Grizzlies young owner has new approach
by Steve Kyler, USA TODAY Sports
When 34-year-old Ubiquiti Networks founder Robert Pera led a group of 17 to buy the Memphis Grizzlies, he became the youngest NBA owner, and brought with him a new approach to running an NBA team.
During his introductory press conference Pera announced that Jason Levien, a long-time sports agent and former Sacramento Kings executive, would run the team as CEO and managing partner. With more than three months on the job, Levien has begun to transform the Grizzlies with some unexpected additions to his front office staff, tapping long-time business associate Stu Lash to oversee player personnel and long-time sports reporter and advanced analytics guru John Hollinger, formerly from ESPN, as his vice president of basketball operations.
“Both guys needed to be recruited a little bit,” Levien told USA Today Sports. “I put my agent hat on, but I think both guys were excited.”
Hiring Lash seemed almost inevitable, as he and Levien have a long history together. However, hiring Hollinger away from ESPN was something of a surprise.
“I always read his stuff so I sort of knew him from reading his stuff and saying, ‘This guy is smart and he writes really well,’” Levien said. “We spent time at the Sloan Conference together (an annual sports analytics conference held by MIT in Boston), and I liked him even more.
“I leaned on John when I was an agent a few times to give me advice on how I can use analytics in promoting my clients through negotiation and even in the draft. I understood what he was looking at and what he saw and how that equated to what I was looking at and what I saw. And I said, ‘This guy really gets it, he’s really sharp.’”
The decision to leave a successful career at ESPN wasn’t an easy choice for Hollinger, whose name and stat work still appear all over ESPN’s NBA website.
“I felt it was place I could come in where my voice could be heard and I could make an impact,” Hollinger said. “I’ve known Jason Levien for a long time and being able to come here and work with … [For more on Grizzlies young owner has new approach on running team, click here.]