Wayne Embry Rumors

NBA Hall of Famer Wayne Embry, who was the first African American to become a general manager in pro sports, believes players should use their voices by continuing to play during the current protests while supporting the Black Lives Matter movement. “I’ve always been a proponent of sports being a model of a greater society because we come together from different cultures and different backgrounds and work toward a common goal,” Embry said. “Going ahead and playing now could be a model. I know I would play.
“We had a meeting. Some of the white players wanted to play. Most of the black players didn’t. Red [Auerbach] came to us and said Commissioner [J. Walter] Kennedy been in contact with mayors of both cities and they thought it was wise if we played because of the interest in the game. People would stay home to watch it. We had a debate. We didn’t want to see violence. Dr. King’s legacy had been nonviolent. So we played the game.” The Celtics won that night but the entire NBA shut down the playoffs for four days until after Dr. King had been buried. “We were in mourning, we very concerned what was going to happen,” Embry said. “Things calmed after the funeral. The communities moved from protest to mourning.”
During the league’s shutdown the Chicago Bulls hired Marc Eversley and the Detroit Pistons hired Troy Weaver, both African American, under the title of general manager. “The NBA has been at the forefront in diversity in sports. It doesn’t mean we can’t move further,” Embry said. “When it comes to hiring, those things go in cycles. But the NBA always looks to improve and we will still have the incentive to continue doing that.”
Wayne Embry remembers the shock and sorrow that swept through the Boston Celtics when Martin Luther King Jr., was assassinated hours before Game 1 of the 1968 Eastern Division finals. That April 5 game in Philadelphia, a day after King’s death, almost didn’t happen. “Our immediate reaction was we will not play the game,” said Embry, who spent the day of the game wrestling with his grief in the hotel room he shared with Don Nelson. “Players were just shaken, all the emotions you can probably think of. We just thought ‘We will not play the game.'” Eight of the game’s 10 starters were Black, including Bill Russell, one of the most vocal athletes during the civil rights movement.
As racial unrest exploded in cities across the U.S., Celtics general manager Red Auerbach believed playing would keep people off the streets. “So, of course we had to go out compete, but in the back of our minds, the Sixers and Celtics players shared grief and were visibly upset and disturbed about what had happened. But we still went out and played,” said Embry, who is now the Toronto Raptors’ senior basketball adviser. The mood was eerie that night The Spectrum as the Celtics beat Philly 127-118.
“Basketball, or entertainment, isn’t needed at this moment, and will only be a distraction,” Howard said in a statement. “I would love nothing more than to win my very first NBA championship. But the unity of my people would be an even bigger championships that’s just too beautiful to pass up.” Embry understands the sentiment, but doesn’t agree with it. “I would play because I think through sports we can be a model for the greater society in that we come from diverse backgrounds, we come together to work toward a common goal and that’s to win the championship in a team sport,” Embry said. “I think we can be a model for the greater society, so that’s why I think I would play.”
Storyline: Season Resuming?
“We have established a very good relationship,’’ Embry said of Sikma, whose step-back, behind-the-head shot was virtually unstoppable. “I was very happy he (Sikma) asked me to do this. “He’s a good person, No. 1, and he was a very good player. He was one of the most underrated centers ever and that’s because he played during a time when there were a lot of great centers like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Moses Malone and others. “Jack is very deserving of being in the Hall.’’
When James announced he was leaving the Cavs for the Lakers on July 1, 2018, the Raptors suddenly had hope. Embry said jiri talked about doing something bold – find a star. The door to the NBA Finals suddenly seemed open when James went West. “Then the trade for Kawhi (Leonard) came up,” said Embry. “We talked about it a lot. It was a high risk/high reward deal.”
