Kohl deserves some credit for Bucks’ resurgence

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Michael Hunt
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
— About the time the Milwaukee Bucks began making their move toward the playoffs, I saw Herb Kohl at an east-side diner. He was sitting at the counter with a stack of papers.

It being a weekend, I halfway wondered if the senator might be using his free time on the country’s business. When I went over to say hello, I noticed he had been studying box scores.

Never let it be said that Kohl and the team are ever really separated.

That’s always been the good thing and the bad thing about the senator during his 25-year ownership of the Bucks.

When things are going poorly, as they often have, he’s too involved, too meddlesome, even if it is his team, his money and he’s free to do with both as he pleases.

But when things are going as they are at the moment, the low-profile owner never gets credit.

We’ve credited the players, the general manager and the coach for a regular season that has played out far beyond expectations, as well as a future that looks encouraging.

It’s time to recognize Kohl’s part in all of this.

Just as he was responsible for a litany of poor hires and awful seasons before and after the George Karl/Ernie Grunfeld run, he must be acknowledged for once again bringing aboard two good basketball people in John Hammond and Scott Skiles and giving them the freedom to do their jobs.

“That’s all Scott and I can ask for,” Hammond said.

It’s not that Kohl has suddenly disassociated himself from major decisions. That’s never going to happen. But like anyone at the top, when Kohl surrounds himself with competence, there is a balance to his leadership.

Not so long ago, he was talked into the ruinous Ray Allen trade and Anthony Mason signing, so that was that for Karl and Grunfeld. A few years later, Kohl correctly vetoed a done-deal trade for Zach Randolph after he had lost confidence in an overmatched general manager.

This season became special after Kohl signed off on two unorthodox moves: The drafting of Brandon Jennings, who wasn’t on many radar screens after he circumvented NBA’s one-year college rule; and potentially giving a division rival offseason cap room by trading for John Salmons.

“It’s obvious from the moves that we’ve made that we’ve had to come to an agreement and a consensus on them, otherwise we wouldn’t have been able to do them,” Skiles said. “We’ve made moves that have seemed a little controversial. John and the senator deserve credit for that.

“John and I talk to him often. He’s been supportive of what we’re trying to do. He’s obviously very, very fond of the city and the franchise. That’s probably putting it lightly. It means an awful lot to him, and he wants to feel like it’s moving in the right direction.”

As long as Kohl feels that way, he has a history of allowing basketball people to make basketball decisions.

You cannot deny Kohl’s steadfast commitment to the Bucks as a permanent community asset. He has twice averted potential relocations and, as a rich man who accepts the realities of pro-sports ownership, is willing to lose money in a small market.

Nor can it ever be said that Kohl has cheaped-out. He has always spent but not always wisely. And does he ever love that team.

The night after the Bucks clinched their first playoff berth in four years, Kohl made a rare trip to the locker room to shake Jennings’ hand.

“He seems like a cool guy,” the rookie said. “He takes care of the players. He allowed us to meet (President) Obama. That was big of him for doing that for us.

“Everything he does for us, I’m really appreciative.”

Last updated: 1:36 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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