SBJ/February 28 - March 6, 2005/Forty Under 40

John Weisbrod

JOHN WEISBROD, ORLANDO MAGIC AND RDV SPORTS

BY JOHN LOMBARDO
STAFF WRITER

The first move made last summer by John Weisbrod in his new job as Orlando Magic general manager was to trade Tracy McGrady to Houston.

Talk about an introduction.

The trade raised eyebrows within the NBA and drew criticism from fans: Just who was this newly minted general manager with little NBA player-personnel experience to be dealing one of the league’s biggest stars?

John Weisbrod
• Age: 36
• Titles: Chief operating officer/general manager
• Company/team: RDV Sports/Orlando Magic
• Education: B.A., English, Harvard University, 1991
• Family: Son, C.J., 11
• Career: NHL player, San Jose Sharks, 1991-1993; executive vice president, AHL Albany (N.Y.) River Rats, 1993-1995; assistant general manager, New Jersey Devils, 1995-1996; general manager, IHL Orlando Solar Bears, 1996-2000; chief operating officer, RDV Sports, 2000-2004; COO, RDV Sports, and general manager, Orlando Magic, 2004-present
• Last vacation: Caribbean cruise
• Last book read: "Chronicles" by Bob Dylan
• Last movie seen: "Ocean's 12"
• Greatest achievement: Winning the 1989 NCAA ice hockey championship at Harvard
• Greatest disappointment: When the Orlando Solar Bears folded
• Fantasy job: I'm doing it, but before I'm done, I'd like to win an NBA championship and then move back (to hockey) and win a Stanley Cup.
• Executive most admired: New Jersey Devils President and CEO Lou Lamoriello
• Business advice: You can't manage other people if you can't manage yourself.
“The story was how unpopular I was, but I don’t get my validation from other people and certainly not from the press,” Weisbrod said.

Now, seven months after the blockbuster trade, the former rough-and-tumble NHL player turned NBA executive continues to make a name for himself as he overhauls the Magic, a franchise that has struggled mightily in recent years. The Magic’s failure created opportunity for Weisbrod, though, and he has taken advantage.

“When I took over, the Magic was in a bad way, and I felt a lot of pressure immediately,” Weisbrod said.

This season, by mid-January, Orlando had already matched last season’s full-year win total (21) on the court. Attendance through Feb. 14 was up 1.4 percent from the same time last season to an average of 14,524 fans per game.

Weisbrod is proving wrong the critics who cringed when Magic owner Rich DeVos named him, already chief operating officer of DeVos’ RDV Sports, to replace former general manager John Gabriel last March. At the time, the hiring was considered an unconventional move. Weisbrod had a penchant for hard work and a vicious competitive streak, but his background painted him more as a no-nonsense hockey guy than a basketball executive.

Weisbrod attended Harvard University on a hockey scholarship, leading the Crimson to a national championship. He moved on to play in the NHL with the San Jose Sharks, but a shoulder injury ended his career in 1993.

DeVos hired Weisbrod in 1996 to run the Orlando Solar Bears of the now-defunct International Hockey League. In 2000, DeVos promoted Weisbrod to oversee the business side of RDV Sports, which included both the Solar Bears and the Magic.

When he took over as general manager of the Magic, Weisbrod wasn’t well-versed in NBA player-personnel issues, but DeVos liked his pedigree: Weisbrod already had proved himself to the team’s top brass on the business side, and he has won a championship wherever he has been, no matter the level.

Magic CEO Bob Vander Weide recently restructured the team’s front office, promoting executive vice president of finance Jim Fritz to executive vice president of business operations, allowing Weisbrod to narrow his focus. It’s another sign of more good things expected from Weisbrod in Orlando.

“John’s intense and he will still make his share of mistakes, but he has a nice blend of people skills,” Vander Weide said. “I want to see him be a great general manager for 20 years, so he’s got to chill out a little, but he’ll learn it.”

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