Every night I watch Giannis Antetokounmpo and feel like I see him do something I’ve never seen before in each game he plays. Did watching Kareem Abdul-Jabbar develop in Milwaukee feel the same way? What was it like watching him develop as a player? Wayne Embry: You watched greatness every night. From high school to college through the pros, you just watched his greatness. The league hadn’t seen a person his size and length with the skill and the ability to do as many things on the basketball court as he could. I just remember that hook shot in the corner in the sixth game against Boston; you didn’t see many guys do that. He just hooked the ball, that hook shot he was famous for. Left or right. He could dribble. He could just do so many things on the basketball court from high school on. I had seen him play in high school because when I was a player, we practiced at Harlem Memorial High School where he went to high school in New York. So, we got a chance to see him – not in games – but in practices and that sort of thing and then, of course, we saw him a lot at UCLA. Milwaukee had greatness. They have greatness now too.
Colangelo leaned on one of his mentors, Pete Newell, a legendary coach and basketball luminary. Newell visited Phoenix and Colangelo presented his concerns and general goals the afternoon prior to a Suns game, and the conversation continued at the arena and over a glass of wine following the game. The next morning, Newell delivered a six-page outline on the various concepts and ideas laid out over the course of the previous day. Soon after, in the early spring, Colangelo’s committee, which included heavy hitters such as Jerry West, Wayne Embry, Jack Ramsay and Rod Thorn, in addition to a handful of active coaches and general managers, convened at The Phoenician resort in Scottsdale, Arizona. The committee plowed through the proposals, which included requiring teams to bring the ball over half court in eight seconds rather than 10. (Colangelo had suggested seven seconds.) The NBA’s illegal defense rule, which had existed in one form or another to prohibit zone defenses since the league’s earliest days, was scrapped. Instead, the committee proposed the defensive three-second rule, preventing defenders from loitering in the paint but allowing them to defend an area rather than an opponent elsewhere on the court.
2 years ago via ESPN
Wayne Embry remembers like it happened yesterday. Now 80 years old and a consultant for the Toronto Raptors, Embry recalled how, when he was the general manager of the Milwaukee Bucks in the early ’70s, he lobbied the team’s hierarchy to draft an insanely athletic player from the East Coast.That was Julius Erving, aka Dr. J. If not for some legal issues and some behind-the-scenes shenanigans, Erving would have joined the Bucks and, with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Oscar Robertson, formed perhaps the greatest triumvirate of players ever assembled.
“Now fast forward, in 1972, I’m the general manager of the Bucks and we had two draft picks that year. So I told ownership that I was going to draft – I forget the player we drafted (Russell Lee of Marshall with the sixth overall selection) — but, with the second pick in the first round, I said I would like to draft Julius Erving. I told them he’s playing in the ABA (with the Virginia Squires) and he’s going to be a great player. “They didn’t know who he was. They had never heard of him. They said, ‘Are you sure want to waste a draft pick on him?’ And, again, I told him he is playing in the ABA; that’s when the ABA just started out, and that I think we just ought to take a chance and draft him because we don’t know if the ABA is going to last.
“Well, I sat there and sat there and sat there and eventually I saw a person come out of his office and head down the hallway the other way. Well, it was Pat Williams of Philadelphia 76ers. And so I go in to talk with Irwin and he said, ‘Wayne, we just signed with Philadelphia.’ So Doc never came to Milwaukee but we did get a second round pick from Atlanta and with that pick we signed Alex English, yet another hall of famer. “From what I understand, the reason why he didn’t want to come to Milwaukee was because he didn’t want to be the third wheel behind Oscar (Robertson) and Abdul-Jabbar. That’s what he said later on. He wanted to be his own man and have his own team. We also had (Bob) Dandridge on our team and he was a very good player, too. (a five-time All-Star).
NBA.com: What do you remember about Jerry Krause? Wayne Embry: He was a hard worker. Whether it be his work in the NBA or his work in baseball. Very much attended to detail, too. He was, I would think for his time, innovative in his approach, looking for things other people may not have thought to look for. Players’ extended family, that sort of thing. He was really dedicated to what he did.
