You’ve just been hired as the Lakers’ new GM. Congratulations. What’s your first move?
Thank you, hopefully I’m not fired before the season starts. My first move is to go out to dinner with Lebron James, have some wine. He’s the gateway to getting the rest of the team onboard to whatever the message is.
Picking his brain, seeing what his goals are, his plans, his mindset … and then go from there. It’s a fine line, because he’s a player and you’re front office, those are different responsibilities. But as a coach or a GM, you’d be foolish to ignore the fact that his voice is probably a bit louder than yours in the room. I secretly think that he’s preparing the foundation of the team for his son, who comes to the league in three years.
If I was (Lakers team owner) Jeanie Buss, I wouldn’t go, even, with a traditional General Manager. I would probably look somewhere outside the league.
Most of the GMs who are viable candidates are already in the basketball world. They’ve encountered him one way or another. Why not pick an executive from the outside who has basketball knowledge but isn’t tied to the business?
What’s needed at that level is the soft skill of being a people manager. You can learn the technical aspects of the game and negotiating an NBA contract, but the overall job of the GM is getting all these large egos to cohesively play together.
Take Golden State. People talk about how they’re a stacked team, but it takes coaching and management to get all of those egos that crave the ball to thrive together on a team. That’s what I’m here for. Jeanie, give me a call.
What are you listening to these days?
I listen to classical music a lot at my desk. I’m also going through a lot of old hip-hop. A lot of old Jay-Z, old Kanye … not the new Kanye-Kardashian.
Modern hip-hop all sounds the same, to the point where I listen to the radio and I’m not sure who it is. Same beat, same cadence … it’s become a standard approach to the creative process of music. They’re using analytics to identify, say, five words that will resonate with a target audience. Make sure you fold those words into your music. Other genres – rock and roll, blues, R&B – they grew out of emotional personal experiences. It’s now based off a template.
What game makes you most competitive?
Poker. Because I don’t like to lose, and I definitely don’t like to lose money.
I started playing real Texas Hold ‘em Poker at my last job. There were, unfortunately, a lot of degenerate players that I worked with. They’d have casual poker nights on Fridays, then once you were serious you got invited to their real poker games with the table and chips and everything. I also went to tons of Microsoft conferences in Vegas, and of course you always have to walk through the casino to get to the conference.
What’s your strongest attribute as a poker player?
I have a pretty good poker face, I think. Once I start doing something, I want to learn everything about it because I want to be really, really good. I got into the whole mental part of poker … reading people … I could tell when somebody at our table was flustered or when they had a horrible hand.
I doubt if I would enter a tournament, I’d get bored. Some poker players sit there for 12, 13 hours. Just sitting there. You don’t move. After I’ve won or lost a little money, I’m done playing, especially if I lose. I don’t like to be poor, and that helps my perspective greatly. Winning is the drug. When you win it’s like, “I’m invincible. I’m going to win it all.” Then you lose and you’re like, “Damn. I should’ve stopped.”
What recent movie or TV shows surprised you by how much you like it?
Game of Thrones. All my coworkers were like, “Oh, you’re going to love it. I promise.” Dragons, zombies, murdering queens, medieval times … I was skeptical at first. However, over Thanksgiving you don’t really have control over the television, and my nieces were really into it. So, we started watching, and after the fourth episode I was hooked.
Who’s your favorite character?
My favorite good character is Arya. I think she is a totally hardcore soldier. On the other side, Cersei. She’s totally cutthroat. If making it to the throne is what the game is, she is going to win it. Poison? Heads cut off? Explosives? Doesn’t matter … whatever it takes to sit in that chair.
Let’s road trip somewhere. Where do you want to go?
If I have to drive – I hate driving – so if I have to be involved in the driving process at any point, four to five hours is my max. I do want to visit Maine. I like serenity and I love lobsters. Those two are a match made in heaven.
I’ve never gone fishing either. My grandfather used to try and take us when we were kids. “Oh, granddad, I don’t want to go fishing with you and your old friends sitting in this boat doing nothing.” I never got a chance to do that. In Maine I think I’d be ok with it.