Milwaukee Bucks find replacement GM

MILWAUKEE (MCT) – Milwaukee Bucks owner Herb Kohl has witnessed first-hand the Detroit Pistons’ domination of the Central Division during the past decade.

So it wasn’t too surprising that the senator plucked a rising executive in the Pistons organization to try to revive the Bucks’ sagging

fortunes.

The Bucks confirmed Friday night that they had hired John Hammond as their new general manager, replacing Larry Harris, who was fired March 19. Hammond was formally introduced at a news conference at 4 p.m. CDT on Saturday at the Bradley Center.

“It was a case of right time, right place for me,” Hammond said in a phone interview from Detroit on Friday night. “I wanted to get an opportunity to work with good people. Sen. Kohl is a good man, a very good owner, and I really believe he wants to win.

“You just want to do everything possible to help this organization be successful again.”

Hammond has served as the Pistons’ vice president of basketball operations for the past six years. Before that he spent one year as the team’s director of player personnel and five seasons as a scouting director and assistant coach, serving as an assistant under Doug Collins in the late 1990s.

Hammond, 53, has played a major part in the Pistons’ recent success and has worked closely with Detroit president of basketball operations Joe Dumars. Over nearly seven full seasons under the guidance of Dumars and Hammond, the Pistons have won six Central Division titles and reached the last five Eastern Conference finals, compiling a gaudy record of 380-190.

Now Hammond, who grew up near the Wisconsin border in Zion, Ill., watching the Bucks featuring Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Oscar Robertson, will get a chance to run his own NBA franchise.

“It feels good,” Hammond said. “There’s confidence, but a little apprehension. I think that’s healthy. There’s no fear involved. But it (apprehension) will push you to work as hard as you can to be successful.”

Hammond met twice with Kohl, with the last meeting coming Thursday night. On Friday, Hammond agreed to a multiyear deal to join the Bucks.

Hammond and Dumars made a strong front-office duo in Detroit and experienced remarkable success.

“John has been great to work with and, of course, I think he’s going to do a great job for Milwaukee,” Dumars said before Detroit played Washington on Friday night. “He’s one of my closest friends.”

Hammond said he gained valuable experience while working with Dumars, the former Pistons star who was named the Sporting News NBA executive of the year in 2003.

“Anytime you have a chance to run your own organization, you take it. John has been an important part of the success this organization has had,” said Detroit coach Flip Saunders

It is expected that Hammond will hire a veteran coach to direct the Bucks, and he has worked closely during his career with both Larry Brown and Rick Carlisle. Bucks coach Larry Krystkowiak has one year left on his contract, after his first full season as the franchise’s head coach.

“A decision has not been made on Larry at this point,” Hammond said. “Those things will be addressed at a later date.”

Milwaukee has posted a woeful 26-53 record and has failed to even reach its total of 28 victories from last season, when the team was decimated by injuries. With two games left on the season, the team is headed for the draft lottery for the third time in the last four seasons.

Hammond graduated from Greenville College in Greenville, Ill., about 45 miles from St. Louis. Before entering the NBA, he spent six seasons as an assistant coach at Southwest Missouri State and also was at Houston Baptist and Nebraska.

Hammond admitted he cheered for both the Bucks and Chicago Bulls while growing up in Zion, and he would make the trip to the Milwaukee Arena as a youngster to watch Abdul-Jabbar and Robertson.

“Where I grew up was the halfway point between Chicago and Milwaukee, and you could always pull for both teams,” he said. “That’s what I did.”

Hammond has been considered for general manager positions in the past, and he interviewed for jobs in Toronto and Portland, but elected to stay in Detroit.

Hammond was part of a Detroit front office that acquired major talent in trades like Rip Hamilton and Rasheed Wallace while scoring through free agency with Chauncey Billups and Antonio McDyess.

“I think Joe has done a tremendous job here in Detroit, in evaluating talent, keeping guys together and keeping `em believing,” said Pistons assistant and former Bucks head coach Terry Porter.

“He’s found guys from different teams, and he’s got a core group of guys that play with a lot of fire. And I’m sure John has been around the league a long time and has quite a few contacts. He has a good sense of things and has been under a winning system.”