The NBPA announced this week that the current search for the new Executive Director has been canceled, and they will have a “do over.”
After more than a year of secrecy and controversy, the selection committee led by Board President Chris Paul finally realized that the search in its current form had no realistic chance of having a happy ending. The players were in the dark, the agents were near revolt, and the process would taint either of the two finalists so severely that it would make running the organization effectively impossible.
I have been a pretty harsh opponent of the search process. As a former player with an extensive background as a union supporter, I know how completely players are managed and manipulated throughout their careers and beyond, often by their own “advisors”.
As the process unfolded, it seemed that it was following this path to the players’ detriment. Most things were done in secrecy, the major advisor, Reilly Partners, were not basketball people, and there was no advisory input from experienced folks with knowledge of Players Association history, our own search experience, or intimate knowledge of the players and the league.
The players by themselves were in over their heads. There was no effective way to do this important search during the season with the committee scattered all over the country, with no way to get them all together regularly. It should have been obvious from the beginning that the whole thing stunk.
Its unclear if that was done by design, but it typically is. The fewer people who really know what is going on, the easier it is to control things. More flags went up when virtually all of the candidates who were basketball people were eliminated up front.
In the end, the committee had two finalists who looked good on paper, but seemed lacking in the most fundamental attribute. They had no previous history or knowledge of the league, or its players.
In addition, the majority of players who were expected to vote had never met either candidate.
SECRECY, SECRECY, SECRECY. The process was so shrouded in secrecy that you would think that they were working on the D-Day invasion plans.
The proof was in the pudding. In the end, the union could not even muster a vote.
Now they will start the process again. It is not a continuation of the process but a completely new search. Many of the candidates will be reconsidered, but the process could not be more different this time around.
To start with, the union appointed an advisory committee made up of all of the things lacking in the first search. It will be led by a former player who is universally respected by everyone involved.
Kevin Johnson, the current Mayor of Sacramento, is an ideal person. As a former All Star player, he knows the game and the players. As a mayor, he recently negotiated a very complex deal to keep the team in his town and secured a new arena to boot.
Also on the new committee:
Junior Bridgeman is among the most successful former players and is a former NBPA President. Jim Quinn has been an attorney negotiating several collective bargaining agreements. The others are respected businessmen and women with a lot to contribute.
Immediately secrecy went out the window. The group e-mailed all of the current players and agents a complete agenda and schedule of what will be happening over the next 3+ months. The committee will be meeting with players, agents, and other insiders. This is what transparency looks like.
I presume the rest of the process will be handled professionally and yield an excellent Executive Director.
Better late then never? The last time this job was filled was 17 years ago when Billy Hunter came aboard. Hopefully whoever is hired this time will be there for a while. That makes making the right decision more important than looking good doing it.
I recognize that it took some sack to pull the plug on a process that was so far along. In the long run its better to do the right thing.
The problem with doing it correctly now is that it makes the earlier search look so Mickey Mouse by comparison. It remains to be seen if there will be any repercussions later on. Obviously it’s important to do first things first and get it right. “All’s well that ends well!”
But if I were either David White or Michele Roberts, I wouldn’t quit my day job. The two finalists from the last search don’t have much of a chance this time. In addition to not being basketball people, I can only believe that winning a tainted search will not bode well for the next one.
So here are my kudos for those making the decision to start over. I am pleasantly surprised. My expectation was a forced vote followed by a lot of CYA. Rarely when there is a lot of money involved, do people do the right thing.
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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