Roger Montgomery Making a Name For Himself
For every offseason move that has occurred this summer, there has been an agent orchestrating and negotiating behind the scenes. While players make the headlines when they’ve been traded or sign with a new team, it’s the person representing them that has been doing the heavy lifting despite the fact that we rarely hear about them.
Sure, when LeBron James was preparing for “The Decision” we read about Leon Rose, Worldwide Wes, Maverick Carter and others who represent and manage the King. But what about the agents who are constantly scouting overlooked talent, developing middle of the pack players, and representing diamod in the rough players?
This is where Roger Montgomery comes in.
As an up-and-coming agent, Montgomery has made a name for himself by building relationships throughout the league, possessing an impressive eye for talent, and putting in the extra work for his clients, which include Sonny Weems, Maurice Evans, Jeremy Lin, and Desmond Mason.
“I’m building something special and even though I feel like I’m only in the second quarter of this game with much work to do, I’m planning on winning this game and doing it my way,” said Montgomery.
His way included starting his own boutique firm, Montgomery Sports Group, after working for the Houston Rockets and playing three seasons of professional basketball overseas.
“I played over in Europe for a few years but before I started playing, I was the assistant video coordinator for the Houston Rockets [in 1995]. The next year, we had the lockout so I went overseas and played for three years in various places such as France, Poland, and Finland. After that, I was trying to determine what my next step was going to be and I got involved with a few people who were interested in starting a sports agency. That’s how I began in the business and initially, I was representing players from overseas who I had either known or played with and were unhappy with their representation. Obviously, I eventually wanted to represent the best players in the world. I started recruiting players that I thought were capable of playing in the NBA and my first client was Desmond Mason,” said Montgomery.
Since then, he has taken overlooked players that nobody thought had a place in the league, such as Weems and Evans, and helped make them rotational players.
“There are some meticulous parts that go into being a good evaluator of talent. One thing is not listening to what everybody else has to say. You have to have an eye for talent and being a former player and basketball junkie gave me the ability evaluate talent. I’ve just always had that knack to evaluate abilities that others may not see. A lot of people like to tell you what a player can’t do but I like to look for what a player can do. The other part of the evaluation is trying to find out what kind of individual you’re dealing with because there is a component or thread that, I believe, NBA players have to have in order to make it in the league,” he said.
One of his biggest success stories has been Weems, who was relatively unknown entering his senior season at Arkansas before putting up impressive statistics, leading the Razorbacks to their first NCAA Tournament win in nearly a decade, and winning the College Slam Dunk Championship.
“A few years ago, I went to see Arkansas play and everybody was talking about Patrick Beverly. Now Patrick Beverly was a good player so I went to see him, but I left that game saying Sonny Weems was the best player on the floor and the best on that team. That’s the guy that I want. It was early in the season and nobody was talking about Sonny but about midway through the season, everybody was talking about him. That’s why I like doing things my way. People may hand an agent a list saying these are the names you need to go after but those names don’t always resonate with me. Just because they say they can play, that may not always be the case,” he said.
Representing these players that have been passed over is oftentimes more difficult than providing services for a superstar such as James.
“All you need is a cell phone and a fax machine to represent LeBron James,” said Montgomery with a laugh. “If you have a LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, or Dwyane Wade, those guys are going to have interest without representation for the most part. It’s very different because the reality in this situation is that sometimes it’s like selling water to people who aren’t thirsty.”
But because it’s such a challenge, Montgomery believes that representing these players is more rewarding and provides him with valuable experience.
“It’s awesome,” he said with a smile. “It’s really rewarding because it truly is a partnership when you go after a player that’s not as heralded as some of the recognizable names and prospects. I know that these guys can play from Sonny Weems to Jeremy Lin to the Graham twins to Kirk Snyder to Jiri Welsch, these are players that people didn’t think were capable but they weren’t risks for me because I knew they could play. It is extremely rewarding because you know you played a major part when those guys make it. It’s easy to see that John Wall can play, you’re not really a great evaluator if you tell me that John Wall can play. My daughter will tell you that John Wall can play. It’s not as easy to say, ‘This kid from Harvard, Jeremy Lin, is the real deal. He’s not just a novelty, he can really play.’ That’s the difference.”
Montgomery has also done an excellent job finding endorsement deals for his clients, which can be difficult as an independent agent with lower profile players.
“It’s the same flavor, trying to sell someone water when they’re not thirsty. A lot of times people want the names. They want recognizable names because, obviously, they feel that will sell their product but what they don’t understand is that there are other players that would also sell their product if they invest in them and do their due diligence. Some of these other players end up playing on Team USA or turning into really, really good players in the league. But if you try to share that, it’s like trying to break rock. I will say this, it has really taught me how to get a deal. Nobody has ever given me a deal,” he said.
Because of the success he has encountered with his approach, he could see himself staying independent for the rest of his career.
“You never know what’s going to happen in the future but I anticipate that being something I’d like to do. I feel like I can be successful as a boutique, managing and having a good rapport with players. I can have a pulse with the players that I represent, which I try to do, because I feel it’s very rewarding to have a relationship with them that goes a little beyond the call of duty. That’s not for everybody but it’s definitely rewarding for me and I like to do that,” he said.
Montgomery gives agents a good name during a time when the industry is being cast in a bad light. He builds relationships and works hard rather than building bank accounts for prospective clients.
“That’s something that is really overlooked in our industry and the way some of the mainstream does business now, people believe that the only way they can satisfy their client is by making it rain for them,” he said.
“That’s not always the case. You’re not always going to have players that appreciate when you go above and beyond but I’ve been really fortunate that my players appreciate it. It’s really satisfying when players thank you for an opportunity or thank you for really working hard for me. That’s rewarding in today’s market, with the way business is done. Players don’t always look at it like that. Some act like, ‘You work for me and you should feel privileged that you work for me.’ But the players that I’ve had, and I’m sure that there are others out there who are like this too, have been awesome in that regard. It’s really satisfying to have that rapport and work with guys who really respect and appreciate the grind and see when you’re doing the things that aren’t necessarily in your job description.”
Montgomery has built a reputation as a hard worker for himself and executives around the league have noticed the amount of time and energy he puts in for his players.
“Roger has always been an extremely hard worker and he always does his due diligence in preparing to represent players,” said Milwaukee Bucks general manager John Hammond. “I’ve always known him to work extremely hard and do a first class job in representing his clients.”
Wayne Cooper, the Vice President of Basketball Operations for the Sacramento Kings, is close with Montgomery and sees the excellent job he does for his clients.
“I’ve always had a straight forward, honest relationship with Roger. He’s very fair and he has a pretty good eye for talent,” said Cooper. “I’ve always had a good relationship with both sides, [agents from big firms but also boutiques]. Its part of the business, you have to know them all. But a guy like Roger is probably a little bit more special because we’ve known each other for such a long time so it’s a little different, we’re closer. He’s a very hard worker. He really works hard for his clients and that’s one thing I respect about certain guys, the fact that they really care about their clients.”
Not only does Montgomery care about the players he represents, he feels it’s his responsibility to go all in for his clients and take them places. “I love the excitement of being able to be a small part of someone’s career. When someone gives you the keys to their career, that’s an awesome responsibility and I love it,” he said.
As he’ll tell you, this is only the second quarter of a long game. The first half has been promising and his philosophy has quickly yielded impressive results. But for the second half, Roger Montgomery has a game plan in place and it’s just a matter of time until he starts to pull away and distance himself from the competition.