As the NBA Players Association’s search for a new executive director drags on, one can’t help but wonder if it will have a happy ending. Right now, that’s hard to foresee.
The search has been plagued by inefficiency from the beginning. The low level of transparency has opened the search up charges of manipulation as various factions from inside and outside the union try to exert influence over the process.
Add to all of this the horrible timing of the process and the natural difficulty of keeping a fairly large group of in-season players up to date and involved in the process while maintaining secrecy.
It is a recipe for disaster.
The search has taken a dangerous turn.
After months of a questionable interview process, it is believed that the finalists were set sometime in January. The hope was to take a final vote at All-Star Weekend and be done with it.
Unfortunately, the majority of those voting were not prepared to vote since they had not met either of the final candidates. Even five days before the weekend it was unclear whether or not a vote was going to be taken.
Alas, the vote was postponed, and a plan was hatched to bring the candidates to New Orleans to be introduced to the players, as All-Star Weekend is one of the few times where players can get together during the season.
Unfortunately, the logistics could not be worked out at the last minute, so a decision had to be made. Either put everything on hold until the summer or come up with some other way to introduce the candidates to the 30 or so players who vote.
As it is impossible to cart the two finalists to 30 interviews around the country, it was determined to bring a video of the candidate interviews for private viewings with all of the team player reps that vote. While this didn’t offer any opportunity to question the candidates, at least the voters could get some indication of whom they were supposed to vote for.
But as is typical with these types of things, new problems emerged. First of all, the candidates’ identities are now known. You have two people with high-profile jobs who are known to be candidates for a job that won’t be filled for possibly six months after their identities are out there.
The presumed favorite, David White, is the executive director of SAG/AFTRA, the actors union. That union is set to enter its collective bargaining negotiations in May.
What position does this put him in? Are his bosses just going to sit around during their important negotiations with the possibility of his leaving hanging over their heads? Or will they make him choose sooner rather than later to either commit to a long-term deal or leave now, so they can have a committed leader?
What about the other finalist, Michele Roberts? She is a renowned litigator with a heavy schedule. Do her bosses just sit back and let her apply for this job that has no firm hire date? What if a big case arises?
And there is the elephant in the room that no one is talking about.
Would the players really hire a woman to replace Billy Hunter?
A quick story.
When I was on the board of the Retired Players Association, we went through a hiring process for a new executive director a couple of years ago.
One of our five finalists was a woman with a terrific background. She ran Pop Warner football very successfully and was passionate about sports. As we were evaluating the candidates, I noticed that she was not being discussed when I believed she should be at the top of the list.
When I mentioned that, I was told in no uncertain terms that it would be untenable to hire a woman. The members would not go for it.
So it begs the question: Is Michele Roberts a viable candidate acceptable to the player body, or the candidate you put in there to ensure that the guy you want gets elected?
Remember that many organizations hire for the news conference, knowing that any choice has to be defended and justified. I took an informal poll of a dozen players and other people in the know and found that the results were the same as my earlier experience. No one felt a woman would be hired regardless of her qualifications.
So what happens if David White is forced to drop out because of his other commitments? Do you vote on just one candidate who might not have been your real choice anyway? Or do you re-open the process? Can you realistically do that without starting over?
And if you are forced to start over, doesn’t that put your search firm in jeopardy for getting you to this place? Then you need a search to find a new search firm, delaying things even further. And a new person coming in is already on a short schedule with collective bargaining on the table in a couple of years.
It’s easy to see how the wheels can fall off.
So the selection committee is kind of boxed in a corner. The path of least resistance is to find a way to have the vote, hoping that both candidates can go the distance. That seems like a long shot, though. Six months is a long time for candidates to be in limbo.
If the players can pull it off they will have fewer questions to answer. Otherwise, you have the search from hell, and starting over won’t be easy. Pardon my acronym, but this whole mess is FUBAR.
Danny Schayes is a retired 18-year-veteran of the NBA, a professional broadcaster and soon-to-be-published author now penning NBA columns for SheridanHoops. Follow him on Twitter.
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