Fenton Pete Mickeal is a very well-known name overseas having played many years for Euroleague powerhouses Baskonia and FC Barcelona. With Barça, he won three Spanish Leagues and the Euroleague title… and you may also remember him for his long-running HoopsHype blog, where he once beefed with the Lakers of Kobe Bryant.
Shortly after his retirement in 2017, he started working as a scout for Tom Thibodeau in Minnesota, and last season did the same job for the Washington Wizards. Now he’s moving on to the next thing: becoming a sports agent.
Mickeal sat down with HoopsHype to discuss his plans, his relationship with new Knicks head coach Thibodeau, the bright future of Luka Doncic and more.
Why do you want to become an agent?
Pete Mickeal: Being in the front office of an NBA team really opened my eyes up to a lot of things that the NBA is looking for in players. When you work for the Minnesota Timberwolves like I did for Tom Thibodeau, it puts you in a position to learn every single player, every single intel about the player. So not just the player, what does he do well on the floor, you also learn about his family. You also learn any issues he had, his background… You’re kinda like the CIA or FBI when you’re an NBA scout. So this has really helped me understand everything about what the NBA is looking for. There’s a big need for the minor league players – for the G League guys, for the players playing overseas… The NBA has a big need for those players. So instead of continuing my contract with the Washington Wizards, I decided not to come back. I decided to bet on myself and create my own sports agency.
Obviously, I have a ton of good partners, especially David Carro over in Fair Play. He’s my guy. And then if you look at my cell phone, I’ve got over one hundred different GMs, assistant GMs, head coaches. From the NBA to the G League to everywhere in Europe. It’s not about what you know, it’s about who knows you. And everybody knows Pete Mickeal in Europe and in the NBA. I can be an asset for players, and I played the game at a high level, so I can relate to players and everything they go through in a career I’ve been there. I’ve been there from the NBA to the minor leagues to being injured to not getting paid on time… So all the issues I can relate to players, and I think this is kind of what drove me to be in the sports agency.
Do you have any experience in terms of contract negotiations?
PM: One key thing is a lot of people don’t know about my career is I have been personally involved in every deal I’ve done since 2008 in my contracts. So I’m one of the few players in the world that have sat there with Barcelona and negotiated the contract for Barcelona – me and Carro. So that was part of my deal with Carro, we would do it together. Not one person negotiates for me. I have to be there. I have to be in a negotiating role. I have to set my own price and I’ve been fortunate enough to do that.
In Barcelona the first time, I sat with all the owners and I sat with their GMs and we negotiated my contracts. So am I happy about that? Yes. I gained a ton of experience by doing that and it really made me want to be my own boss. You know, I think my life has been made to be my own boss. I would say players call me all the time, people send messages on WhatsApp and LinkedIn and say, ‘Hey, how do I get to be in the sports agency?’ ‘How do I get to be an NBA scout?’ I would tell people this all the time: if you want to be an agent, I would go to the NBA front office first because you learn so much about what the NBA is looking for and who the players you are recruiting.
When I worked for Minnesota, I was able to look at all the players in the world and it really helped me with what I’m doing now. And that’s why my motto is ‘I’m the hardest worker in the room’. I have every contact. I probably have more contacts than a 20-year agent has, direct contacts. So these three years in NBA have been great for me, cause it really taught me about players and their market.
So what are your current plans for your agency?
PM: We’re already up. We have a gym in Miami with my logo on it already. NBA players train at my gym all summer. We have one of the best gyms in Miami. That’s where all the NBA players train. We’re in the business of buying teams in the lower level. We are investing in teams in Spain, teams of LEB Silver [Spanish third division]. So we are actively invested in teams and we’re going to have our own team in Spain. We’re investing inside of the team, but eventually we will buy our own team in LEB Gold and LEB Silver. My official partner overseas is Carro, and in the NBA, we have a guy named David Watts who oversees the minor league players, the G League players, and things like that. All of these guys are certified NBA or FIBA agents and my job is to recruit the players. I have a real relationship with a lot of players, especially the G League players and my goal is to recruit the players. So that’s what I do. That’s my role. I found the gym, the staff and now we are moving the right way. We’re moving in the right direction, we really are.
And what are your short-term goals?
