TrueHoop: Who is William Wesley?

Wednesday Bullets

October, 7, 2009
10/07/09
10:51
AM ET

Frank Isola writes on the New York Daily News' Knicks Knation:

The three most important faces inside the gym at Skidmore College today were -- in order of importance -- William Wesley, Danilo Gallinari and Eddy Curry.

The Knicks need all three if Donnie Walsh and Mike D'Antoni hope to crack the 41-win barrier sometime before 2020.

Wesley, know as "World Wide Wes" is one of the movers and shakers in NBA circles. He has a close relationship with Donnie Walsh, who asked Wesley to oversee Curry's off-season workout program. More importantly, Wesley is also an advisor/confidant/friend of LeBron James.

It's an interesting little opera that will play out.

Of course Wesley -- as that rarest of assets, someone who is in LeBron James' ear -- will be the man of the hour all season.

Wesley's very close to Eddy Curry, and you'd have to think that any team hoping to land James would be wise to treat Curry with respect.

But does that mean Wesley would steer James to the Knicks?

Wesley is close to so many people in the NBA ... it's hard to know what his involvement with Curry means about James' future. For example: Wesley is also close to Jay-Z who is a part-owner in the Nets. And I have even heard that he's close to Dan Gilbert, who owns the Cavaliers -- after all, they're both in the mortgage business.

Tuesday Bullets

July, 14, 2009
7/14/09
2:31
PM ET
  • Lawyer Michael McCann (of Sports Law Blog and Sports Illustrated) has published a draft of a fairly lengthy paper examining Judge Sonia Sotamayor and her record in sports law. McCann was on the legal team that represented Maurice Clarett when he sued to join the NFL. There is an interesting prediction in the paper: "In the near future, the NBA eligibility restriction is poised to trigger a 'Clarett-like' case, which could culminate in a Supreme Court review of professional sports eligibility rules ..." McCann continues that, had he not elected instead to go to Kentucky, John Wall would have been a candidate to file such a lawsuit: "Consider, for instance, North Carolina native John Wall, the nation's top-rated basketball prospect in 2009. During the spring of 2009, Wall, a fifth-year high school student, contemplated declaring for the 2009 draft. Had he done so, the NBA could have rejected the declaration on grounds that Wall had failed to satisfy the eligibility rule. Wall had met the 19-year-old age requirement, but due to assorted transfers between high schools, there was confusion as to when he 'would have graduated' from high school. Although some projected that he would have been among the first five players selected in the 2009 draft -- which would have meant securing a guaranteed contract worth at least $7.7 million over three years -- Wall instead accepted a scholarship to play at the University of Kentucky. His decision removed the possibility of a potential challenge to the eligibility rule, but revealed the type of fact-pattern that could induce such a challenge." Also interesting from the paper: The Collective Bargaining Agreement has nothing to say about players with G.E.D.s. In theory, a player could get the equivalent of a high-school diploma and a year later make a case they're NBA eligible.
  • And as long as we're considering the merits of more or less insisting top players go to college, Basketbawful's Matt McHale continues his amazing series (names and identifying stuff mostly changed) on being the college roommate of an elite NCAA basketball player. A typical passage includes talk of McHale meeting with dorm honchos, trying to get assigned to a different room:  "I spilled my guts. I talked about the booze, the occasional drug use, the fact that he slept with a different woman every night. I told Chad that Mat never went to class, that he stayed up all night, that he ignored me when I asked for compromise. I didn't want to get Mat in trouble. I didn't want revenge. All I wanted was a new room assignment. And I really figured that what I told Chad would seal the deal ... and maybe even get Mat kicked out (even though I didn't want that to happen, if only so that I could avoid his wrath). 'Matt, there's something you need to understand,' Chad said. 'Student athletes are special people. They're under a tremendous amount of stress. It isn't easy balancing school work and classes and all their responsibilities to the team. We have to be patient with them, and very understanding. We have to make special allowances for them because student athletes make our lives better. They represent the university. They give of their bodies and minds so we can feel happy and excited about our teams. Don't you think that the least you can do in repayment is give Mat a little of that patience and understanding I was talking about?'"
  • A little behind-the-scenes footage of Ron Artest's first visit to the Laker practice facility and corporate offices. He asks for a bunch of Artest jerseys, presumably for his friends, and there is talk he may have to pay for them.
  • A tale of witnessing William Wesley introducing high-school junior LeBron James to Michael Jordan, who was reportedly there to sway James to sign with Nike.
  • The game of chicken going on between Lamar Odom and the Lakers.
  • Headed back to Greece: Josh Childress.
  • John Hollinger (Insider) on Otis Smith's fancy footwork: By making Dallas believe that they wouldn't match the offer for Gortat, they were able to throw the Mavs off the scent of [Brandon] Bass. At the time, the Mavs were thinking letting Bass go to the Magic would eliminate any chance of losing Gortat. Here's what The Dallas Morning News reported at the time: 'The Mavericks stepped aside in negotiations for Bass, allowing him to sign with the Magic. His presence with the Magic virtually guarantees that Marcin Gortat will be a Maverick. He signed an offer sheet … and Orlando has until next week to match the offer … The Mavericks are no longer worried about that possibility.' Psych! This is Lucy pulling the football out from Charlie Brown, folks. Orlando created the impression that it was going to let Gortat leave, the Mavs fell for it hook, line and sinker, and as a result the Magic got to sign the player they coveted at power forward (Bass), in addition to keeping Gortat like they always knew they would."
  • Kevin Arnovitz of Clipperblog on the idea of Allen Iverson as a Clipper: "The Clippers could conceivably plug him in as their backup point guard, run him out there with the second unit for 25 minutes a night, and have a potent starter when Baron Davis is afflicted with whatever it is that afflicts Baron Davis."
  • Antoine Walker used to follow in Charles Barkley's footsteps as an apparently overweight guy who managed to produce in the NBA. Now he's following in his footsteps as somebody with a very public six-figure debt to a Las Vegas casino. The only difference is that Walker's debt comes with an arrest warrant.
  • Oklahoman writer Darnell Mayberry tweets: "Kevin Durant: 'I'm not leaving Oklahoma. What ya'll keep asking me for?'" (Via Daily Thunder)
  • Conan O'Brien's show, with the videotape of LeBron James getting dunked on in a pickup game. The best part is when he says "hey, we've got more interns."

