By Shams Charania, David Aldridge, Josh Robbins and Law Murray
LA Clippers general manager Michael Winger has agreed to become the president of Monumental Basketball, parent company of the Washington Wizards, Mystics and the G League Go-Go, league sources confirmed to The Athletic on Wednesday. The news was first reported by ESPN. Here’s what you need to know:
- Winger will replace Tommy Sheppard, who was fired as president and general manager of the Wizards in April, as the team’s top personnel executive. He’ll also oversee the Mystics and Go-Go.
- Winger was the second known candidate to formally interview for the position, along with New Orleans Pelicans general manager Trajan Langdon, as first reported by The Athletic.
- Winger had served in the Clippers GM role since 2017. Prior to working with the post-Lob City Clippers, he was with the Oklahoma City Thunder under Sam Presti and the Cleveland Cavaliers under Danny Ferry.
- The Clippers have had a winning record every season with Winger in the front office.
The Athletic’s instant analysis:
Why Washington went this direction
Monumental Sports & Entertainment CEO Ted Leonsis has long viewed the Clippers as an organization to emulate, and he’s proven it by hiring away Steve Ballmer’s GM, who was reportedly making significant coin, as his new basketball boss. Winger has an analytical bent, having worked with Sam Presti in Oklahoma City before going to Los Angeles in 2017 to replace Doc Rivers as the Clippers’ GM. He will have a familiar face on board with the Wizards, as he and Washington’s assistant GM Frank Ross worked together in OKC.
Winger prefers the background rather than being out front, people who’ve worked with him say. But he could be a good match with Wizards coach Wes Unseld Jr., who also leans into advanced stats as part of his nightly game planning. — Aldridge
How Winger fared in Los Angeles
When the LA Clippers stripped Rivers of the lead personnel job in the front office and promoted Lawrence Frank to president of basketball operations in the 2017 offseason, Frank needed to backfill a position. He did that by tapping Winger from the Oklahoma City Thunder front office. Frank has a coaching background, leading the Nets and Pistons as a head coach as well as teams such as Rivers’ Celtics and Clippers as an assistant. Winger complemented Frank as someone with years of front-office experience going back to Oklahoma City and Cleveland.
The partnership of Frank and Winger allowed the Clippers to seamlessly move on from the Lob City era without a losing season and into the current era with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. While the Clippers have only won three playoff series since hiring Winger, they did successfully reload to give themselves a title window that is unfulfilled as of now.
The Clippers will move forward in Winger’s stead with what the team believes is a deep front office. This is a critical offseason. Teams continue to monitor coach Tyronn Lue’s status despite being under contract, Leonard has a torn meniscus, both Leonard and George are extension eligible, and the team has a fast-closing title window before moving into Intuit Dome in 2024. Now, they have to figure it all out without Winger. — Murray
After firing Sheppard, Leonsis said he intended to fill the role with someone from outside the organization. The Wizards’ search for Sheppard’s replacement was ownership-led, with contributions from key advisors, including John Thompson III, the team’s vice president of player development and engagement.
Washington went 35-47 in each of the last two seasons with Unseld as coach. The Wizards have made the playoffs five times since the 2013-14 season, but haven’t advanced past the first round since 2016-17.
(Photo: Scott Taetsch / Getty Images)