PM: Our company now specializes in taking the minor league players, like the G League guys, and sending them overseas. And we also take maybe the NBA player that doesn’t get any playing time, maybe he’s a 12th, 13th, 14th player at the end of the bench and we send him overseas. So this is what we specialize in, getting that player that is not getting enough playing time, that’s not getting the NBA call-up that they want and sending them over to Europe. So that’s our short-term goal. Obviously, the long-term goal is to have NBA players, but right now we’re specializing in picking the G League player and sending those guys overseas because there might not be a G League this year. So a lot of the guys who played in the G League who were waiting to play in the NBA, they might not have that opportunity.
So the smart players now are taking jobs and going overseas. You can look at all the top G League players, a lot of those guys they’ve already signed contracts over in Turkey, Russia, and Spain. So there is a market for those guys and that’s who I specialize in. Why? Because I have the relationship. When I was a scout in the NBA, you normally get to the game two hours and 30 minutes before, and you get the chance to talk to the players, the GM, the head coaches and assistant coaches. So it helped me establish a relationship with the players and the front office. So that’s what I’ve been doing over the last three years. And it is work, work, work, and all this work has really helped me to understand. I can get some good guys overseas right now. We have a player named James Blackmon Jr. He’s my priority right now. He’s the player that I’m trying to get signed over to a Eurocup team or Euroleague team. He is a really, really good player, played in the G League. He was the leading scorer in Italy in 2019 and this year he played in Trento, which is a Eurocup team. He’s only 25 years old and he’s electric. We’ve had an interest in him from different teams, I think he is ambitious and could play an NBA after he gets more experience in a few years, because he’s that good. We just want to put him in the right situation. He listens and he knows I can put him in the right situation for his career.
Your experience as a former player will give you an edge, you think?
PM: That’s my advantage over a lot of agents. Sometimes players need a guy who can relate to them that that kinda been in a situation they’ve been in. And they can look at my career and say, ‘You know what? I want a career just like him’. I went to the minor leagues, I got drafted to the NBA. It didn’t work in the NBA, went overseas and slowly but surely I built my career up to the Euroleague and win 12 titles in Spain and one Euroleague champion. So I have a big advantage of being able to play in Spain for eight years and also I have the advantage of knowing the GMs and the head coaches. A lot of these current active coaches, you know, they coached me before like Ibon Navarro, Dusko Ivanovic, Xavi Pascual, Moncho Fernandez… I can call them up and say, ‘I got a really good player’. Instead of most of the American agents, they have to call a European guy first and say, ‘Hey, I got a good player. Can you see if there’s interest?’ With me, I call them directly. I have direct contacts. I know a ton of people and I think the players liked that, they like the fact that they look at my resume and they see what I’ve done in my career.
You were a versatile forward during your playing days. Would you have made a career in the NBA today?
PM: I would be a 3-and-D guy right now in the NBA. I would be a guy that can play inside, can play out, put the ball on the floor, switch multiple defenders. I could guard any position on the floor. You look at guys like PJ Tucker, guys like that, that would be more of my role, but of course, I think I got more offensive game than some of these other guys because obviously I can post and I can take guys off the dribble. I could shoot from three. Right now it would have been my time in the NBA because of the size I had, the mentality, the toughness, and the rebounding because that’s what teams are looking for in the NBA. A lot of times when I was scouting a player, they were looking for players that play like me. You got Tom Thibodeau as the head coach, he wants players that play like me. He wants toughness, he values defense, guys who can guard multiple positions. When I scouted players, that’s what I was looking for.
Tom Thibodeau is the new Knicks head coach. Are the Knicks finally going to be a great franchise again?
PM: Yeah. When I got drafted to the Mavs, I got traded to the Knicks. Back then he was my assistant coach. He was a player development coach, he got in the weight room with me and then I played two summer leagues with him. So I developed a great relationship with Thibs. When I finished playing, Thibs hired me in Minnesota. So I have a strong relationship with him, I spoke to him two days ago and he’s in a great mood right now. He’s happy and I think he’s going to turn that organization around. He needs time because remember all these players, he’s inheriting them, they’re not his players. So give Thibs two or three years and I think he’ll turn that organization around because he slowly but surely he’ll start trading players to get the type of player that he wants.
He went to the East Finals with the Bulls, took the Timberwolves to the playoffs for the first time in 14 years. If you look at his track record everywhere, he’s had success and he’s going to have success in New York. He’s going to be like the savior. The only guy that can come in here and get this team to the playoffs. Give Thibs two or three years. That’s why he has a five-year contract because he knows, he understands how to develop. Remember, when he was in Minnesota he was the head coach but he also worked in the front office. Focusing on coaching now, it will be even better.
