"It's not about who you know, or what you know, but who knows what you know," is a quote that's stuck with me since the day I met former Dakota Wizards GM Tom Wagganer and asked him about career advice. For this story, I'm going to alter that a bit and say "It's not about who you know, or what you know, but who knows what you want to know." Translated: if you know the right people, having five extra people on payroll isn't necessary.
I just looked around the internets - all of them. Since this story came out, there have been roughly 47 articles/blog posts written either saying the Grizzlies are stupid, the Grizzlies aren't stupid and the Grizzlies might be stupid. There was also a thrilling exchange between Matt from Hardwood Paroxysm and Mark from ShamSports on Twitter, in which Matt was utterly against it and Sham wasn't really against it. My two blogging idols battling on Twitter(!) - I sided with Sham (I'd link to it, but Twitter doesn't have any sort of wall-to-wall-to-wall feature I'm aware of, so just look at our old tweets, starting here).
Now that you're all caught up on the back story of why I've decided to make my triumphant return to blogging by writing about something that's already been covered in-depth, I'll explain my angle. My angle is that of somebody that's been there before, as the self-proclaimed Director of Basketball Operations for the Minot Skyrockets of the CBA before the untimely demise of the league in February. I was essentially the scout for the Skyrockets, a kid with the internet in the desolate, snow-covered plains of North Dakota.
See, I was qualified because I had been following non-NBA ballers pretty closely before I was hired as Director of Operations in Minot because frankly, that's what people do in Bismarck, North Dakota (and by people, I mean me, because basketball has taken over my social life - I'm the only person in Bismarck I know). My familiarity came through daily checks of DraftExpress, ShamSports, ProExposure and watching as many games online as possible.
This might be taboo, but I'm unveiling the deep dark secrets of the minor league basketball world in this post (except for the D-League in that the D-League system of player acquisition and salaries are different). If a minor league basketball team can succeed without scouts, than it should be easy for an NBA team to only have 15 people in the basketball operations department (Which is actually less than what the Grizzlies have).
After the jump, I'll explain how we put together a roster from scratch without any scouts, which has to be more difficult than drafting two players heavily covered all over the internet and essentially already slotted into a spot pre-draft.
Our scouting process consisted of, primarily, three components:
- Players we'd somehow seen at some point.
- Recommendations from coaches we respected.
- Agents peddling their player(s)/favors to people that hadn't steered us wrong in the past.
- Lee Scruggs had played for Coach Sanders for the Asheville Altitude back in 2003. Coach knew what he brought to the floor (6'11", shooting, smart, no interior game) and felt comfortable that he'd remember the system and be a leader to the younger guys.
- The Dakota Wizards drafted two bigs, but really only needed one, so we took the 103 mile trek south to check out their training camp, thanks to Coach Ticknor inviting us and letting us know that'd be the case. After two days of watching, we went back to Minot and decided that no matter which big they cut (Aaron Spears or Brad Stricker), we wanted him. We ended up getting Spears and he averaged 20 and 10 for us.
- Dwight Jones had played for now-Fort Wayne coach Joey Meyer in Tulsa and Coach Meyer really liked him. Meyer called Sanders (Sanders assisted Meyer in Asheville) and told him that Jones is a player he'd want on his team. We called Jones agent, who overnighted us a DVD, and we agreed. Two days later, he met us in Oklahoma the day of a game.
- Andrew Davison also came recommended by a coach, but with different circumstances. See, Andrew is the son of Kent Davison, who is a former D-League coach who coached in the Middle East last season. Coach Davison called and told us that Drew was a shooter and since he was in the D-League player pool (undrafted), we told him we'd take a look. After Kent sent us some clips and said Drew would drive to Minot so it wouldn't cost us anything from Kansas, we decided to take a chance. Drew could shoot.
- Alvin Jones was a 2nd round pick in the NBA and former All-ACC Defensive player for Georgia Tech. His agent called us and said he wanted to play and just off that resume, we decided to bring him in - I mean, if an NBA team drafted him, he was surely talented enough to play in the D-League.
- Royce Parran is represented by Dynasty Reps. Dynasty's founder is Darren Heitner, who runs SportsAgentBlog.com. Myself and Heitner already kind of knew each other, and I already knew Royce because of him being 5'8" and dunking in the College Dunk Contest on ESPN. That, knowing his best friend was Aaron Spears and a DVD of him playing in the IBL is all it really took for us to add him.
I could explain the other players and how we acquired them, but I think you understand where I'm going - even though these players aren't household names (even to D-League followers) and hadn't played on TV in years if ever, we still were able to find enough out about them to give them a shot playing professional basketball.
To recap, in Minot, we'd have at least two agents call on behalf of their clients each day, get at least five DVD's a week along with having a few random players recommended to us from either the league or people we'd been in contact with before. There were also two agents that offered to fly their players into Bismarck just so we would look at them, though looking at their history, we declined on both.
Recapping, a front office of two was able to put together a team of 10 players that played for roughly $700/week. How is it that people aren't sold on the fact that the Memphis Grizzlies won't be able to find three complimenting players a year that will make millions with a front office of 13? If an agent is willing to fly their client into Bismarck for 15k a season just to get his player in front of a decision maker, I'm sure there are agents in the NBA willing to fly their client into Memphis so that the coaching staff will be able to get a look in person.
Now, looking at the people still in place on the Grizzlies staff, why would anyone think that they won't be able to use their contacts and know more than enough about any player?
- Johnny Davis - former NBA head coach and has been involved in the NBA since his playing career began in 1976 - he should know some people he can trust that know some things about guys he doesn't. Being the top assistant, he probably won't be doing much scouting.
- Henry Bibby - former NBA player, long-time minor league coach, high-level (PAC10) college coach until 2004, so he should know a good amount of the players available. He can be the NBA scout.
- Dave Joerger - Well, if you're worried that the Grizzlies won't know about the D-League, you're wrong. Coach Joerger won a D-League championship in 2006-07 with the Dakota Wizards and his mentor, Duane Ticknor is an assistant with the Sioux Falls Skyforce after being his succesor in Dakota for the past two seasons. Between the two of them, they'll take care of the D-League scouting.
- Barry Hecker - Well, I don't know much about Hecker, but he coached in China before becoming an assistant with Memphis, so he can use his contacts made and be the overseas scout (Asia).
- Damon Stoudamire - Since he recently finished up his playing career, he'll have a pretty good grasp of the NBA players. He can help out in that department.
Those are just assistant coaches. I believe the average NBA assistant is in charge of every fourth game for their team (Scouting report, etc.) so they've got time in between to take care of the scouting duties needed, that is if their basketball ops staff can't handle it (Tony Barone, Sr. (Director, Player Personnel), Gordon Chiesa (Director, Pro Scouting), Tony Barone Jr. (Director of Scouting). If needed, hire a college scout in March to cover the college guys a bit more in-depth. That crew, as far as I can tell, is more than capable to handle the duties they're given.
Now, after I laid all of that out for you, can you explain why they needed those five extra scouts? That's what I thought.