Meet the NBA’s possible savior, George Cohen

By Chris Sheridan

NEW YORK — Today, we begin to find out if a neutral third party can end the NBA labor stalemate and save an 82-game season.

George H. Cohen of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service is scheduled to met separately with owners and players today, then will bring the sides together Tuesday to see if they can bridge their differences and come to an agreement to end the NBA lockout.

Commissioner David Stern said last week that if a deal is not struck by Tuesday, his gut instincts tell him there will be no NBA basketball played on Christmas Day. If a deal is somehow struck this week, the NBA would be able to begin its season by the end of November. Games that were canceled over the first three weeks of the season could be rescheduled, the start of the playoffs could be pushed back by a week or two, and the NBA champion would be decided in late June instead of mid-June. 

So, who is this potential savior? Click here for his profile from the FMCS Website.

Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today has published a nice piece on Cohen: “President Obama appointed Cohen to the head of the FMCS in October 2009. In that role he has mediated disputes between Major League Soccer and the Major League Soccer Players Union, the NFL and NFL Players Association, the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, according to the FMCS web site. According to the FMCS 2010 fiscal report, the agency mediated 4,919 cases in 2010 and 86% of mediated cases were settled by the FMCS. Born in 1934, Cohen went to Cornell for his bachelor and law degree, served in the Army and received his LLM at Georgetown. … During his 40 years, Cohen argued and won five cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. His work is diverse: health and safety issues, pro sports, teachers, rail industry, entertainment industry (including the Directors Guild, Screen Actors Guild and symphony orchestras). He also once worked for the NBPA. … “He’s not going to bring any of his biases or his last experience into these discussions. He’s dedicated to being neutral,” said Buzz Hargrove, the former president of the Canadian Auto Workers, who served with Cohen on the National Hockey League Players Association’s advisory board. Stanford law professor William Gould worked with Cohen at the NLRBd in the 1960s. He described Cohen as ‘simpatico.’ “George is a great listener, very simpatico and interested in sounding one out about their opinions and views,” Gould said. “He’s respected by both sides, has done a lot of mediation and is quite effective. It’s unusual that management would have this kind of confidence in somebody who has spent a lot of his career on one side.”

Marc Berman of the New York Post: One NBA source, familiar with Cohen, said, “George is the only guy I’ve seen as smart as David Stern. And David knows it.” (Steve) Kauffman was an NBA player agent for 31 years before becoming an attorney for coaches and management. Kauffman represents Donnie Walsh, now a Knicks consultant. Kauffman said he has noticed an increase in calls from NBA teams in recent days, looking to “expediate” contract talks with assistant coaches. Kauffmann sees it as an indication owners believe something big is about to happen.


  1. Myles says

    I’m just really don’t understand why Stern and Hunter are only having George Cohen meet with both sides on Monday. Why not have him meet more in depth and longer with each sides this week even with David Stern holding meetings with his owners on Wednesday and Thursday.

    I just hope one day (Monday) is enough for Cohen to work his wizardry and help both sides come to a solution.

  2. Myles says

    “Kauffmann sees it as an indication owners believe something big is about to happen.”

    What does he mean by this? Is he saying that both sides are getting closer or is it just something big about the owners and their position?


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