Ernie Grunfeld

Not to be confused with Ernst Grünfeld.
Ernie Grunfeld
Washington Wizards
Position General Manager
League NBA
Personal information
Born (1955-04-24) April 24, 1955
Satu Mare, Romania
Nationality American
Listed height 6 ft 6 in (1.98 m)
Listed weight 210 lb (95 kg)
Career information
High school Forest Hills (Queens, New York)
College Tennessee (1973–1977)
NBA draft 1977 / Round: 1 / Pick: 11th overall
Selected by the Milwaukee Bucks
Playing career 1977–1986
Number 20, 18
Career history
19771979 Milwaukee Bucks
19791982 Kansas City Kings
19821986 New York Knicks
Career highlights and awards
Career NBA statistics
Points 5,124 (7.4 ppg)
Rebounds 1,815 (2.6 rpg)
Assists 1,419 (2.0 apg)
Stats at

Ernest "Ernie" Grunfeld (born April 24, 1955) is the General Manager of the Washington Wizards. He was also once a professional basketball player. He served as general manager of the New York Knicks of the National Basketball Association from 1989 to 1999, and as the Bucks' general manager from 1999–2003, at which time he became the President of Basketball Operations for the Washington Wizards.

Early life

Born in Satu Mare, Romania, Grunfeld immigrated with his parents, Alex and Livia, to the United States in 1964.[1] He grew up in Forest Hills, in Queens, New York City, where he attended Forest Hills High School.[2]

Maccabiah Games

Grunfeld was selected to participate as a member of the American basketball team at the 1973 Maccabiah Games, while he was still attending high school. The U.S. team was defeated by Israel in the final game.[3]


He attended the University of Tennessee, where he played basketball with future NBA Hall of Famer Bernard King. Nicknamed the "Ernie and Bernie Show", they averaged over 40 points per game. With 2,249 points, he set a new record as the school's all-time leading scorer. The record was broken by Allan Houston in 1993.[3]

Pan American Games and Olympics

Grunfeld played on the team that won a gold medal at the 1975 Pan American Games. He also participated in the basketball event at the 1976 Summer Olympics, again winning the gold medal. He became an American citizen that year.[3]

Pro career

Grunfeld was drafted 11th overall by the Milwaukee Bucks in the 1977 NBA draft. He played with that team for two years and moved to the Kansas City Kings for the 1979–82 seasons.[4] In 1979 he led the NBA in games played, with 82. In 1981 he had a .535 field goal percentage.

The Knicks signed him as a free agent in 1982, and he played there for four years, where he reunited with Bernard King. He retired following the 1985–86 season. Grunfeld averaged 7.4 points per game in his NBA career.[4] In 1982 he averaged 12.7 points a game, and 21.8 per 40 minutes. In 1986 he was third in the NBA in 3-point field goal percentage, with .426. He finished his career with a .477 field goal percentage and a .770 free throw percentage. His playoff shooting percentages were even better.


After he retired from the NBA, Grunfeld was the Knicks radio analyst for the MSG Network from 1986–89. He then briefly worked under Stu Jackson as an assistant coach for the Knicks before starting his career in administration.[4]

Front office

Grunfeld was appointed director of administration in the 1990–91 season and was moved to vice-president of player personnel on April 23, 1991. He was then appointed vice president and general manager on July 21, 1993. He became president and general manager on February 23, 1996.[4] During his time with the Knicks, Grunfeld and his family were residents of Franklin Lakes, New Jersey.[5]

During his eight-year tenure with the Knicks executive, the team had a record of 397 wins and 227 losses (.636), and a 61–44 playoff record. They won the Atlantic Division three times and reached the NBA finals twice.[4]

At the time of his removal from his general manager post, during the 1998– 99 season, the team had a 21–21 record and were on the verge of not making the playoffs. They eventually got in with a 27–23 record. He was responsible for bringing every player on that roster to the team except for Patrick Ewing. Before the start of the season, he organized the trade of Charles Oakley to the Toronto Raptors for Marcus Camby, and John Starks to the Golden State Warriors for Latrell Sprewell. Many people blamed him for the Knicks' poor play. However, they came within 3 games of winning the championship, losing to the San Antonio Spurs in 5 games. At first it was said that he was being temporarily relieved of his duties as general manager. When the season ended with the result that came about, it was said that all was forgiven and he would be reinstated.

