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Bucks Hire Grunfeld As GM

Ernie Grunfeld, who began his NBA career with the Milwaukee Bucks, was hired as the team's general manager Friday.

"It's great to be coming back home," Grunfeld said.

The former New York Knicks president and GM replaces Bob Weinhauer, who was fired this week after two years.

Sen. Herb Kohl, owner and president of the Bucks, said he knew it was time for a change in leadership.

Grunfeld was the only person approached for the job, Kohl said.

"I've known Ernie for a long time, and we're satisfied he'll be a good fit," Kohl said.

Grunfeld likely won't have the final say on personnel matters. Coach George Karl is expected to make the team's final decisions.

"I think we see the players the same way," Karl said. "He likes athletes, he likes speed, he likes defense."

Grunfeld, 44, spent nine years in the Knicks front office before he was fired in April.

Madison Square Garden president Dave Checketts replaced Grunfeld when the team slumped to 21-21 and was in danger of failing to make the playoffs.

New York then became the first No. 8 playoff seed to advance to the NBA Finals. The Knicks knocked off Miami, Atlanta and Indiana before losing the finals in five games to the San Antonio Spurs.

Grunfeld took heat for trading four players, including the popular Charles Oakley, for Latrell Sprewell and Marcus Camby, who initially had difficulty fitting into the team.

Later, however, Sprewell and Camby played key roles in lifting the Knicks into the NBA Finals.

Grunfeld attributed the Knicks' early losses to "an awkward time of year" caused by the players' lockout.

"New York is a town of instant gratification," Grunfeld said. "I've been in the game all my life for over 20, 25 years and you can't just put a group of players together and expect them to be a cohesive unit right away, especially without practice time."

Grunfeld, who had been with the Knicks since signing as a free-agent player in 1982, acknowledged he was out of touch with the current team in Milwaukee.

He said he would spend the next few days talking with Karl and the players.

"I want to sit with them and we want to see what direction we really want to go in and what things are possible to get done," he said.

During Weinhauer's two seasons as general manager, the Bucks were a combined 64-68. The Bucks decided not to renew his contract Tuesday, shortly after free agents Michael Curry and Dell Curry spurned the Bucks to sign with the Detroit Pistons and Toronto Raptors, respectively.

Grunfeld was drafted by the Bucks and played the first two of his nine NBA seasons in Milwaukee.

He said he took his family on vacations to Milwaukee each summer while he was with the Knicks.

"This is a great basketball town," Grunfeld said.

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