Irina Pavlova Rumors
Pavlova calls herself a fatalist, only half-joking or maybe not at all. The probable outcome is improbability; change is what she knows. “Whenever I interviewed for jobs,” she tells me, “they asked me, how do I deal with change? I was like, ‘Are you kidding me? Look where I am from!’” Pavlova was actually born in New York. Her father worked as a Soviet translator at the United Nations, only a mile or so from where she lives now. She moved to Moscow when she was still a baby. Then, when Pavlova was 10, after a brief stint in Geneva, her family came to the suburbs of Washington, D.C., where her father was a diplomat at the Soviet embassy. It was the early ’80s, the height of the Cold War. She had glimpses of American life from trips to the pool or television, which taught her perfectly idiomatic English. She was, she says, a little like the woman in the movie Splash, the mermaid who becomes human and learns English from watching television. “She just speaks commercials. I was kind of like that. I spoke commercials.”
As for herself, she likes being down on the court. For most home games, she’ll sit right by the scorer’s table, where she can hear the yelling on the court, can feel the vibrations of the floor. She likes the fluidity, the physicality, the incredible energy, the competitiveness; she calls herself one of the Nets’ biggest fans. She bounces and groans and screams until she’s hoarse; she says Brookie Brookie Brookie under her breath when Brook Lopez has the ball in the post; she worries over KG’s moods. For Halloween, three days earlier, she dressed up as a Brooklynette.
Everything was new. Not only did Pavlova have to try to master the sports business, the entertainment business, the real estate business — and to figure out how to translate the Russian side to the Americans and the American side to the Russians — she also had to navigate the strange, insular, sui generis world of the NBA. She had to learn merchandising rules, TV rights, the tense dynamics between small-market teams and big ones. At one of her first Board of Governors meetings, the subject was revenue sharing, which surprised her. “The first postulate of Communism is, ‘From everyone according to their abilities and to everyone according to their needs.’ I grew up with this,” she told the room full of powerful and wealthy men. She laughs at the memory. “I remember David Stern saying, like, ‘Really? How is it working?’” She shook her head. “You think you’re in this birthplace of capitalism, and you end up being the biggest capitalist in the room.”
Irina Pavlova, the President of Onexim and a buffer between Prokhorov and the Nets’ front office, spoke out this week — issuing a statement that said, “Bad-mouthing our former franchise player and Head Coach does not help the current team one iota.” But even as he has forged a Hall of Fame résumé Kidd also has left a path of destruction in his wake, teams angry, coaches’ careers in tatters. He moves on, but as friends?
Pavlova spoke as well as her boss’ management style, which she admits is unlike the typical American CEO. “[Mikhail Prokhorov] hires people … and has them do their jobs. There’s no daily phone calls, no weekly reporting. If I need his advice or input on something, I know where to reach him and he always calls back and makes time for a meeting. And … if he has an opinion on something, he definitely lets me know.”
In an interview with Sports Business Journal, Irina Pavlova talks about a lot of her key duties as president of ONEXIM Sports and Entertainment, but highlights one she has long seen as among her most important. “I think of myself as the biggest fan. So I try to pay attention to what other fans are doing and how they perceive our game-day experience. “One thing I’m always focused on is the music and if people are dancing in the stands or if they’re just sitting there texting, then I know we’re not doing something right ’cause I want everyone up there having a good time.”
On new NBA Commissioner Adam Silver: “David Stern was commissioner for 30 years and there was a certain way of doing business and certain entrenched relationships that went along with that. I think Adam brought a freshness to the league. It’s a lot more engaging for the owners, and I think they’re a lot more open for discussion.”