Baltimore was devastated in 1984 when Colts owner Robert Irsay skipped town in the middle of the night and took his Colts with him to Indianapolis. Oakland has been miserable in the past five or so years because of Al Davis' control over the Raiders. Los Angeles has suffered for decades with the incompetent micromanagement of Clippers head honcho Donald Sterling.
A bad player can ruin a season in any sport, but with a bad owner, you could be in for years or decades of futility. No doubt, an inept owner can ruin you.
But a great one can empower you. Having the right guy calling the shots and signing the paychecks can put you on the fast track to greatness.
That's why the Celtics are so blessed to have their principal owner, Wyc Grousbeck – he's a smart, pragmatic owner who's committed to winning, no matter the price.
For proof of that, look no further than Grousbeck's interview this past weekend with The Boston Globe's Gary Washburn.
The big concern going into this summer, with a major realigning offseason on the way for both the Celtics and the NBA at large, was whether the C's organization would be able to spend the cash to retain all their core guys. The luxury tax threshold for the 2010-11 season had been raised to just over $70 million, but Grousbeck and his front office looked poised to obliterate that mark. They had Paul Pierce and Ray Allen knocking on the door, asking for monster contracts, and it was time to make a decision — either put up the cash, or give up the title hunt.
But for Grousbeck, there was never a decision at all.
"When you are leading a Game 7 and then you lose, I think everybody on that team naturally wants to come back together, try to get back to the mountaintop," Grousbeck told the Globe. "So I was not that worried about bringing the guys back together."
Despite the deterrent of a dollar-for-dollar tax on the cash Grousbeck spent over that $70.307 million threshold, Grousbeck spent his hard-earned cash on his Celtics with no fear. He dropped $61 million on re-upping Pierce for four years, a cool $20 mil on keeping Allen, a mid-level deal of $12 million over two years to bring in Jermaine O'Neal and then, even with his payroll bloated and his roster seemingly good to go for the season, he went out and spent the veteran's minimum to bring in Shaquille O'Neal, as well.
It seemed exorbitant, but it was all about winning, and Grousbeck wanted to bolster his roster by adding a man on a mission.
"The minute I heard Kobe [Bryant] say he had one more ring than Shaq, I said to Danny [Ainge], 'Let's go get Shaq,'" said Grousbeck. "And it happened."
Just like the NBA's great players — Kobe, Shaq, Kevin Garnett — are fierce competitors, the great owners are, too. Grousbeck knows how close his team came to bringing an 18th banner back to Boston in 2010, and he's stopping at nothing to try again in 2011. The competitive spirit inside the Celtics' owner isn't going away.
"We live and die with this team, and died in June," Grousbeck told the Globe. "We almost had it. We spent all summer trying to get back, and we appreciate what Doc [Rivers] and Paul and Ray did, reupping. We appreciate what Shaq and Jermaine did. We’ve got Rajon Rondo coming into his prime. We’ve got KG and now we have Paul and Ray again. We were leading Game 7 by 13 points, and we needed some more rebounding. We added three 7-footers. We lost fair and square. We’re coming back after it."
Grousbeck's also not shying away from anyone.
"We got a bunch of butt-kickers on this team," he said. "And a bunch of tough basketball players on this team. We’re a long way from saying we’re a good team yet — that will show on the court. It’s going to be a great season for the NBA. … I am glad I got a championship ring, and I want another one."
The competition will be fierce this season. Kobe and the Lakers will be out to defend their championship, Dwight Howard's Magic will be out for revenge after falling short against the Celtics last spring, and LeBron James and Dwyane Wade have joined forces to form a Goliath of a title contender in Miami.
But Wyc Grousbeck is determined to beat them all, and he's assembled a team that can get it done.