| To celebrate the arrival of Finals Week at college campuses everywhere, HoleCity presents a pop quiz. Well, a pop question, really. Here goes:
Which of the following phrases accurately describes "RC Buford"?
A) It's Emil Gam's pseudonym when he writes for Watchtower.
B) He's our dadgum favorite NASCAR driver.
C) He's the best general manager in pro sports.
D) It's a cola beverage that tastes like former outfielder Damon Buford.
Okay, kids, pass your quizzes to the front of the room. The correct answer is C. And just for the record, the names associated with answers A, B and D are "Moses Gam," "Greg Biffle," and "Pepsi."
So we've told you that RC Buford is the greatest general manager in professional sports, but you still need help, right? You're thinking, "RC Who?"
Plus, you've read Moneyball. You happen to know that Oakland A's baseball savant Billy Beane is the greatest GM in any game, and he's probably the greatest thinker in the history of thinking. The pantheon of humankind's biggest achievements is something like this: Cavemen invent the wheel; Sumerians invent language; Newton invents gravity; Einstein fixes Newton's gravity-thing; Billy Beane invents On-Base Percentage. When Barry Zito pitches, brainwaves radiate from Beane's head in little concentric circles and influence the flight of the baseball. That's a smart GM. You're wondering, "Can this RC Buford fella do that?"
Well, uh...no. But neither can Billy Beane, really, or his team would have won a playoff series or something.
RC Buford has won a bunch of them, including two world championships, in his career with the San Antonio Spurs. He was the Spurs' de facto GM for years while Gregg Popovich held the title nominally. In July 2002, Popovich officially relinquished the GM title to Buford, who'd previously been the Spurs' Scouting Director, their Assistant GM, and the little-publicized reason that San Antonio takes the rest of the league to draftin' school every off-season, stealing great ballplayers despite the terrible draft position that accompanies chronic success. Buford has been San Antonio's man in Belgrade, Barcelona and Belgium, identifying foreign talent years ahead of the rest of the league and, thus, providing ridiculous draft value.
Consider the finest moves Buford & Co. have made:
1999 - Manu Ginobili (14.3 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 4.5 apg in 2003) was selected with the second-to-last pick in the second round, after such NBA anonyms as Frederic Weis, Cal Bowdler and Vonteego Cummings went in the first. Maybe you saw Manu's reverse lefty dunk over the Lakers frontcourt in the playoffs last season? Or the clutch threes in the 2003 Finals? Or the pass he threaded through Kobe's legs on a fast break earlier this year? Or the 13 straight fourth quarter points he dropped on the Bulls last week? Or the...well, you get it.
2001 - Tony Parker (14.1 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 5.8 apg) was selected with the final pick in the first round. So far he's been a better pro than the top pick, Kwame Brown, and every other selection in the first round except, possibly, Pau Gasol and Zach Randolph.
2003 - Two-time league MVP Tim Duncan re-signed with San Antonio. C'mon, you'd rather have Duncan for the next seven years than Malone and Payton for the next two, right? Also, the Spurs inserted themselves into a three-team deal that netted them Hedo Turkoglu and Ron Mercer in exchange for Danny Ferry. That works not only because Hedo and Mercer are substantially better than the robotic Ferry, but because it provides cap-flexibility needed to re-sign Ginobili who, we'll remind you, was selected second-to-f'ing-last in the second round in 1999. (That's eight picks after our Bulls drafted the immortal Lari Ketner. Not that we're disappointed.) Our favorite move of the Buford-era in San Antonio might just be the silver throwback uni's the team recently sported. He not only evaluates talent better than any executive in the NBA, he beats them on style, too.
So you can have Billy Beane, Jerry West, Bill Polian and every other alleged super-genius. We'll take the guy with the lowest profile, the one winning titles in a small-market town, the guy no one seems to talk about. RC Who?
Big Foam Finger