Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban made a surprise appearance on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM’s Galloway and Company show Monday afternoon to discuss a plethora of topics. The first one was the team’s hiring of Gersson Rosas from Houston to be the team’s new general manager. He discussed his comments a little more about how the team might be better off without Dwight Howard. He also discussed the biggest gripe he has about analysts who are downplaying the Mavs going into this coming season.
Here is the quoteboard from Cuban’s appearance on Galloway and Company.
What was the genesis of adding Gersson Rosas?
Cuban: It was actually pretty straight forward. I went to Donnie (Nelson) and said, look, Donnie, we need to get smarter as an organization. We need to really expand what we’re doing. We try to take pride in being one of the most technologically advanced teams out in all of professional sports, not just in the NBA and to keep on pushing the envelope into new directions that I wanted to go. We wanted to add not just brainpower but organizational, management and process power. I asked Donnie to go out there and find out who we thought would be the person to do that. He came up with Gersson’s name. We’ve been talking to him for, I don’t know, maybe a month or so. We decided to go for it.
Gersson is General Manager because we thought that was the appropriate title, but he’ll report to Donnie. He’ll work closely with me. He’ll work closely with Casey Smith, Don Kalkstein. He’ll really just give us one more smart person to interact with and to help us make smarter decisions.
What was the timeline for this hire and how much of this was done due to Dwight’s decision or the fact that everyone has been looking at the Rockets as one that has a strong front office?
Cuban: It wasn’t any of that stuff. What it was, we really expanded our analytics. We’re developing and expanding what I’m calling bio-analytics and we’re expanding into other areas. If we want to keep pushing the envelope in new technology areas to try to give us an edge, you’ve got to have somebody who has experience in managing those things.
My strength is pushing the envelope. Donnie’s strength is in talent evaluation and pushing the international envelope. We really needed somebody with stronger organizational and management skills to pull these pieces together. As we continue to add new pieces, we just needed that strength. When we found somebody with that process and management skill like Gersson and also someone who has had experience working with an analytics group, working with a D-League team, working in talent evaluation, that was just an added plus that made him the perfect candidate.
What do you need to know more about in terms of analytics that you don’t already know?
Cuban: Traditional analytics we’ve been doing a long time and we think we’re pretty good at. You always want new viewpoints and Gersson will definitely bring that. The things he’s done with Daryl (Morey) in Houston, Daryl is really smart in analytics. I don’t expect a whole lot of new stuff there, but whatever we learn is great. We’re really starting to push the envelope in everything from genetic testing to blood analysis to performance technology.
We got rid of our strength and conditioning coach (10-year assistant Robert Hackett), not because he wasn’t a great strength and conditioning coach, but we felt like we needed someone who was more of an expert in performance technology science. When you start pushing the envelope in all of these new technical areas, which I think are going to change the face of how teams do business and we start looking in ways where we can better pick players based on so many different scientific areas and also try to extend their careers, you’ve got to have somebody who has extensive experience in managing a lot of diverse types of performance analytics. It’s hard to explain. You’ve got to have someone with good management skills to help organize and have all of these pieces talk to each other.
I’m not a strong hands-on manager. I think Donnie’s strength is in managing the day-to-day process and evaluation. I think that’s important when you add new departments and groups, particularly technical groups. We felt like Gersson, his ability to manage and improve processes and to integrate traditional NBA elements like scouting, the D-League team, like traditional analytics into some of the new directions that I’ll be pushing and Donnie will be pushing us into. We needed someone with his skill set.
Have you found a replacement for your strength and conditioning coach?
Cuban: We’re in that process right now.
How will it work when a team calls you about a prospective deal or player, who will be in charge of those talks?
Cuban: Typically, the way we worked is whoever has the best relationship takes or makes the call. There’s lot of times where agents will call me because I know the agent better. More often than not, the GMs will call Donnie.
There’s all kinds of, I don’t want to call mafias, but consortia that happen around the NBA where people with San Antonio pedigree have a great relationship, people who have worked with us or have had a long term relationship and moved between teams. Really, a lot of time doing deals and having conversations comes to which person has the best relationship with that general manager, president, owner or whoever does the talking for the other team. So, this just expands our ability. When it comes to finally making a decision, it’s always a group effort.
It’s never just, this is what we’re doing and everybody else just has to deal with it. It’s always a conversation and discussion where we try to make an informed decision. We really push people to offer their insights and opinions and we come to a consensus. It’s always more arts and science, so you want as many smart brains as you can that can contribute to the decision.
What do you think of your team right now, especially after you said that the team could be better without Dwight Howard?
Cuban: I’ve said it over and over again, when you sign one big free agent, you’re not going to fill all of your holes and it’s typically a two-year plan to not only have that superstar but also to fill those positions around that person. It still takes a team to win and you have to fill in the spots. It’s just like we’ve had Dirk for all of these years and we’ve continued to make trades and make trades to fill spots around him.
We started a season with (Drew) Gooden as our starting center and Tim Thomas as a backup, but we’ve evolved from that to get (Brendan) Haywood, Caron (Butler) and DeShawn Stevenson to grow that into a championship team.
My point was, we obviously went after Dwight. We were disappointed, that was our primary goal. We failed in that. It was unfortunate but that was the way it turned. We had a Plan B and the Plan B was to put together the best possible team that not only gives us a chance to compete this season but creates a foundation for future seasons, knowing that we still have max cap room and flexibility to improve our team going forward.