However, he took the job as the Bucks' general manager on August 13, 1999. He held the position for four seasons, during which the Bucks made the playoffs three times and enjoyed 14 playoff wins. The team won 177 regular season games and lost 151 (.540 average).[4]

He was hired by the Washington Wizards as President of Basketball Operations in June 2003.[4] As Wizards GM, Grunfeld signed free agent point guard Gilbert Arenas, who has gone on to have one 2nd team All-NBA and two 3rd team All-NBA seasons. In 2004, Grunfeld traded the number five pick in the 2004 NBA draft along with Jerry Stackhouse for All-Star Antawn Jamison. Grunfeld also traded Kwame Brown for All-Star Caron Butler (who was later traded in a deal for Josh Howard).

In the 2007 and 2008 NBA draft classes, Grunfeld selected Nick Young and Javale McGee respectively. While young and athletic, the two players soured in Washington and were dealt in 2012 because of immaturity issues and Grunfeld's inability to employ a coaching staff that may have been able to salvage the two players.

In the 2009 NBA draft, Grunfeld famously traded the team's 1st round pick (5th overall) for Mike Miller and Randy Foye. Both of whom, only spent one season in Washington. The trade along with the selling of the 32nd pick, left the Wizards without any meaningful assets from the 2009 NBA draft class/Free Agency pool.

In the 2011 NBA draft, Grunfeld drafted Jan Veselý and Chris Singleton in the 1st round of the 2011 NBA draft, while passing on players such as Kawhi Leonard, Klay Thompson and Kenneth Faried. In addition, Shelvin Mack was selected in the 2nd round. All three players were off of the team three seasons later. Jan Veselý proved many critics correct of not being worthy of lottery selection. Vesley and Singleton are currently not in the NBA.

In the 2012 NBA draft, Grunfeld drafted Bradley Beal at number three overall. He also drafted Tomas Satoransky in the 2nd round.

In the 2013 NBA draft, Grunfeld drafted Otto Porter at number three overall as the Wizards jumped five spots in the lottery process. He acquired Glen Rice Jr. in a draft day trade with the Philadelphia 76ers in the 2nd round.

In an effort to give the promising consensus number one overall pick from the 2010 NBA draft, John Wall, a backup point guard, Grunfeld signed Eric Maynor in July 2013. Maynor went on to have one of the worst statistical performances as a backup point guard for the Washington Wizards in the Ted Leonsis era.

The Wizards traded their 1st round pick in the 2014 NBA draft along with Emeka Okafor for Marcin Gortat in a trade with the Phoenix Suns in October 2013. Grunfeld sold the Wizards 2014 2nd round pick for $2 million to the Lakers who then drafted Jordan Clarkson.

In July 2014, he signed former NBA Finals MVP Paul Pierce to replace Trevor Ariza, Kris Humphries in a sign and trade with the Boston Celtics (trading a 2015 2nd round pick), and DeJuan Blair in free agency.

Halls of Fame

In 1987 he was inducted into the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame.[6]

In 1993 Grunfeld, who is Jewish, was inducted into the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.[3]

In 2008 Grunfeld's number 22 that he wore while at Tennessee was retired, making him the second Tennessee Volunteer in Men's Basketball to be retired along with his teammate Bernard King.

He was also inducted into the PSAL Wingate Fund Hall of Fame.[7]


Ernie Grunfeld's son, Dan, played for the Stanford University men's basketball team (2002–06), the German basketball bundesleague team EWE Baskets Oldenburg (2006–07), and Gandía BA, a professional basketball team in Spain. His son received Romanian citizenship in order to be eligible for playing for the Romania national basketball team.

See also


  1. Kenneth Shouler (September 1, 1996). "Ernie Grunfeld Interview". Cigar Aficionado. Retrieved June 21, 2008.
  2. Brown, Clifton. "BASKETBALL; Grunfeld Is a Candidate for Bucks' Post", The New York Times, May 21, 1992. Accessed June 18, 2009. "Grunfeld, who is 37 years old and grew up in Forest Hills, Queens, still has two years remaining on his Knick contract."
  3. 1 2 3 4 "Ernie Grunfeld". Jewish Sports Hall of Fame. Archived from the original on August 20, 2006. Retrieved 20 February 2014.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 "Wizards Hire Ernie Grunfeld". National Basketball Association. June 30, 2003. Retrieved 20 February 2014.
  5. Shouler, Kenneth. "To Fix The Knicks: Can Ernie Grunfeld Bring an NBA Championship Back to New York?", Cigar Aficionado, September 1996. Accessed September 9, 2008. "In the off-season, Grunfeld has more time to spend with his wife, Nancy, and their two children, Rebecca and Danny, at their Franklin Lakes, New Jersey, home."
  6. "Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame". Retrieved April 19, 2015.
  7. "PSAL Wingate Hall of Fame Inductees (Listed By Sport)". Retrieved January 11, 2011.
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