Corey Smith

The Enigmatic Legacy of Herb Kohl

I’m torn!!  I have heard several opinions about the Senator Herb Kohl, and it is to hard determine exactly how I feel about his tenure as the owner of the Milwaukee Bucks.  Maybe you can help me understand, and put his tenure into prospective.  Let’s start with the good first.

The Senator purchased the franchise in 1985 from then Bucks owner Jim Fitzgerald a businessman from Janesville.  The sale at that time was only for a measly 18 million dollars... kidding of course.  The deal at the time was vital to Kohl keeping the franchise in Wisconsin.  He agreed, and in a rare show of loyalty in the sports world, kept his promise until he sold the team.  His efforts to keep the team in the area are his greatest gift to the City of Milwaukee as the Bucks owner.  Let’s face it, socially and economically this City has declined to the extent that according to statistical analysis Milwaukee now ranks as one of the poorest, crime ridden metropolitan areas in the country.   Often in these areas its sports that brings the community together, this was no more evident than in the city of New Orleans with that town’s love of the Saints.  It is my belief that Kohl had a vision that the Bucks would be a uniting force in a town that was culturally divided.  Although that was never achieved, I believe that Milwaukeeans owe a debt of gratitude to the Senator for his loyalty to this town and vision to always keep the Bucks here in Milwaukee.  If that isn’t good enough, the man donated over $100 million dollars of his own money to build the Town a new facility that I am sure will serve more purposes than just basketball.

The and now for the negative.  Quite frankly for the majority of Kohl’s tenure as owner, the team was mediocre.  When Kohl purchased the Bucks in 1985 they were in the midst of completing a 59-25 record and a central division title.  Actually for my younger readers during the 80’s the team was very successful, appearing in three conference finals throughout the 80’s and not missing the playoffs the entire decade.  Then the bottom fell out, Michael Jordan is partially to blame,  but Kohl is largely to blame with a very docile almost too relaxed approach to running the team.  The Bucks stumbled into the 90’s going through five different coaches in the decade with three of them missing the playoffs with the exception of Del Harris and George Karl.  The 00’s (aside from a Eastern conference appearance in 2001) were no better going through several different un-established coaches, busted lottery picks, outrageous random contracts, and non-productive journeymen players. Quite frankly once the eighties were over and the last of great Bucks players were out of the league, the team when into the tank.  Kohl’s loyalty and love never translated into a Championship for the Bucks.  If love for your hood won title Kohl would rank up there with the late great Red Auerbach.

So in hindsight we love the Senator for keeping the NBA in a town that besides the Brewers there isn’t much to root for.  But oh what could have been if he would have dedicated himself to the Bucks and not just keeping them here.