”Inside the Mavericks front office, Mark Cuban’s shadow GM is causing a rift with Luka Doncic.” That’s the title of a long piece on The Athletic in which Tim Cato and Sam Amick report about the issues a lot of people in the Mavericks organization have with a man labeled a “shadow GM.”
Haralabos Voulgaris is most known as a gambler. He made a lot of money gambling on the NBA and employing a lot of analytics doing so. Being publicly outspoken, mostly on Twitter, Voulgaris caught the eye of Mark Cuban, who brought him in as a “director of quantitative research and development.” Basically, their head data guy. Well, it seems Haralabos didn’t hit it off with everyone in the organization. The story mentioned several moments in which players, most notably Luka Dončić, told Voulgaris off and were annoyed by him.
When it comes to the front office, the story talks of Voulgaris as a “shadow GM,” saying many people in the organization feel as if Haralabos has the ear of the owner and his influence on a lot of decisions is far greater than his title would imply. From trade and draft decisions to the Mavs rigid rotations and lineups – all allegedly have a strong impact from Voulgaris.
“Multiple league and team sources tell The Athletic that Voulgaris has been the most influential voice within the Mavericks front office since joining the team, either initiating or approving virtually every transaction made over the past two seasons. Those same sources add that Voulgaris has frequently gone as far as scripting the starting lineups and rotations for longtime head coach Rick Carlisle.”
Most people following the Mavericks understand a shake-up of sorts is going to happen this summer. The last time the Mavericks went past Round 1 in the Playoffs, they won the NBA title. Since 2011, Rick Carlisle’s team hasn’t won a PLayoffs round. Immediately after the season ended for the Mavs, Cuban said Carlisle’s job is safe. Asked about The Athletic’s report about Voulgaris as the “shadow GM” annoying many people, Cuban was very direct.
Just spoke to Mark Cuban about the recent reports:
“I pay close attention to what Luka says, what the front office, analytics group and our scouts say. What Rick says. The idea that there is a shadow GM is laughable. The idea that anyone but Rick sets rotations is insulting”— Taylor Rooks (@TaylorRooks) June 14, 2021
Voulgaris’ original contract has run its course and despite Cuban’s words, we’ll see if he is still with the Mavericks and in which capacity come September. Whatever happens, this story reminded me of Sam Hinkie. Similarly to Voulgaris, Hinkie’s downfall wasn’t the fact he was wrong – it was his lack of PR skills. In several places, The Athletic’s piece points out Voulgaris just rubbed people the wrong way, that his people skills were an issue.
It’s a story as old as time. You need two things to make it as a front office executive in the NBA. You need to be right, and you need the people around you to believe you are right. If people don’t buy into your vision, it doesn’t matter what the spreadsheet says.
Basketball is, and always will be, a team sport – that team isn’t made out of numbers, but out of people. A lot of analytics guys forget to add that variable into their equation.
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