There’s no question that, for decades in local sports, the clown prince of poor organizational management has been Cowboys owner Jerral Wayne Jones. North Texas’ closest living embodiment of The Simpsons’ Mr. Burns has been a point of fan frustration essentially since he took over the franchise and ousted the infallible Tom Landry in 1989. Jones, a caricature of wealth-bought hubris if ever there was one, has become a stand-in punchline of self-importance — a hollow gourd of a man vacant of aptitude wrapped in a glimmering veneer of imagined exceptionalism. He was Elon Musk before the beloved hero of 4-Chan bros everywhere had inherited his first emerald.
Setting aside our hometown NFL team’s frustratingly middling performance during his tenure — and trust me, it has been — it’s the Cowboys as an organization with Jurrah at the helm that has earned them the mantle of local sports’ proverbial immolated refuse receptacle. Year after year, Jones, along with his merry band of rednecks-with-money Arkansan kin, has had to battle seemingly endless controversy. From the legendary cocaine and stripper parties of the ’90s to the embarrassing bathroom selfies with women a third his age; the signings of the occasional gun-hoarding domestic abuser, the murder scene flee-er, and the teammate-killing drunk driver; and the sudden appearances of previously unidentified offspring, team PR director Rich Dalrymple had his hands full in the company spin machine trying to tamp down the fallout for years — until he was relieved of his duties for his own horrendous locker room peeping scandal last year.
By any measure, as an institution, the Dallas Cowboys are a flagrant insult to professionalism, to say nothing of the front office’s subpar roster building or the team’s consistent underachievement on the field. I argue, however, there is another team that seems to be gunning for the Cowboys’ crown as the most dysfunctional in town. Enter: Mark Cuban’s Mavs.
Just five years removed from one of the most explosive sexual harassment and workplace toxicity scandals in sports history, the Mavericks now find themselves again the target of an investigation. This time, admittedly, for far less incendiary accusations. The NBA is now looking into allegations of intentional “tanking” as the Mavs limped into the final two games of the season, “resting” starters in favor of bottom-of-the-roster players, resulting in losses that cemented the team’s exclusion from the playoffs and, more importantly, a potentially protected Top-10 pick in the upcoming NBA draft. This, just the latest black eye capping an otherwise catastrophic season.
For those not glued to the daytime soap opera of the ’22-’23 Mavs, allow me a brief recap. The missteps of the organization arguably began in the offseason, when the front office willfully let fan favorite and superstar Luka Dončić BFF Jalen Brunson walk in free agency. I was not among those bemoaning the loss of the former Villanova standout, but an argument could be made that his departure was the first of many events over the course of the season that has seen the basketball team fall from a Western Conference Finals appearance a year ago to out of even the play-in game. The NBA has 30 teams, and 20 of them, or 67%, make the playoffs in some form. Dallas was not among that two-thirds.
The team aspects responsible for last year’s success — chemistry and defensive dedication — seemed to evaporate the moment games began in the fall. The team hovered around .500 for most of the year purely on the back of a criminally overworked Dončić. Luka’s frustration with the wheel spinning was echoed among the fanbase and the media until Cuban and GM Nico Harrison felt they had no choice but to do something to get Luka some help. A clever Nets organization saw an opportunity to unload a headache, and with desperation as the motive, a trade was made to bring All-NBA talent (and alleged antisemite) Kyrie Irving to Dallas. I suppose some credit should be given to the front office for making some effort to push the team over the top, but it takes little scrutiny to see just how incongruent the addition was to the team from the start.
How a defensively challenged yet supremely talented scorer playing alongside another was supposed to be the solution for a wholly defensively challenged and rebound-deficient team is anyone’s guess. Not to mention, you receive Irving with all his off-court controversy in exchange for two of the team’s best leaders and character guys. It was a bad move that instead of putting the Mavs over the top ended up throwing dirt over the top of their playoff chances. You ignored the needs in the offseason when constructing the team only to cave to public pressure — too late, mind you — and make an impulsive decision that hurt your team infinitely more than it ever could have helped. Cuban’s absurd protest of the Warriors’ two-point victory over the Mavs a few weeks ago was unnecessary league-fighting, vintage man-child Cuban and icing on the cringe-inducing Maverick cake.
Now, Irving is sure to walk in the offseason, and the sacrifice of Spencer Dinwiddie and Dorian Finney-Smith, like it was for Brunson, will have been for nothing. The naked tank job this past weekend is an embarrassment to the head coach and the players alike. Now reports of our beloved superstar potentially requesting a trade — the front office’s biggest fear and motivation for the desperation Kyrie trade — are already starting to surface.
I suppose this is what happens when an NBA owner takes no more care in running his franchise than he does in random impulsive acquisitions of bored housewives’ harebrained inventions on reality TV. If I were Luka, I’d want out, too.