Like you said, you were drafted by the Mavs. You also became a legendary Euroleague player. What do you think about former Real Madrid star and Euroleague champion Luka Doncic?
PM: Luka will be the best player in the NBA. When I was in Minnesota, I told the front office that he would be one of the Top 10 players as soon as he got to the NBA. Then with the Wizards, I told them the same thing last year. I said ‘Luka Doncic will be one of the Top 10 players this year in the NBA’. Me personally, I think he’s a triple-double. He will be like a Russell Westbrook guy who can shoot the ball a lot better. He’ll average a triple-double for a few years in a row. Has great size, he’s a great rebounder and he can score, but then he has the vision to be able to make the right pass. The Mavs still need two more payers to really help him to be the best. Kristaps Porzingis is great, Tim Hardaway Jr. has had a really good year, but he needs another big and another wing to help him to make shots. He needs a 3-and-D guy to take the pressure off him defensively.
Talking about the best, I guess you remember where were you when Kobe Bryant passed away in that terrible helicopter accident.
PM: I was in Dallas driving to a G League game and somebody called me and told me, and I didn’t think it was true at the time. Once I got to the arena, I started seeing people with their cell phones out and people with their hand over their mouth in disbelief and then all of a sudden on the screen, they put up a picture of him and I started realizing, ‘Wow, this is serious’. Somebody called and told me but I still thought it was a joke. So I went to TMZ, and as soon as I went to TMZ and I saw it there, I knew it was true because they don’t report lies. But I just couldn’t believe it.
You played against Kobe and your Barcelona team beat his Lakers back in 2010.
PM: The memories I had playing one-on-one against him and enjoying that game, it gave the people in Barcelona, all of Spain and Europe a good showing. It also showed our competitive spirit against arguably one of the greatest players in the history of the game. I took that game personally because I’m a competitor and I wanted to show that I was one of the best players too. And that’s why it was such a competitive game on my side. And, you know, that’s why I played so well. Good competition brings out the best in me. We had just won the Euroleague championship and we had arguably the best team in Europe, with all NBA draft picks. Seven-feet guys like Fran Vazquez and Boniface N’Dong, shooters like Erazem Lorbek and Terence Morris, players like Juan Carlos Navarro, Ricky Rubio… It was an All-Star type of team. We had Pascual as the head coach, a guy who I think he could coach in the NBA. I really do if he ever wants to do that. He’s smart enough. He understands players and he’s intelligent enough to run an NBA team as a head coach.
As you wrote in your HoopsHype blog back in the day, Metta World Peace’s words really motivated you to bring your ‘A’ game.
PM: [Laughs] The media asked him, ‘You know Pete Mickeal?’ and he replied ‘Who?’ The media did their job and they created an illusion there to get me mad before the game. So it worked really well. When they told me I got a little crazy in the head. I wanted to kill the guy. There are two types of players: There are guys that take things personally because people say, ‘Hey, he can’t shoot, he can’t dribble, he can’t play defense,’ whatever. And then some people do things about it. So there are two different people. I was one of those guys that did something about every negative I’ve heard about myself during my career. I wanted to erase all doubts that anybody ever had about me, all the perception. And I think I did a good job of that. And that’s what I want to do for my players. Here at Mickeal Sports Group, we have our own gym in Miami, and we have our own team in Spain. So we’re doing business differently than the traditional agents.
I’m investing my own money. If I didn’t believe in this I would have continued to work for the Washington Wizards, but I decided against that. Most agents come into the business and they depend on the player’s salary to get them by. I’m not dependent on a player’s salary right now. I’m dependent on me investing my own cash into my players. And eventually, it might take two years, but eventually, it’s going to start paying off because players need NBA trainers. Players need to have a place where they can go. If they get injured at, to see physical therapists and we have one in our gym, we have trainers. We have room, we have everything there. So players need that. And they also, everybody loves to be in Miami in the summer. You could hang out in South Beach and in the afternoon, you can come to the gym and train every day. And that’s one of our biggest draws to the company and we provide free training to our players.
My motto is being the hardest worker in the room. That’s my model. Just like my basketball career. My business is the same thing every day: nonstop on the phone until two to three in the morning and back on the phone again at 7:00 am to work. That’s what I do every single day.