Bernie Lee Rumors
Bernie Lee: When we are preparing for an interview with a team, I’ve always personally found it cliché to overcoach. Instead, what I will do is make sure the player knows the names of every person they are going to meet from teams and what their backgrounds are. I got this idea from having a client on the Dallas Mavericks some years ago. The Mavs were one of the first teams to hire a full-time sports psychologist (Don Kalkstein). On game days, they would give players brief pop quizzes and I noticed one of the questions my client got every time was about the names of the refs that night. It’s something that really made sense to me. One thing that NBA referees hate is when players attempt to address them during a game and they begin the conversation with “Hey, ref” – especially young players. This simple thing of making sure you know the refs’ name totally changes the tone of every interaction. I took this premise and have attempted to apply it to meetings.
Bernie Lee: There is a segment of society who feels that NBA players and athletes in general should shut up and enjoy the lottery win in life they have been dealt. There are people who believe that all professional athletes trade their right to humanity for a paycheck. It has always been my position with the people I work with that the opposite is true.
Kevin O’Neill gets the job as head coach of the Toronto Raptors and a few weeks later I am at Five Star working what will be my last summer. Camp director Howard Garfinkel calls me over one day and says, “A very good friend of mine and someone who worked for me just got hired as the head coach in Toronto, where you are from…” I immediately get excited and say, “Wow, that’s great and can you talk to him for me?” Garf looks at me in his Garf way and says, ‘Of course I can, why the fuck do you think I called you over here… To brag?” Garf has a very unique way of speaking to people.
At the time, with my level of experience being minimal and being that I was Eminem in 8 Mile nervous talking to himself in the mirror, I was asked a question and I answered. I thought nothing of it. About an hour later, Kevin called me back and was already mid sentence when I answered the phone and before I can figure out what is going on I get the sense that he is pissed off. I picked this up because he’s cussing me out. “What the fuck are you thinking? You were told one simple thing to do and you can’t even do that? Do you think I would hire a person who can’t even follow directions?” I am stunned as I was given no directions, I am stammering for what to even say and it’s a mix of apologizing and trying to explain myself and Kevin cuts me off with, “Well, I wouldn’t hire anyone who can’t listen, so thanks for calling but the position has been filled.” And he hangs up.
When I started working in this business, I felt what made a good agent was being able to talk about the game and express informed opinions about it and my clients to the people I was trying to market them to. As time has gone on, I have seen that when an agent starts spouting off opinions or trying to display his inner Jerry West, it isn’t always as warmly received as the 23-year-old me would have thought. I have learned the more I can make my conversations about substance the more successful I will be – the substance being the intricacies of the NBA’s CBA.