DALLAS - A sports franchise's press conference to introduce new basketball leadership does not necessarily require a bunch of chairs perched on a podium.
Nico Harrison is the new GM. He gets a chair on stage.
Jason Kidd is the new head coach. He gets a chair on stage.
And why on Thursday here at the AAC did Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban get a chair on stage? Because, as Cuban answered when quizzed about who on this management team "makes the final call'' ...
“I always do,'' he said. "Because it’s a lot of money.”
There is nothing inherently wrong with Cuban as "the hands-on owner.'' Yes, I know the DFW crowd often makes lazy comparisons here to Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, but I'll say it again: Even with Jerry, there is nothing inherently wrong with the arrangement. I've written that for more than 30 years regarding the Cowboys and for more than 20 years regarding the Mavs and not even this organization's recent front-office foibles have convinced me otherwise.
But when "Tony Cubes'' addressed the changes that bring Harrison and Kidd to town by saying, "I just thought it was time for a new voice. The league has changed. Players have changed. The way you build a championship team has changed, and sometimes you just need to have a different toolset."
But if Mark is still "The Decider'' - and make no mistake, he is - who is the "new voice''?
Is it Harrison, replacing ousted 24-year GM Donnie Nelson? In a sense, though his accomplishments as a Nike exec guarantee nothing here beyond "connections.'' If Nico is able to "connect'' (and get signed to) Dallas premium talent? He'll be a successful GM. But Harrison's insistence that he's "evaluated the last 19 drafts'' is accurate only out of context. He's done "evaluations'' of prospects due shoe contracts. And I assume he's written up some of those contracts.
But that is hardly the same as being a scout, a contract expert, a cap wiz and a trade negotiator. Nico - impressive resume aside - recently insisted, "I'm not a newbie'' ... which is exactly the sort of thing a newbie says.
This is not Kidd's first rodeo; it's his third, as the former Mavs player, in two stints, acknowledged. But he's assembling coaching staff help (see some names below) ...
And Nico is doing the same. I've been told that the reason assistant GM Michael Finley skipped the presser is that he is not presently under contract. But I've also been told Harrison (and Cuban) want Finley to stay. And the invaluable Keith Grant remains a front-office key. Meanwhile, the audience was dotted with staffers who also figure to stay ...
But along with Finley's conspicuous absence, the question was raised about the status of "shadow GM'' Bob Voulgaris, the analytics/gambler who ruffled the feathers of Donnie (gone), coach Rick Carlisle (gone) and even Luka Doncic himself (due to sign his extension on Aug. 6, so hopefully, never gone).
READ MORE: Kidd Speaks On Luka Doncic 'Beautiful Thing'
Maybe the analytics department should, using a customary organizational chart, work at the behest of the GM. So, y'all, what about "The Gambler'' who, like Finley, might be out of contract?
What About Bob?
"I don't talk about who's on the payroll,'' said Cuban - an answer delivered in a manner that suggests he's hiding something. Oh, and an answer delivered during a press conference that was specifically designed to announce who is on the payroll.
Mark Cuban is the Mavs boss. Not just the owner; the boss. We will never know what would've happened has CEO Cynt Marshall disapproved of the Kidd idea, but I sense the CEO isn't going to veto her boss. When an agent wants to negotiate a contract, who is the one answering the phone? When a team wants to initiate a trade, who heads up that call? (Should they call Nico? Maybe, but when it's time to pull the trigger, Nico will simply be calling Cuban, right?) And when the Mavs want to pursue a player? Want to make a tough decision on, say, Kawhi Leonard, and get Kawhi to make a tough decision on them?
The Nico connection, the Kidd respect and the Luka appeal should all be in play.
But it'll be Cuban's deal.
In the coming days (hours?), DallasBasketball.com will attempt to sit down with Cuban, as he has generously done with us so often over the course of 22 years, for more clarity. I would love to hear him say that it's a "team effort'' but that eventually, Nico will be the leader of the basketball-related team matters - with Cuban listening, advising, listening some more ... and then writing the check.
I would also like DBcom to talk to Cuban to verify what I know about Finley. And maybe even to ask for some Voulgaris truths.
But as of Thursday, and pending that sit-down transparency?
"I do understand that you can’t give somebody responsibility without also giving them authority,'' Cuban said about a "hierarchy'' that he said is "new'' but actually sounds quite familiar. "But at the end of the day, the reality is when you’re making commitments for $50-, $100-, $200-million, the person who writes the checks has to be the one who signs off on it.”
Added Cuban with a nudge across the podium, "You're OK with that, right, Nico?''
“Sounds good to me,” Harrison replied.
None of this dooms the Mavs. Cuban's passion and Doncic's gifts can be part of a successful foundation. In addition to that, though? They say the "culture'' will be improved, but for 20 years, it's the "culture'' that the Mavs have boasted most about. Maybe the talent will be improved, though nobody could exactly promise that. And they suggest now that the organization might be more organized, and that's fine.
But the Dallas Mavs do not have a "shadow GM.''
The Dallas Mavs have a GM. There are no "shadows.'' He sits right there in a chair, right up on the stage.
His name is Mark Cuban.