MILWAUKEE (AP) — The new owners of the Bucks are still getting used to Milwaukee. And they are still celebrating their new acquisition.
Marc Lasry and Wes Edens were in town Thursday to meet with front office staff, observe pre-draft workouts and talk with fans at a playoff game viewing party at a local bar. Lasry was treated to a local welcome when he was offered a beer Wednesday morning.
“I don’t think I’ve had a beer before 10 a.m. since college,” Lasry said.
The two New York investment firm executives bought the team earlier this year for about $550 million. An injury-plagued season left the Bucks a franchise-worst 15-67, and the significance of gathering with Milwaukee fans in a bar to watch San Antonio and Oklahoma City in the Western Conference finals wasn’t lost on the new owners.
“Watching two small-market teams from cities not-so-different from Milwaukee . it would be a lot more fun if we were playing and that’s obviously the goal,” Edens said.
The process of getting to that point is already in progress as the Bucks, owners of the No. 2 pick in the upcoming NBA draft, have evaluated a dozen players. Milwaukee also holds the 31st, 36th and 48th selections and has needs at every position.
“It doesn’t happen overnight. You build a very solid foundation and build from there,” Edens said. “We want to have a championship winning basketball team here and you start with the pieces you’ve got and build around it.”
Speculation regarding who will make Milwaukee’s selections has swirled since Edens and Lasry came aboard, but it appears general manager John Hammond and coach Larry Drew are OK for now.
“I think on the basketball side right now, John, David and Larry have been doing a great job, at least from all the dealings we’ve had,” Lasry said. “I think on the business side, that needs some help. I think right now the focus is going to be there.”
On the business side, the duo plans to make some changes in the near future starting with somebody to oversee the day-to-day operations.
“You find it starts from the top,” Lasry said. “You have to get a great CEO. You need people that live this thing 24/7. That’s sort of what we are going to try to do. When you look at where the Bucks have been over the last number of years — whether it is on the operations side — I think it there is a lot of room to improve.”
Lasry and Edens committed to providing $100 million to help build a new arena while former Sen. Herb Kohl, the previous owner, said he would donate $100 million for a new facility to replace the BMO Harris Bradley Center.
“That’s really going to kick off in high gear now,” Edens said. “We’re going to meet with a number of the big design firms and get their views on it. There are four arenas that are going to be built at the same time — the Kings are going to build theirs, the Warriors are going to build theirs, we’ll build ours and then there’s one built in Las Vegas. I think you can take the best ideas and synthesize that together into one big product. It will just be a matter of figuring out how to pay for it.”