prospect workout. Although they made it clear the wheels are in motion, they announced no major decisions about team management, a new arena or any concrete plans for the immediate future. They also shared plans for an afternoon catch-up-on-things meeting with former Bucks owner Herb Kohl.
And later, they hit the bar.
“It’s a night I’m never really going to forget,” Lasry told a packed house on the outdoor patio at McGillycuddy’s on Water Street. “I’ve never walked into a bar and everybody started clapping.”
Then he gave the impression of gracious party host.
“I want to thank everybody – literally – for their generosity and for how kind everybody is. We love your ideas. We love Milwaukee. We love the Bucks. That’s why we bought them. It’s a dream come true for the two of us,” said Lasry, who earlier in the day characterized the team as a public asset. “I want to thank you. Enjoy yourselves. We’ll get to speak to everybody. We’re going to be here for a while, so whoever wants to chat, we’re happy to listen to any and all ideas.
The two owners grabbed a couple cold ones and proceeded to do just that, working the crowd, taking pictures, signing autographs and answering questions. Awestruck Bucks fans drank in the experience.
Building trust with the community is going to be of utmost importance for Edens and Lasry, and Thursday featured a few early steps toward accomplishing that goal.
Some other notes from the Cousins Center and the McGillycuddy’s event:
-The owners have talked with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar since purchasing the team. “We’re going to be having some discussions with him,” Lasry said. “I think he’d like to get involved.”
-The owners have also met with Brewers owner Mark Attanasio.
“He’s been successful out here,” Edens said. “It’s much easier to copy than it is to create, so we want to copy the good things he’s done well and adopt them where we think they can make sense. A lot of it is very sensible – he’s engaged well with the community, he’s built a good foundation, he’s done things you need to do to be successful long term.”
- Arena discussions are about to kick into “high gear,” Edens said.
“We’re going to meet with a number of the big design firms, and get their views about it,” he said. “There are really four arenas that are going to be built at about the same time. The [Sacramento] Kings are going to build theirs, the [Golden State] Warriors are going to build theirs, we’ll build one here, and there’s going to be one built in Las Vegas. I think with that, you can take the best ideas and synthesize that into one big product and then it’ll be a matter of figuring out how to pay for it.”
Two takeaways from this: 1) an arena design could very well come before a funding package is ready to be discussed in any real terms, and 2) specifics of the new arenas in Sacramento, the Bay Area and Las Vegas will be well worth keeping an eye on.
-Changes to the business side of the team seem far more likely than changes to the basketball side. Lasry was complimentary of General Manager John Hammond, assistant GM David Morway and head coach Larry Drew.
“On the basketball side right now, John, David and Larry – at least from all the dealings we’ve had – they’ve been doing a great job,” Lasry said. “On the business side, that needs some help. Right now, the focus is going to be there. And right now, the biggest focus is really on the draft.”
And although speculation on the job status of Hammond, Morway and Drew will undoubtedly continue, but there was no indication there were any changes ahead.
“[Drew has] had a lot of success in the NBA both as a player and a coach, so I think you start there,” Edens said. “The resumes of the people at the top of the organization are good resumes. Our interactions have been great.”
Lasry and Edens also reiterated that they’re still in the initial stages of getting to know Bucks personnel.
“The first real meeting we had with [Hammond and Morway] was yesterday,” Lasry said. “So it’s a bit early for all this stuff. We’re trying to spend as much time with John and David on the basketball operations side. They’ve given us a number of proposals that I think Wes and I need to go through, and we’re going to be going over that over the next couple days.”
-Edens said he and Lasry won’t necessarily specialize in any particular aspect of ownership, and plan to treat it like a true partnership.
“Marc and I have been friends for a long time,” Edens said. “In both of our businesses, we’ve had lots of partners in different situations. Forcing yourself to reach a consensus is a good thing. There are natural strengths that we each have that I think are very complementary, but it’s a real partnership.”
-Edens on his daughter’s Draft Lottery night fame: “I’m officially Mallory’s dad now. That’s for sure.”
-There was no clear consensus draft pick for the Bucks – picking at No. 2 – among the fans I talked to at the McGillycuddy’s event. Everyone has their individual favorites, but it seems that fans would be happy seeing Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid or Jabari Parker in a Bucks uniform next year.
-The Bucks will play in London’s O2 Arena against the New York Knicks on Jan. 15. It will be a home game for the Bucks, and the two owners were excited to be playing their hometown Knicks.
“It’s going to give us some great exposure,” said Edens. “I travel a lot – I was in Europe last week – and I think there’s a lot of interest in the NBA. Generally, in London, there will be a lot of buzz around it.”
-Edens provided the “initial spark” that ultimately led to buying the Bucks, said Lasry. The whole process between that spark and the purchase of the team was about 90 days.