July 15th, 2014
"...See, the thing is, despite all of the history that we the Howlers have, the truth remains that we're a small market team, in a relatively small market city." Jacques Chatneuve's words were rattling in Art Sadowski's (male gray wolf) head as he sat in this preseason meeting with the owner. "If it weren't for our legacy, we'd have crumbled and folded about ten to fiteen years ago... and I believe that our legacy is slowly running out."
"And to keep ourselves alive, we'd need that championship," Art said. "That's why you hired me, right?"
Jacques said, "I want to see this team reach success, Art. And what your predecessor tried to do with the team by trading away Shane Rufus (Red Wolf, G) and getting that Wendy Brown (Saber-toothed Tiger, G) to replace her clearly was the wrong decision, and that," A pause. "Got him fired."
"I can see why." Art sure could; Wendy's presence was clearly not what the Howlers had needed to revitalize themselves, and the team had been thrown into disharmony before Wendy had finally abandoned the team, exacerbating the locker room atmosphere even further. And when buying her out kept the Howlers out of the playoffs, the previous GM had gotten the axe for his gamble turning into an absolute failure.
"Here's where I come in, right?" Art said. Jacques nodded, and Art started to detail his plan:
"Right now, I feel that we need to break up the way how the team is structured... it's still stuck at the time when Fang was the leader of this team, and with him gone, literally nothing has been working, and clearly attempting to fill in that star-shaped hole with Wendy Brown was a bad thing to do. This can't last anymore. We need a team that values harmony, teamwork, and balance between teammate and teammate.
"If there's one thing that I think my predecessor's done well, Mr. Chatneuve, it's that he arranged it so that I have a lot of roster room and cap space to work with, so I think that I have a lot of freedom in which what I want to do with the Howlers. Here's the thing; I'm not going to keep most of the squad this year," Jacques nodded at that. "Wendy Brown aside, most of them were terrible offense-wise, and I can say a lot of them's going to lose their places in the team.
"Part of my long-term plan is to bring in a well-oiled machinery kind of atmosphere to the locker room where everybody really works well with one another; and obviously, if I happen to replace all of the players at once, they're not going to mesh together that well that fast. That's why I want to bring in an element that really could minimize the difficulty in which the players could blend into a team."
"And what would that be?" said Jacques.
"Underwood," replied the general manager.
"Underwood!" exclaimed the owner. "If you're talking the Underwood Rule, I'm not sure if bringing in, say, five canines, is going to help the others blend in that easily."
"No, sir, I'm talking about Underwood College, and their graduates," said Art. "I've started my career in basketball management as a college scout for this very team, and I've watched a lot of good college teams come and go. But if there's one thing about Underwood College that I've witnessed, it's that despite how the years come and go, their team always seems to maintain a certain level of quality and talent, even with years without a lot of good prospects. I've personally asked one of their coaches a few years back when I was the assistant director of scouting, and he said that it has to do with how they've managed to nurture the teamwork between the students year by year, so that even when some of them graduate or apply for the draft, someone else can always, always, fill their places.
"You've said that the Howlers are a small market team. This basically means that players just might have to come and go, come and go, as our legacy slowly gets chipped away. And I believe that starting up our base of players with Underwood graduates is going to be a perfect method for establishing a good base of harmony within the Howlers as well as making it easy for us to introduce and settle in new players quickly into the team. A lot of them have worked with each other at one point, and it's not going to take as long for them to get used to playing with each other, and with this base of teamwork, I believe it won't take as long to integrate players into the team. I'm not sure if we can succeed with this method right away, because as I've said, it's going to take some time, but if we can somehow make the method stick, I believe that the Howlers are going to be a strong, strong team in the long term, even if the Underwood graduates should depart afterwards.
"And that's why I want to rebuild this team around them this year."
"I see... but the thing is, the fans have already been crying for a championship for god knows how long now, and I'm not sure when all their patience is going to run out," said Jacques. "Do you have a plan this season on how to make the playoffs, at least?"
"I'm going to bring in some top quality coaching staff, and I'm also thinking about to utilizing Andy Raine (Black Bear, F) as an assistant coach to make better use of his good game IQ," replied Art. "I'm also looking forward to bringing in some good players via draft... I feel that a lot of the other General Managers might want to take a chance on their picks, but I don't plan on doing so. And while I want to bring in at least one of the Underwood rookies, I don't really want more than five or six graduates in the team at the same time."
"Yes, I probably wouldn't want you to turn this into a full-blown college reunion," chuckled Jacques. "Any free agents you have in mind?"
"This season's free agency is not something I want to go all in for," said Art. "Asides from getting some Underwood players, I'm planning on making some needed signings here and there to add to our squad, but I'm not sure if I want the players at the top of this year's market."
"You do have it well-thought out, I'd say," said Jacques. "As I've said when I first hired you, I'm currently willing to give you at least two years for you to work on, but I just want to ask one question: what are you planning on doing if all of this fails?"
"I have a backup plan, Mr. Chatneuve. Always have, always will. That's how I ended up being general manager, after all." Art smiled.
Jacques smiled back. "Thanks for taking your time to chat with me, Art. I'll be looking forward to what you do with the team."
"It'll definitely be a brand new Montana Howlers next season, sir," said Art. "You can bet on it."
Art sat on his chair while he whirled around at his general manager's desk, thinking about what he wanted to do. He knew that one of the players in the current team was an Underwood graduate, and although he hadn't exactly performed his best compared to last year, he felt that he had that potential in him that could make him truly break out this season. He also thought about the rookie panther that got drafted this season; he'd played reasonably well off the bench this season, and maybe this could be the season where he got to shine for real.
"Jean!" he called his secretary.
"Yes, sir?" said the tabby cat.
"I'll need to have a private chat with Bailey Brisbane (Catahoula Leopard Hound, G) and Lemond Conkale (Florida Panther, G/F)," said Art. "Contact both of the players and tell them what times they'd like for each of them, because I'll be free pretty much whenever in the weekdays."
"Will do, Mr. Sadowski," she said as she got to work.
Art leaned on his chair and stretched. He still needed to finalize his thoughts about which free agents to sign, who to draft, who to trade for, and all of that stuff, of course... but he wanted to talk to a few of his players first.
After all, whoever he'd been planning on bringing in to the Howlers would have to play with them.
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