We’re in an industry that loves headline porn. The headline was, ‘Cuban say we’re better off with Dwight Howard.’ We wouldn’t have gone for Dwight Howard if we didn’t think it was the best approach for us. Once we didn’t get him, we knew that we could fill more roster spots and I think we did a great job of it.
Looking at what you have done with the roster, does this remind you of the style of players that you had a couple of years ago when you won?
Cuban: Absolutely. It was always team first, great chemistry, great locker room guys and guys who got along and played for each other. Mavericks basketball is moving the ball to the open man and letting him hit the open shot. I think we didn’t quite have that last year. Obviously, we went in looking to sign one-year deals in hopes that we could pop a big free agent. That didn’t work, we failed at that. Now, we’ve put together guys that we think are going to teach our young guys.
Calderon, as an example, is going to be training Shane Larkin and Gal Mekel. He’ll show them how to play basketball the right way. We think we got really like when we got Monta Ellis. We didn’t think he would be available. We were able to bring him in for a great price. We think he’s never been around a great team. He had it maybe his first or second year when they beat us in the playoffs but that fell apart. We don’t think he’s been in the type of organization that we have, either. We think he’s going to really be a contributor.
If there’s one missing piece between what everyone is saying and what we’re doing, everybody, I think, has dismissed Dirk (Nowitzki), like Dirk is done and he’s on the downside and he can’t play anymore and he’s not the type of contributor that he was. If you look at the mess that we had in terms of our guard play and basketball IQ, when Dirk came back and really got into gear, we beat a lot of good teams. I think we were at a 48 or 50-win clip. You put a much better set of players around him and Dirk is in a situation where he doesn’t have to rush back. He’s had all summer to prepare his body and get ready.
Knock on wood, if we stay healthy, I think people are just missing Dirk in ways they shouldn’t. Like I’ve been telling him, Karl Malone won an MVP at 35 and there’s no reason why he can’t be considered in an MVP conversation at 35. I can also tell you, the way people are just randomly dismissing him as being done has been incredible motivation for him as well.
How does he feel about where things are now, missing out on Dwight and the pieces that are on board now?
Cuban: Dirk is fired up. Yeah, he would have liked to have gotten Dwight, but we sat down and we told him what Plan B was and the types of guys we’re going after. Monta was a guy that Dirk loves. If you ask him about him, he’d say ‘can we get him, can we get him, can we get him?’
While everybody dismisses Monta and say he can’t do this and he can’t do that, you have to look at our history of integrating scorers like that. When we took (Jason Terry), we got him for Antoine Walker and everybody was so down on JET. He was this type of problem on the court, he didn’t care and etc.
I hate to say this about Antoine because I like the guy personally, but to show you what the Hawks felt about JET, they took Antonie Walker. Then, we add (Jerry Stackhouse) and in order to get us to take Stack, (Washington) had to give us the No. 5 pick, which turned into Devin Harris. We gave up Antawn Jamison who turned into an All-Star for them. We feel when you put a guy like Monta into our system with a player like Dirk, into our culture where I think we do a good job of integrating players, we think Monta can make the same advances and have the same improvements to his game.
You’re an optimistic guy and put the best foot forward when talking about your team, but you sound even more optimistic than normal.
Cuban: Look, the missing piece is everybody is dismissing Dirk. Everybody thinks Dirk is done. Maybe he can’t put up 30 a night. Maybe he’s not going to go for 50 when he wants to. He’s not going to have those, Dirk versus Tracy McGrady type battles, but he’s still going to demand a double team. He’s still going to be a guy we can go to get a bucket at the end of a game. Dirk is still going to be a guy that will get you buckets when you need them.
Now, we’ve added someone who can run a pick and roll with him and knows how to run it and knows how to use a screen.
I was shocked when people thought we signed a bad deal with Jose Calderon. First, the guy shot, what, 50 percent from three and the market for guys who just catch and shoot threes and do nothing else was higher than what we paid for Jose. Add to the fact, he knows how to play point guard, knows how to get Dirk the ball, he knows the game. He never turns it over. Literally, I was like, what are people thinking? He may not be the best defender, but it’s not like he was replacing a great defender.
I was really, really surprised by the response to Jose. I think he’s going to make us a much better team. I look at Shawn Marion. Marion is going to love playing with Calderon because Shawn knows how to use space as well as anybody in the game and we didn’t have a guy who could get him the ball. Dirk and Vince (Carter) were the two best passers to get the ball to him.
I just think there are so many things to get excited about but the number one thing is Dirk has a chance to prepare all summer. When he has his baby, maybe he’ll get some sleep. I’ve been pushing for them to get a night nurse.
It’s just shocking to me how people are just missing Dirk. Karl Malone won an MVP at 35. Maybe Dirk won’t win an MVP but trust me, Dirk can still play. If you look at Dirk at being 80 percent of what he was the year we won, if you put the pieces we have around him, plus Vince coming back, Brandan Wright coming back, Marion coming back. Samuel Dalembert is someone who can finally block shots and rebound. If we stay healthy, knock on wood, we can be decent.
Thoughts on Marion being discussed in trade rumors during the trade and during free agency.
Cuban: I was texting Marion all of the time. Always know this about the Mavericks: if you’re reading about it, it’s not true because will fire anybody who leaks stuff. I’m the only person allowed to leak anything if there’s a reason for it to be out. If you’re reading about it, it’s not true. When we do trades, when we sign people, it’s a surprise to anybody.
The fact that his name was out there means that some other teams were putting it out there to test the market. I’m not saying we didn’t take calls and didn’t have conversations about Shawn, but it had to be the right circumstance and the right situation and it never came close.