Monson: Kevin O'Connor - hearing it from the boss
In a conversation Friday with Kevin O'Connor, he talked about, among other topics, his best move and his worst mistake in the 11 years he's been the Jazz's general manager.
He discussed his working relationship with Jerry Sloan and he disagreed with the notion the Jazz are satisfied simply being safe and good every year.
He addressed Deron Williams' role in personnel decisions.
He issued a primary reason for optimism about the team's future.
And he offered up the number of serious trade discussions the Jazz have had with other clubs since last summer.
His best deal?
"Deron Williams," he said. "Moving from sixth to third in the  draft. We gave up two late first-round picks."
O'Connor said when Andrew Bogut and Marvin Williams were selected one-two, and after he and other Jazz execs and coaches "banged everything around," the group made what he said was a unanimous decision.
He claimed that, contrary to subsequent lore that sprouted around the choice between Chris Paul and Williams, there was no strong dissenting opinion.
"I talked to everybody," he said. "We all wanted Deron."
Nobody wanted Paul more?
"It was a win," he said, "either way."
His biggest boneheaded move?
"Mo Williams," he said. "He got a contract from Milwaukee and we didn't match it."
If they had done so, would he have missed out on the aforementioned best move for Deron Williams?
"We might now have a different Williams at point guard," he said.
In the wake of Williams' publicly expressed displeasure when Ronnie Brewer was traded, O'Connor cryptically blew through the All-Star's role in personnel moves.
"Deron wants to compete," he said. "He wants to win. Do we ask about evaluations on players in deals we make? Yes. But Deron doesn't run the program. Decisions are made by management."
What happens when you and Sloan disagree on those decisions?
"Jerry's always cared about the franchise, not just the next 30 games," he said. "Making decisions has been easy for us. We've had disagreements. We can differ on players, but that's healthy. We work together. We've been able not just to coexist, but to thrive."
What about the accusation that the Jazz are content to be good every season, and sell tickets, without taking risks for a championship?
"There's never been a time when we didn't want to win the last game," he said. "There's never been a time when it was OK to just be good. For example, we knew we needed to keep Paul Millsap, even though we'd go into the luxury-tax realm. Greg [Miller] felt that way."
Miller didn't want to let Portland steal one of your players?
"Greg's got some of Larry in him," he said.
What's your philosophy on making trades?
"You don't do anything for cosmetic reasons," he said. "You ask, 'Will this improve our team?'"
How hard did you work the phones in the months before the trade deadline?
"We had about 20 serious conversations with teams," he said. "We wanted a couple of big guys."
Who were they?
"I can't name them."
Doing so, he said, might be construed as tampering.
To illustrate the complexity of getting any substantive trade done, O'Connor said the Jazz attempted a few years ago to nail down a $20 million deal for a top-tier player. Both teams were game, but the financials didn't match up by a small margin and the trade was doomed.
"Frustrating," he said.
It can also be frustrating to see a rival like the Lakers haul in, say, Pau Gasol when the Jazz aren't in a position to do likewise.
Gasol was acquired by L.A. when Memphis offered the center essentially for the expiring contract of Kwame Brown. The Jazz, he said, would have loved to acquire Gasol, but had no such expiring contract.
What did you think when you heard about the Lakers' getting Gasol?
"'S---,'" he said. "'Those sons of bitches.' ... But give the Lakers credit. It changed the climate of the West."
Are you excited about the first-round Knicks' pick?
"It could give us a premium player," he said. "We have a shot at the top pick. ... It probably will fall somewhere between four and 10. There should be a sense of optimism about that opportunity."
O'Connor said he is bullish about the Jazz's future, saying the club would wait to see how this season plays out before making decisions about free agents. He added that one of the best things that could happen for them would be the installation of a hard cap.
"The Pittsburgh Pirates have no chance at a title," he said. "The Pittsburgh Steelers have won the Super Bowl."
The difference? A stiff cap.
He said the Jazz are willing, within reason, to pay the luxury tax in the future, but ... not without economic aches and pains.
"We'll pay it," he said, "if it improves our team."
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