Storyline: Jerry Krause Death
NBA.com: That’s right. In January 1973, a house that Abdul-Jabbar owned in D.C. was targeted in a home invasion. [Terrorists murdered several people in an attack on the player’s spiritual teacher Hamaas Abdul Khaalis, a rival of Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad. Abdul-Jabbar was not present at the time.] WE: That took Washington out, so it got down to the Lakers or the Knicks. We did everything we could do to talk him out of wanting to be traded. But he said, “Nope. If you don’t, I’ll become a free agent or I’ll sign with the ABA.” Of course we didn’t want that to happen. So we decided to keep it quiet. “Let’s not go public until we have a deal.”
And when I told Don Nelson – my roommate in Boston – that he was going to take over, he said “I’m not ready to coach.” I told him, “Nellie, you’re the coach. So let’s go for it.” He grew with the team and became obviously a Hall of Fame coach. That’s the reward, when you make decisions like that and they turn out well. That’s the pleasure I get now in an advisory capacity with Toronto. I tell the team when I speak to them before the season, my greatest joy is seeing others succeed.
And, as befitting the insane nature of his profession, he was the longest-tenured coach in the Eastern Conference at the time. There’s pressure on the coach, of course and they’re ultimately judged by their won-loss record. But the GM wants to keep his job secure, too. “It’s always difficult,” Embry said. “The person is aspiring, and they obviously think they can do the job. At the end of the day you have to be satisfied with what you’ve heard and what you know. You want to know as much as you can about the person, part with the money they’re asking for these days.”
“I’ve observed Danny Ferry and his family for many years and I can say Danny Ferry is not a racist,” said Wayne Embry, who was the NBA’s first African-American general manager with the Milwaukee Bucks in 1971. “I don’t know all the circumstances, but in the capacity of a president or general manager, you have to do your due diligence on players. It is a responsible way to act.”
Former Cavaliers general manager Wayne Embry is 76 — one year older than Oscar Robertson, his former roommate, who turns 75 today, “Pound for pound, inch for inch, I think Oscar was the greatest player of all time,” Embry has told anyone who asks for years. So Robertson deserves to be included in the GOAT discussion along with Jordan and James, Embry was asked. “I think it’s the others who should be included in the discussion,” he said, emphatically. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, 66, agrees. According to an article by Steve Aschburner on NBA.com, Abdul-Jabbar, who won an NBA title with Robertson in Milwaukee in 1971, recently weighed in on the subject, telling ESPN Radio, “LeBron is awesome, MJ was awesome, but I think Oscar Robertson would have kicked them both in the behind.”
According to multiple NBA sources, Colangelo is about to be moved into an unspecified corporate role with MLSE, leaving his Raptors post as president and general manager’s open. The top — and most successful — name being kicked around is Ujiri, named the league’s executive of the year earlier this month by other league execs. Ujiri has close ties to the Raptors, having worked for three years in Toronto as the director of global scouting and assistant GM. His close allegiance to Colangelo and senior advisor Wayne Embry will be a factor, however, in any decision on his suitability.
Embry said he never felt any ill effects from his status as “the black GM” in his pioneer days on the job. He wouldn’t even admit to suspicions that this rival or that team might have been reluctant to deal with him, or over- or under-estimated him, because of his race. “I don’t know what people think when I’m not around. But I never saw it,” he said. “From the commissioner’s office right on down, I was accepted and well-respected. … One thing that really helped with my transition into the job was that Pete Newell [of the Lakers] and some of the other veteran GMs really welcomed me and respected my position. I don’t think it mattered with them one way or the other.”
