The general manager (GM) is often one of the most under-appreciated positions in sports. They don’t get all the adulation of a successful coach or player, but they’re just as important to the team’s success. Here are five of the very best general managers in sports:
Although he was promoted to executive vice president of the Oakland A’s in 2015, no list of great GMs would be complete without Billy Beane, whose success spawned the movie “Moneyball.” His use of sabermetrics consistently helped the A’s win the majority of their games and often reach the playoffs, despite having one of the smallest payrolls in the league. Many other GMs have since adopted Beane’s approach.
The owner and general manager of the Dallas Cowboys is one of the most well-known GMs, and he’s not without his critics. The results speak for themselves, though, as Jerry Jones has led the Cowboys to success on the field and financially. They rank as one of the league’s most profitable franchises, in no small part due to their impressive stadium. Jones has built three Super Bowl winners during his time in Dallas, and although they have gone through the occasional slump, he consistently picks up quality players through the free agency and the draft.
You’d be hard pressed to find a GM in the NHL with a better track record than Ken Holland. With Holland as GM, the Detroit Red Wings won the Stanley Cup in 1998, 2002, and 2008. Before that, the Red Wings captured the Stanley Cup in 1997 with Holland as assistant GM. They’ve also won their division 10 times, their conference five times, and the Presidents’ Trophy four times. Since he took over, the Red Wings have also had more wins in both the regular season and postseason than any other team, as of 2017. With their level of consistent success over the years, the Red Wings are a popular pick on sports betting sites, thanks in large part to Holland.
The San Antonio Spurs have long been one of the model franchises in the NBA, and while having Tim Duncan and Gregg Popovich played a major part in that, you can’t discount R.C. Buford’s contributions as GM. Buford has seen the Spurs collect five championships, in 1999, 2003, 2005, 2007, and 2014, with the final four coming with him as the general manager. He is a two-time winner of the NBA Executive of the Year award.
The Spurs have consistently made the playoffs throughout his tenure, in large part due to his savvy pickups in the draft and free agency. He signed Danny Green when no one else in the NBA wanted him, getting an excellent deal on a player who would be key in the Spurs’ 2014 championship. His pickup of Boris Diaw was equally important. Perhaps no movie was better and bolder than when Buford traded talented veteran George Hill for the draft pick that would become Kawhi Leonard, now one of the best players in the league.
One of the most successful NFL head coaches of all time is also one of its best general managers, which is incredibly rare. Technically, the New England Patriots don’t have a GM, but Bill Belichick is the de facto GM and has been handling football operations since 2000. During that time, the team has won four Super Bowls, in 2001, 2003, 2004, and 2014. The Patriots have also made it to two other Super Bowls and been to the playoffs almost every year under Belichick’s tenure.
Belichick’s best asset may be the way he’s always thinking ahead. Several times, he has cut players two years early instead of two years too late. While the media has criticized him for these moves, he usually turns out right in the end.
There are many great GMs across the major professional sports leagues. A select few stand out as the best of the best, and they are the ones who build consistent winners year after year.
By: Jennifer Livingston