If Coon looks more the part of office-dweller than NBA revolutionary, there’s a reason for it. He spends his days in the information technology offices at UC Irvine, managing major projects and evangelizing business analytics. But over the course of more than 15 years, he’s used his nights to become an indispensable part of the NBA fabric, operating the go-to reference used by teams, players, agents and reporters. When it comes to understanding the rules that get your favorite players to and from your favorite teams, Coon is the person people turn to.
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His “CBA FAQ” has become a staple in web browsers around the league, breaking down the 154,274-word collective bargaining agreement – approximately the same length as “The Grapes of Wrath” – that lays out the financial rules for the NBA into more palatable terms. Before Golden State general manager Bob Myers won the 2015 Executive of the Year award and built a team that won a single-season record 73 games and signed the biggest free agent available in Kevin Durant, he was merely a law student with a thirst for NBA knowledge. To quench it, he tried to study the CBA. “Anyone who knows and has tried to do it, it’s very dense,” Myers said. “Larry was the first person to break it down into layman’s terms, into ways that were succinct, efficient.
Coon’s original FAQ, which published in 1999, was a constantly evolving project, being updated in between the naps of his newborn daughter Megan. People who were interested had questions, and they turned to Coon for answers. He called the league office, asking questions about the CBA. No one, at least no one as enthusiastic and as smart as Coon, had called and been so inquisitive. “He had more of an appetite than most for that kind of stuff,” NBA deputy general counsel Dan Rube said.
A financial riddle stumped officials in one NBA team’s front office. It concerned the league’s byzantine legalese regarding the salary cap. They needed help, fast. One official phoned the league office, seeking clarity. Another inspected the text of the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement, a canon of lawyerly jargon as comprehensible as Sanskrit. Then, another official surfed to an exhaustively detailed online FAQ about the NBA labor deal authored by Larry Coon, a 49-year-old information technology director at UC Irvine. Coon laughed as he shared this anecdote. His list of NBA sources spans across the league’s 30 teams, all because he explains something most deem unexplainable: the NBA salary cap. “You’re the reason I have a job,” one NBA general manager told him.
Within the NBA, his work is appreciated. “It helps us because the more educated the fans are on the vehicles that you need to get things accomplished, the more they have realistic expectations,” said Neil Olshey, the Clippers’ vice president of basketball operations. For all the time he puts into his FAQ, Coon neither wants nor expects a dime in return; he doesn’t even have advertisements on his simply designed site. It’s a hobby to him, an entity free of commercial interest, and he wants to keep it like that.