LAS VEGAS — If there is anyone in the Milwaukee Bucks’ basketball operations who should be dubbed “Mr. Buck,’’ it’s Dave Babcock.
Babcock has been with the organization for two decades and has exhibited unfailing loyalty, having passed on several offers from other teams over the years. During his 20-year tenure with the Bucks, Babcock has had several titles, most recently vice president of player personnel.
However, sources said Babcock was recently stripped of the title by the Bucks hierarchy and is now a regional scout for the NBA team. He and wife, Dori, are expected to move to Arizona.
Babcock and Bucks general manager Jon Horst couldn’t be reached Tuesday for comment. The Bucks are participating in the NBA Summer League but didn’t have a game on Tuesday.
Babcock’s reassignment shocked many in the NBA community.
“I don’t know why they would do that; that’s a mistake,’’ a veteran Eastern Conference official said. “Dave’s an excellent talent evaluator, one of the best, hard-working, conscientious. He was really good at his job.’’
Added a Western Conference official: “This doesn’t make any sense. Dave’s a very good basketball guy; he knows our league as well as anyone.’’
Babcock has been heavily involved in virtually all basketball-related matters for the Bucks, as noted in the Bucks’ media guide: “Babcock is responsible for all preparation and organization surrounding the college draft and assists in the day-to-day operations of the personnel department, which includes player acquisitions, free agency, salary cap issues and roster management. He is also responsible for coordinating all of the scouting for the Bucks, including the NBA, NBA D-League, college and overseas competition.’’
One of Babcock’s biggest assets is having an extensive network of basketball contacts, not only in the United States but around the world. That was demonstrated when he played an instrumental role in the Bucks drafting Ersan Ilyasova when the latter was an unknown commodity playing in Turkey and, more recently, in the Bucks drafting Giannis Antetokounmpo who had played in relative anonymity in Greece before becoming the 15th overall selection in the 2015 NBA draft.
According to a source within the Bucks’ organization, Babcock personally scouted Antetokounmpo in Greece and then encouraged then Bucks general manager John Hammond and then Bucks assistant general manager Jeff Weltman to fly overseas and check him out as well.
Hammond and Weltman did and concurred with Babcock that Antetokounmpo warranted serious consideration as their first-round pick. The 22-year-old Antetokounmpo became an All-Star last season and is regarded as one of the league’s brightest young talents.
Babcock’s reassignment is the latest in a series of Bucks’ changes in recent weeks. First, assistant general manager Justin Zanik, whom many observers considered the logical successor to Hammond after the latter took a similar job with Orlando, was fired.
Then, a short time later, two longtime Bucks officials — vice president of scouting Billy McKinney and director of pro scouting Chris Gilmartin — were also shown the door.