Gelf Magazine - Looking over the overlooked

Sports

December 17, 2013

An NBA Agent Loses His Love for the Game

Keith Glass looks back after over three decades in the sport, and he doesn't like what he sees.

Elliot Magruder

Keith Glass's first client as an NBA agent didn't seem that promising. The guy had spent three years working as an auto mechanic before college, and had averaged just over a point per game his senior year. But that unlikely prospect was Mark Eaton, a 7'5" behemoth who went on to play in 13 All-Star Games and still holds the NBA single season record for blocks.

Keith Glass
"There is an absolute empirical progression of what's wrong with the league. The more money involved the worse the behavior."

Keith Glass

Glass, who represented NBA players and coaches for over three decades, has been in fortuitous spots throughout his career. As he details extensively in his 2007 memoir Taking Shots: Tall Tales, Bizarre Battles, and the Incredible Truth About the NBA, Glass's first NBA break came as a kid at summer camp in the Poconos, when he became friends with fellow camper Larry Brown. Glass would go on to work as an assistant under Brown at UCLA and would later represent him throughout his tumultuous, though highly successful, career.

Along with Brown, Glass forged life-long relationships with numerous players and coaches, including Mahmoud Abdul Rauf formerly Chris Jackson. Glass advised Abdul Rauf when the controversial guard refused to stand during the national anthem and helped him weather the firestorm that ensued.

Given his highly successful career, Glass' memoir is surprisingly negative about the state of the NBA. The very first line of the memoir intones, "Basketball used to be a helluva game." Glass takes issue with practically everyone involved in the game, from the players to the other agents to the league itself. The obvious question thus arises: If Glass was so dissatisfied with basketball writ large, why did he spend the bulk of his career working within the game?

It's this paradox that drives the narrative of the memoir. Glass justifies his choice of career, and the benefits inured to him therein, while also criticizing the financial structure of the game in a comprehensive fashion. He criticizes the exorbitance of player salaries and decries the injustice of reducing the agent's mandatory fee in the same paragraph. He laments the prevalence of "runners" as intermediaries between agents and players, only to reveal a few pages later he utilized one himself.
In an interview with Gelf, edited for clarity, Glass discusses whether his views have changed since the book was released, names some of his favorite contemporary players in the NBA, and the explains the distinction between "recruiting" clients and actually representing them.

Gelf Magazine: It's been six years since the initial release of the book, have your views about the NBA changed?

Keith Glass: My view of the NBA continues to actually worsen as the years roll on. There is an absolute empirical progression of what's wrong with the league. The more money involved the worse the behavior. I actually won an arbitration hearing against another agent three years ago. I was the only one to do so.

Gelf Magazine: Who are some of your favorite players to watch in the NBA these days? Least favorite?

Keith Glass: I like watching Marc Gasol, Kevin Durant and LeBron. They are all unselfish and terrific players.

Gelf Magazine: I found your distinction between the role of an agent in "recruiting" clients and in "representing" them interesting. Can you explain the difference?

Keith Glass: The difference is that if you recruit very hard you can't actually represent. Representation requires you to tell a player things that they might not like or want to hear. The most successful agents today in all sports are primarily the ones that recruit or have others recruit for them.

Gelf Magazine: A substantial portion of your book focuses on the sometimes exorbitant salaries of players, but not so much on that of ownership and management. Do you think ownership is "overpaid" in the same sense that players are?

Keith Glass: The owners, at least have put their money on the line. The problems don't really stem from those two groups (players and owners). The problems ultimately stem from the fans themselves who are willing to support these insane prices. Until that changes things will continue to go up.

Gelf Magazine: You talk about how the 2005-06 Knicks were a debacle. The 2013-14 squad seems to be about the same. Have you been watching them crash and burn this season?

Keith Glass: I have been watching the Knicks extremely closely. My family and I represented Coach Mike Woodson for seven years before he was told by Jim Dolan to fire us. It's been a continuing story here in NYC.

Gelf Magazine: At one point you say, "The burdens that we place on coaches and teachers increase yearly. These burdens have subtly forced many good coaches and teachers to the sidelines." Can you elaborate on some of the burdens and how you would fix them?

Keith Glass: Coaches for the most part in the higher levels of college and the NBA are scared to death of their players, and until that changes there's no hope. There are obviously exceptions to this like Popovich in San Antonio and others, but the overwhelming majority of coaches are at the mercy of players.

Gelf Magazine: I know you are close with Larry Brown so I wanted to ask about him. Do you think his reputation of being constantly on the lookout for new coaching jobs is a fair one? For example, when he was the coach of the Pistons in 2005, he did not disavow rumors that he would be leaving at the end of the season to go to Cleveland.

Keith Glass: As to Larry, obviously his travels speak for themselves. I can't comment on the Detroit/Cleveland situation because my dad represented him. Sorry.

Gelf Magazine: The status of one of your European draft prospects was uncertain, and when asked by clubs about his availability, you responded that you were unsure. In the book you say: "I told the truth. I must have been out of my mind!" Do you regret being that candid with members of teams and the league during your time as an agent?

Keith Glass: I never regret telling the truth. The blame for this is squarely at the feet of my mom and dad.

Elliot Magruder

Elliot Magruder is an attorney and writer living in New York City.







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Article by Elliot Magruder

Elliot Magruder is an attorney and writer living in New York City.

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