The Cuban Mess and Crisis

Has a team who made the playoffs and has a perennial MVP candidate ever lost its general manager and head coach in the same offseason? Our research department here at Cosas Totum has been up day and night trying to find such a precedent.

The next few months will define Mark Cuban’s legacy as owner of the Mavericks. The 2011 title continues to age like a fine wine, but Dirk, Carlisle, and Donnie are the rightful and primary faces of that legendary and unique run.

But the Cubes stands at his most vital and harrowing crossroads yet. The man who basically claimed he kept a sexual abuser on staff so he could keep an eye on him already has skeptical eyes on him in regards to managing a healthy organization. And now given the fireworks of the last week, his chops as the leader of a basketball team will be put to the ultimate test. The frightening part is that the very mess he has to clean up is one that he created.

Cuban laughably and staunchly pushed back against Tim Cato’s explosive piece last weekend that has proven nothing short of stellar journalism.

Since then, the longest tenured GM in the league has been shoved out the door, and the second longest tenured coach in the league chose to walk out the door as well. Everything that you say publicly is what’s bullshit, Mark.

So what’s next?

Who the hell knows. Despite Cuban’s piss-poor personnel management, he’s not a moron. He knows that Luka Doncic is the golden goose and is likely filtering all decisions through a lens of keeping him happy. It’s hard untangle the rumors and sift through noise at the moment, but things have really crystalized over the last 48 hours. The most ominous elephant still remains in the room though. Haralabos Voulgaris is still standing, and the reporting that he has Cuban’s ear has held up by his survival. Maybe he still goes once his contract ends later this summer, but if he steps into the GM void, we should be alarmed. The smoke of Cato’s reporting proved a true fire was coming, and given its credence thus far, it’s hard to believe that the very thesis of that article, that Luka and Voulgaris are at odds, would be off base. It’s really hard to imagine Cuban keeping him around if Luka feels that way towards him, so if he’s still around by the start of the season, our eyebrows should be raised. The Dirk hire as a special counsel to the franchise is a positive looking move. The cynic in me smells a savvy PR move by Cuban to get the wolves to back off a bit, because who could ever criticize bringing Dirk more into the fold? The optimist sees it as a healthy sign indicating Cuban isn’t *totally* toxic and he hasn’t burned all bridges yet.

A pivotal summer

This may be the most immediate and troubling headline of all this mess though. Luka needs more help and a different team construct around him. To avoid an Anthony Davis like fallout, Luka and the Mavs have to start winning and winning now. Anything short of a playoff series win next year will be more writing on the wall for Luka’s eventual departure. Dallas was already heading into a massive summer with potential max cap space, big money decisions on current players like Tim Hardaway Jr. and Jalen Brunson, and of course the Kristaps quandry. And now, who’s going to be making those decisions? Cuban will. It was always Cuban at the end of the day, and it’s inconceivable to imagine him relinquishing control when such opportunity sits right in front of him, especially given time constraints. A search firm has already been hired to find the next Mavericks President of Basketball Operations, and Michael Finley is considered a frontrunner for that position. Jamahl Mosley is also considered a favorite to set up from his assistant role to fill Carlisle’s shoes. If these two well-liked but inexperienced internal candidates do indeed step up, it’ll be clear that Cuban has an even stronger stranglehold on all decisions, and he dictated it all. If an outside coach and GM step in, Mavs faithful should be encouraged that Cuban has more interest in winning than doing things his way. I’m just not that optimistic. This organization, aka Cuban, has lost the chance to be given the benefit of the doubt. But the most important thing to remember in all of this is that winning will heal all wounds, and when you have an MVP-caliber guy like Luka, you’re really not that far away.

Buckle up

What a clean slate we have here in Dallas. To all those clamoring (like me) that this is a moment of opportunity, and that GMs and coaches will be lining up to come work with a team led by a future MVP, we need to re-calibrate ourselves a bit. The reality is, when first-class guys like Donnie and Rick leave, the brightest of warning flares go up in the sky to any potential suitors.

Because the painful reality is, if guys like Masai Ujiri somehow ever consider coming to work in Dallas, their first thought isn’t going to be working with Luka Doncic, it’ll be working under the biggest maverick in the league and one whose house is in total disarray, thanks to him. Cuban has made this bed, is dancing with the devil, playing Slovenian roulette with a future Hall of Famer in a time where players have more power than ever, and gambling on himself in the most cavalier of ways. Let’s see what you got, Mark.

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