Strange timing by the Kings to announce the Jason Levien hiring so late in the day. The release was sent out just after 5 o'clock, meaning space was at a premium in the story in the paper and the overwhelming majority of material from my interviews had no home.
Except on the trusty blog, of course.
To offer a bit of background before we get into it, the news of Levien's impending hiring last Thursday evening sparked much Internet chatter (and e-mails sent my way) about what it meant for the future of Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie and questions about whether this was his eventual successor. Even more relevant is that similar questions were being asked within the organization, where all but a small minority didn't know this was in the works and who wondered if Petrie's end wasn't more near than they thought.
On the surface, the uncertainty is driven mostly by three key factors: Petrie's contract expires after next season; the organization just made a rare front office addition and committed to a multiyear deal; common sense told you sharp ones out there that an agent doesn't leave that life for this one unless there's the potential for a promising path in place. I addressed a few of these questions in this post, but the relevant parties finally weighed in now that it's a done deal.
PETRIE (By phone)
He's bright. He's knowledgeable, has a breadth of experience now in terms of the collective bargaining agreement. He's a lawyer. He has a good network of people and resources that I think he's developed over the years. I think he'll add a lot.
Q: When did you start to think about this guy in this capacity in terms of bringing him in house?
A: Obviously, going way back to when we drafted Hedo (Turkoglu), he was working for (agent Lon) Babby. He was doing some of the point-work there. Over the years, I had different conversations with him - obviously Kevin (Martin), and there were other players in that arena. I was impressed with his preparation, his knowledge. Again, it's his ability to do some things in house for us along with his basketball background will be valuable.
Q: When the story came out last week, by far the most frequent question being asked by your fan base was not only 'What is this guy going to do?' but - so long as your deal doesn't go beyond next season - people wonder where your career is at. Does this have any impact on that? Is there a bigger picture at play here at all?
A: I don't think so. I really don't. I mean, I want to continue doing what I'm doing as long as it works for everybody. Obviously, you're healthy enough and you think your track (record) is good and you're accomplishing something. I don't think people should be really caught up in that at all.
Q: I was just talking to Gavin (Maloof), who said Geoff will be with us as long as he wants to be with us.
A: My relationship, not just with Joe and Gavin but just with the Kings as an organization or to whatever extent it's an institution in this community, it's a huge part of my professional and even my personal life at this point. That's why I just keep trying to do a good job.
Q:Did it surprise you at all that an agent would want to switch sides, so to speak?
A: There's a lot of people who would like to get into the basketball side of the business, regardless of what their profession or qualifications are. I think the world of Lon Babby, too. I think he's terrific, and Jason worked for him. He's carved out a niche for himself on the player side of things. And to do that, especially when you're a sole proprietor, you have to have some sense of whether a player can make it in the NBA or even has the ability to make it in the NBA. If your clients aren't doing anything, you can't make a living. Right?
Again, he's got a breadth of experience that's really valuable.
KINGS CO-OWNER GAVIN MALOOF By phone
I know Jason pretty well. He's certainly a very bright individual. He loves basketball, cares about the Kings, has a good rapport with Joe (Maloof) and I and Geoff. It's just another set of eyes and ears and an opinion that we could use to help us draft other picks, help us with our current roster. ... He knows basketball and he's a bright guy, so you can't have too many of those around.
Q: Were you looking to make an addition and you started looking around and you honed in on this guy, or was it the other way where the more you got to know him the more you thought you'd want to bring him in?
A: You run across a lot of people in the basketball business. I guess there are a lot of competent individuals, but you have to find someone that you really get along with and that you really hit it off with. We kind of all just hit it off. That's what happened with us and Jason.
He's an attorney and a bright guy, so he'll work well under Geoff. He'll review players' contracts. He'll help us form the contracts, do a lot of legal work that we need done. Whatever is involved in the business, that's what he'll help us with. And he's a basketball junkie, which is great too. You've got to find somebody who eats, breathes, and sleeps basketball, and that's what he does. I feel fortunate to have him, and I think he's going to bring a lot to the table.
Q: Gavin, at this point I know you start working together and see how it goes and you hope he pays off in the way that you're confident that he will. But because Geoff doesn't have a contract beyond next season, a lot of fans see this and wonder what it means.
Is there a chance that this guy down the road could be somebody in a much more significant position if Geoff wasn't around anymore. I know that's a ways down the road, but does he have that kind of potential as you see it?
A: I don't know that we've ever discussed that, as far as him being our next general manager. I don't know that we've discussed that as far as his future role. I think we're just going to take what he can do for us now and see where the chips fall.
We'd love to have Geoff with us a few more years. As long as he wants to be with us, we want to be with Geoff. There's really no timetable. We're just going to see how it develops and see what happens.
Q: It sounded like last summer Geoff was telling you and Joe to just 'leave my contract alone for a little while.' Have you resumed talks in that area at all.
A: What do you mean, 'leave it alone'?
Q: Ailene (Voisin) had reported over the summer that Geoff wanted to leave his contract situation the way it is, meaning this season and next, and that you would see how things fall together and talk about the future at a later date.
A: He's got this year and another, so I don't know. I don't look anything into that. I don't know how to respond to that.
Q: I'm just asking if you have talked about an extension or if you plan on simply operating with the contract he has now.
A: We're just operating with the contract we have now. You know, if it was up to us we'd never need a contract with Geoff. The people that do the job for us, we'd prefer they didn't have a contract because they could have a contract for life as long as they're doing the job and we're satisfied. The contract is just a piece of paper as far as we're concerned.
And Geoff, like I say, he can be with us as long as he wants to be with us. We stand by people who do the job. If you do the job, and you're loyal, hardworking. We don't like to switch people. It's like (team president) John Thomas, who we've had for like 10 years now. As long as they're doing the job and helping us make informed decisions, then they can stay with us as long as they want to.
LEVIEN by phone
I'm pretty excited. I think it's a really unique opportunity. It gets me closer to the game I love. It allows me to use my skills and my resources and contacts in a different way. It's sort of like looking at a puzzle from a different angle. Rather than representing the players, you're representing the team. I think the people in the organization are terrific. From Geoff on down, I think I've had a great relationship with folks there. Obviously knowing the Maloofs like I have, I know how much they care and are committed to winning. I'm just excited to be a part of it, and to try to contribute and figure out ways that I can help shape things.
Q: Why does a guy of your level of success leave that behind? Even geographically, you're Miami-based and now you're coming out this way. Explain the motivation from your side of this.
A: I think it's a combination of a love of basketball, a real belief in the Kings and the people that make up the Kings organization from the owners to the president. And it's the challenge. It's a unique challenge.
I didn't get into the agent business to stockpile as much money as I could. I did it because I really cared about my clients, I really cared about the game, and I felt that I could give good advice and make a difference in their lives. I feel as though, you know, I'm not getting into this for the same reason obviously.
I enjoy remuneration like anyone else, but I think if you chase money your whole life and that's your only goal, then sure I probably should've stayed as an agent. I was doing very well. But I think there's something bigger out there and something I want to contribute to that's more important than that. This is the kind of opportunity you can't pass up if you really feel the way I do. - Sam Amick