Mr. Wang, Please Listen To Your Advisors
by: Joe McDonald | Publisher and Editor-in-Chief | Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Yesterday was not the darkest day in Islander history, nor was it a day that will kill the franchise.

But the dismissal of general manager Neil Smith, in favor of Garth Snow and Pat LaFontaine’s resignation proves that owner Charles Wang has a lot to learn about running the organization.

First and foremost, he must listen to his advisors.

The men Wang hired a little over a month ago are good hockey men. They may not always agree, but have experience in the game, which will help the owner steer the ship in the right direction.

By ignoring the advice, Wang caused the fiasco that happened yesterday, which just turned out to be another black eye in the Islanders’ recent checkered past.

According to published reports in Newsday, both Mike Milbury and LaFontaine urged Wang to hold off on firing Smith and give the former GM a chance to ease into his job.

Then LaFontaine told his boss to hold off a few days before naming Garth Snow as the new general manager.

But Wang decided to go in his own direction.

This is not to say these moves weren’t going to happen eventually, nor Snow would be a bad GM, but in professional sports, unlike the private sector, the instant media spotlight will shine on any front office move. Wang reacted and the now he is left with holes in his organizational system, which many questioned to begin with.

The “board of directors” front office approach may work and Wang has the right try it to see if it’s the right system for his team, but understand other New York franchises tried this approach in the past and failed.

According to Joel Sherman’s book Birth of a Dynasty, it was only because of Gene Michael, the Yankees were able stop George Steinbrenner from trading Mariano Rivera to Seattle for shortstop Felix Fermin [who the team eventually signed and released later in the year] and subsequently demote rookie Derek Jeter before the 1996 season. The owner was listening to the wrong advisors and Michael was able to talk some sense back into the Boss.

And the Mets had their own front office committee fiasco two years ago when the wrong counseling caused them to trade future All-Star Scott Kazmir to the Devil Rays for Victor Zambrano.

Both teams learned from their past miscalculations and today, even though Steinbrenner still has his board of advisors, general manager Brian Cashman, manager Joe Torre and Michael call most of the shots. Mets owner Fred Wilpon also changed the way he did business when he gave total control to Omar Minaya a few months after the Kazmir trade.

So all is not lost, but when two vastly different voices say the same thing, it’s time to listen and not go with the gut. The Islanders head honcho needs to learn that.

Maybe someday Wang can lure LaFontaine back into the fold or get some other respected voice from the team‘s past to be on his board., but if the Islanders owner doesn’t pay attention to what his hockey men say in the future, he is bound to make the same mistakes over and over again.

Then the darkest days will come indeed.