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McGair: Agent's book predicted NBA's problems

December 1, 2011

In his latest column, sports writer Brendan McGair empties his notebook.

A little of this, a little of that …
In 2007, Keith Glass identified all the obstacles and problem areas that the NBA faced in a book entitled “Taking Shots: Tall Tales, Bizarre Battles, and the Incredible Truth About the NBA.”
A longstanding NBA agent, Glass had been privy to enough wrongdoings that he felt compelled to sit down and compose a 284-page missile that explains to readers how the game stood at the threshold of completely crashing and burning. To surmise, greed had replaced pure skill, which in turn led to a diluted on-court product that was robbing fans blind due to exorbitant ticket prices.
Looking back at the labor chaos that threatened to rip the NBA apart at the seams, Glass was a man ahead of his time, someone who was actually spot-on when predicting that Rapture was bound to rock pro hoops. The bad contracts, misguided owners and malcontent players are all documented by the agent-turned-author, the gruesome picture Glass portrays reminiscent of gathering storm clouds.
“At the end of the day, you don’t feel bad for anybody,” said Glass, his client list including Pawtucket native and current Brown assistant coach T.J. Sorrentine. “Basically the book was about getting the truth out to make people laugh and maybe even think.”
From afar, Glass closely monitored the endless bickering between the players’ union and the owners, the latter a group that ultimately came to their collective senses and realized that there are no profits to be made when arenas are devoid of patrons.
“I guess the owners wanted to take the game back, at least financially. The truth is that you don’t kill the goose that lays the golden egg,” was the idiom Glass summoned to describe how peace was ultimately reached. “There was a billion dollars on the table with those Christmas games, so I knew they weren’t going to jeopardize losing them.”
“My concern was always that the game itself wasn’t a good game to watch,” Glass added. “Players had become selfish, which is where I was coming from.”
The NBA labor deal has yet to be officially ratified, but from this particular agent’s vantage point, there still remains one lingering issue that for some reason continues to slip through the cracks – how to treat the paying customer.
“However they can put more money in their pockets … (owners) don’t go by the product; they go by how much money does this mean to us,” Glass said.
Guess that David Stern, Billy Hunter and the rest of the NBA’s head honchos should have paid more attention to what Glass wrote at the time his book was released. Maybe then they would have addressed the unsavory direction the sport was heading in and averted reaching critical mass, i.e. lockout.
Making the leap to UConn
It took just one visit by a representative from the UConn track & field program for Central Falls senior Steven Vazquez to realize that becoming a Huskie made perfect sense. Recently Vazquez, whose area of concentration is the high jump, committed to Connecticut with an eye towards signing a letter-of-intent come February.
“It feels good to know where I’m going,” Vazquez said earlier this week, also noting that he’s finishing up his essay as part of the application process.
What stood out to Connecticut officials was that Vazquez is a tri-athlete who also participates in football and basketball, though he ended up dropping football in late October with an eye towards getting ready for basketball and the indoor track season. (Vazquez excelled as a wide receiver, catching eight touchdowns.)
A two-time all-state selection, Vazquez earned All-American honors after clearing the bar at six feet, eight inches at last spring’s New Balance National Championships.
“They like the fact I’m a consistent 6-8 jumper and think I can reach seven feet my first year in college and score some points for the school,” Vazquez said.
Vazquez’s first face-to-face dealing with a college recruiter came shortly after a UConn coach sent him an email earlier in the school year. Before Vazquez knew it, he was sitting in the C.F. guidance office with that same coach, forging a relationship that has him convinced that he made the right call.
Check this out
For those who scoff at modern technology, here’s an intriguing twist on how one local high school handles recruiting – by putting clips up on YouTube.
The practice has worked so well that it’s become second nature for St. Raphael Academy head football coach Mike Sassi to refer recruiters to Player X’s reel online.
“First of all, Mike Foster, our school librarian, does a great job with all that technology stuff. Last year he taught some of our guys how to [compile a highlight package],” said Sassi. “It makes it real helpful for me. There’s a lot less mailing and copying. Now if someone calls me up, I just direct them to the appropriate YouTube site.”
What’s next for Okajima?
We knew that Hideki Okajima switched agents in October, moving from Boston-based Joe Rosen to Arn Tellem, one of the more renowned NBA and MLB player representatives. On paper, joining Tellem’s camp makes perfect sense for Okajima, given Tellem has handled deals involving fellow Japanese countryman Hideki Matsui and noted Yankee bust Kei Igawa.
“Our contract ended and I think our relationship had run its course,” Rosen said. “This wasn’t a situation where he fired me and chose another guy. We have a good relationship and I wish him the best of luck.”
Without reading too much further, might this change-of-direction mean that Okajima is vehement on pitching in the majors in 2012? That was one of the questions hovering over the left-hander, who turns 36 on Christmas, as the season was drawing to a close for the Pawtucket Red Sox.
Certainly the 2011 season was not what Okajima had in mind upon signing a one-year, $1.75 million deal last off-season to remain with Boston. He pitched just seven games for the BoSox and was routinely passed over every time the parent club had an opening for a lefty reliever. The most glaring example came when Boston signed 38-year-old Trever Miller in late August and later added him to the 40-man roster following Pawtucket’s season.
“Obviously he would have liked to have been up in the big leagues this year, but he’s going to have opportunities ahead of him,” Rosen said about Okajima, who posted a 2.29 ERA in 34 appearances with the PawSox.
Okajima was rumored to have spent most of September on standby, living in Boston just in case the Red Sox opted to activate him. Such a scenario never developed as Okajima, the onetime bullpen stalwart for Boston, elected free agency in early October.

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