We look at the rebuild that Wes Edens helped undertake at the Milwaukee Bucks and how this can be compared with what is only the start of his time at Aston Villa.
Words by Mark Jirobe (@VillaMarkPGH)
When Wes Edens and Nassef Sawiris purchased Aston Villa from Tony Xia in the summer of 2018, there was much excitement to be had for supporters of the Midlands club. While Xia made promises to Aston Villa supporters that he probably intended to keep but ultimately could not, a new era for the Villans was on the horizon. Supporters of Aston Villa were suddenly launched from the depths of HRMC Wind Up Orders into two wealthy owners who seemed to know a thing about the arena of sport as well.
There was much talk and bountiful questions about exactly what Edens and Sawiris knew about owning a sports franchise and even more questions about if they could run a successful sports franchise.
Edens is the much more experienced of the two on that front. In April of 2014, Wes Edens successfully purchased a majority stake of the National Basketball Association’s Milwaukee Bucks franchise for a cool $550 million. Edens made the purchase under the agreement that he would keep the suffering Bucks in Milwaukee instead of relocating the team and would contribute a further $100 million towards building the Bucks a brand new arena.
Sounds like a pretty solid investment, right? It almost sounds as if Edens was buying into a successful team that had a promising future.
Well… not quite.
The year before Edens became the majority shareholder of the Bucks, the team finished the season with fifteen wins and sixty-seven losses. Nope. That’s not a typo. The Milwaukee Bucks would finish the 2013-2014 season as the worst team in the NBA by a long distance and the horrendous season was the worst ever in Milwaukee Bucks history. What would make a wealthy and intelligent man like Edens make a major investment into a team in such disarray?
The team motto for the Milwaukee Bucks for the 2014-2015 season became “Own The Future”. Edens and others in the Bucks franchise did all they could to to make sure the team was doing just that. They brought in an experienced coach in NBA legend Jason Kidd, drafted talented college athlete Jabari Parker and put the first steps forward in rebuilding the franchise. The Bucks would go on to double their wins from the previous season before the NBA All-Star Break, becoming the first team in NBA history to do so. The team was young, promising and showed blips of raw talent. Quite an amazing turn around in less than a year, no matter what sport you’re speaking of.
Edens would go on to ensure his promise of a new arena for the Bucks franchise after a bevy of political push-back from local channels as well as from the NBA, who seemed hellbent on moving the franchise to a more lucrative location such as Las Vegas or Seattle. Edens and the rest of the ownership in Milwaukee knew they would have to rally around a team of young players to move the franchise in a positive direction. The one player they saw significant potential in has the nickname of “The Greek Freak”, and he’s proven over the last six years he is definitely a freak of nature for the Bucks.
Giannis Antetokounmpo can readily be identified by NBA fanatics as being a monster on the court and a catalyst of what has made the Bucks a formidable and successful team at present day. Antetokounmpo would become the 5th player in NBA history to lead his team in all five statistical categories in the 2016-2017 season. The trust that was made by management and by the supporters of the Bucks was vital to moving the franchise forward, and the guts that it took to do so can not be measured. It’s one thing to purchase a sports team for enjoyment or as an ornament. It’s another kind of situation to purchase a sports team and do what it takes to create a winning and positive culture.
Edens is not the only ‘owner’ of the Milwaukee Bucks by any stretch of the imagination. There are multiple people who have had a say in exactly what the Bucks were doing as a business and as a competitive sports team. But the experience that Wes Edens has gained in Milwaukee seems like it can only help Aston Villa. Villa are not reaching the heights that the supporters believe they should.
Patience is at a premium at Aston Villa these days. The club currently sits in 10th in the second tier of English football. The supporters want the club to finish between 3rd and 6th to solidify a play-off spot in hopes of promotion back into the Premier League. Villa are nine points off of a playoff spot. The Aston Villa faithful are starting to come to terms with the notion that playoffs will not happen this year, which means promotion will not happen this year, which naturally breeds discontent from the supporters.
Wes Edens has spent five seasons helping to mold and transform the Milwaukee Bucks. It is very noticeable that Aston Villa supporters would hope to be back into the Premier League as soon as possible, but Edens and others have only begun a journey to genuinely help Villa become what their supporters believe in their hearts. From a business standpoint, Edens and Nassef Sawiris need to stabilize Villa financially. There are more than enough players who are up on contract at Aston Villa this summer and that will undoubtedly clear up a large chunk of wage budget to bring in younger and more promising players. The resemblance of Edens’ start in Milwaukee and his start at Aston Villa are too similar to just be uncanny coincidence.
There are not shortcuts to success. Edens, Sawiris, Jesus Pitarch, Dean Smith and Christian Purslow have a heavy task ahead of themselves and there’s is no way around it. But this is just the beginning. And as bleak as it may seem in the short-term for Aston Villa supporters, the focus should be on the long-term adjustments and improvements made by these new stewards of the club. It may get too uncomfortable for some supporters during this time of transition, but one thing is for certain: the pieces are in place for a possible meteoric rise for Aston Villa Football Club.