That’s one reason Embry noticed, and cringed, during the NBA lockout when first sportscaster Bryant Gumble, then NBPA attorney Jeffrey Kessler used “plantation” imagery in talking about the labor dispute and commissioner David Stern. “I would always defend David on that,” Embry said. “David has been very progressive. There’s been a conscious effort on the part of the league, institutionally, because you see the progress that’s been made. There are still individuals who still have a few issues, but I’ll let that be their problem. As far as an institution, the NBA has been far — well, not far now, the others are catching up — but at the forefront.” Embry’s grade for the NBA in race relations, across his 54 years in it? “An ‘A.’ ”
Embry, a consultant for the Toronto Raptors, is prohibited from discussing any lockout. But in his book, “The Inside Game: Race, Power and Politics in the NBA,” he wrote about 1998-99 season: “Whatever teams were in the best shape would definitely have an advantage in the short schedule. We were not one of them. We were all disappointed in Shawn’s physical condition. With the money we were paying him, we had every reason to expect him to stay in shape. It was not as if he could not afford to hire people to help him do that. “The Cleveland Clinic nutritionist put him on a diet, but Shawn did not have the discipline to adhere to it. We even offered to have a chef go to his house and prepare meals for him. … I told Shawn the same thing I told Mel Turpin years ago, ‘I don’t want anyone playing for me that weighs more than me.’ That did not work either.”
Former Bucks general manager Wayne Embry, who was in the audience Friday, said he was very moved by watching the film and thinking of the impact those players and Rens founder Bobby Douglas had on his own career. “This is really quite emotional for me and quite compelling,” Embry said. And Abdul-Jabbar said making the film was an educational experience for him, even though he grew up in Harlem. “I had never heard of them; I had only heard of the Globetrotters,” Abdul-Jabbar said of the Rens. “It was interesting. A lot of them had touched my life without me knowing about it. “John Isaacs (former Rens player who died at age 93 in 2009 but spoke eloquently in the film) and other people who were associated with the Rens used to come see me play when I was in high school. I caught up to all of this later in life, late in my professional basketball career. “After I stopped playing professional basketball, I read about them in depth and wanted to do this, basically to pay homage to my community. I was born and raised in Harlem, and I wanted people to know about it.”
The Raptors continue to attract the attention of the NBA and speculation about the future abounds. On Thursday, team sources quickly refuted an online report that said the organization is ready to pass on the general manager’s duties to consultant Wayne Embry if the decision is made not to renew the contract of president and general manager Bryan Colangelo. “People just try to find the logical speculation,” one team official said.
Colangelo continues to prepare for the draft and free agency, which may not actually happen until after a lockout rewrites many of the rules; ESPN’s highly respected basketball reporter, Marc Stein, wrote Wednesday that MLSE is ready to install the 74-year-old Wayne Embry in as a temporary measure, perhaps even before the draft, if need be. Embry, of course, is the wise man who foisted Jalen Rose off on New York in his brief but productive stage-setting turn before Colangelo got here in the first place. Whether he’s ready to run a draft, nobody knows; if he can, since a lockout may result in the NBA shutting its doors for rather a long time, maybe a temporary GM wouldn’t be the worst-case scenario. But as the Leafs demonstrated, when you enter a new ecosystem, you’d sure as hell better have the right man in charge.
One possibility management is considering, sources said, is naming Raptors special advisor Wayne Embry as interim GM. In that scenario, Embry and longtime Raptors scouting director Jim Kelly would then either be asked to oversee Toronto’s draft in Colangelo’s place, or Embry would simply become interim GM as of July 1. Embry, 74, has already served as interim GM for the Raps once before, taking temporary charge of the team’s basketball operations in January 2006 from the ousted Rob Babcock — even making two trades before the trade deadline that season — before Colangelo was hired on Feb. 28, 2006.
There are likewise plenty of observers who believe Colangelo, given his experience dealing with changes to the league’s economic system and his overall body of work in both Phoenix and Toronto, deserves at least one more season to run the point on Toronto’s post-Chris Bosh rebuild. However … Sources close to the situation told ESPN.com this week that the Raptors do have a backup plan if the current management — at the urging of staunch anti-Colangelo board member Glen Silvestri — decides it’s best to make an immediate change. Or a change after June 30.