Ted Stepien and the James Worthy Rule

Gatinho —  September 11, 2007

Ted Stepien, a former owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers…died Monday at his home in Willoughby Hills, Ohio. He was 82.

Stepien paid $2 million for 37% of the Cavaliers in April 1980 and soon became the majority shareholder. The Cavaliers went 66-180, dropped to the bottom of the league in attendance and lost $15 million during Stepien’s three years of ownership.

In honor of the man whose ineptitude allowed the reigning champs to land James Worthy, I share the ignominious tale from a previous post…

Okay, so it’s really called the Ted Stepien Rule: In 1980 the Lakers traded Don Ford to the Cleveland Cavaliers as part of one of many disastrous moves by Stepien.

Ford would end up playing in only 85 games over the next two years and that pick would turn into Hall of Famer “Big Game” James Worthy. The first, last, and only time that a reigning NBA champ would have the top pick in the following year’s draft.

Stepien would end up operating with such abandonment that the NBA took away the ability for him to make trades without the league’s specific direction and approval. The Gund brothers, who bought the Cavs in 1983, would only follow through with the transaction after the NBA promised to give them supplemental first round picks to replace those that Stepien had traded away.

None of this would happen in the here and now. GM’s are now backed by a slew of assistants, and all first round picks are lottery protected. The aptly nicknamed Ted Stepien rule states that teams can not trade first round picks in consecutive years and every team must have at least one pick in the two rounds of the draft.

In effect, we will never see a traded first round pick end up being the numero uno. It happened to the Lakers twice, and because common sense and league rules now dictate the process, it will never happen again.

Four coaches in one season: Stepien’s ineptitude was highlighted in 1982 when he hired and fired four different coaches in one season. The first of those coaches was Chuck Daly, who he fired after 41 games and replaced with Bill Musselman, Eric’s father.

Sacramento has interviewed Eric for their open position, and he comes with the endorsement of Daly who has called him a “basketball genius.”

Warrior fans may begrudgingly agree:

And I guess we all know how that Musselman stint in Sactown went.

-Scott Thompson aka Gatinho

Gatinho

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