Thursday Bullets

April, 30, 2009
4/30/09
12:25
PM ET
  • Eddy Curry tweets that he's spending the summer with William Wesley. I have a feeling lesson #1 of spending your summer with one of the NBA's most secretive and powerful men will be don't freaking tell everyone on Twitter that you're at my house.
  • Mike Moreau previews Celtics vs. Bulls for ESPN.com. The question on everyone's mind is -- how physical will the Bulls be?: "They allowed Pierce to catch in the same spot, and virtually make the same move down the stretch and beat them in Game 5. In Game 6, look for aggressive double-teaming of Pierce in those situations. They cannot allow Boston's best player to beat them one-on-one, and it was a foul by Joakim Noah in that same situation that got them the win in Boston. They must be unafraid to make aggressive defensive plays at crunch time."
  • Niall Doherty of Hornets247: "Congratulations due to Denver. They proved to be by far the better team. All throughout the series they played physical and aggressive defense, they executed a good game plan, and they just had too many offensive weapons for us to handle. I expect to see them in the conference finals. For us Hornets fans, naturally we start wondering what comes next for our team. (Actually, I think we already started that after the Game 4 debacle). There will be plenty of different arguments about that, and lots of them will have valid points. No doubt, changes have to be made. But where to start?"
  • Matt McHale of By the Horns: "Okay, while I will agree that there was no windup or follow-through, the 'making a basketball play and going for the ball' part makes me wonder whether [Stu] Jackson had access to the same pictures and video that the rest of the world has been discussing ad infinitum for the last day and a half. I mean, not only did Rondo clearly not make a play for the ball, he wasn't even able to may a play on Miller's arm. So based on the precedent set by this ruling, you can club an opponent in the head to prevent an easy bucket ... as long as you don't wind up or follow through on it. Gotcha, Stu. Thanks for clearing that up."
  • M. Haubs of the Painted Area: "Did Rondo deserve a flagrant foul, based on the letter and spirit of the rule? Yes, absolutely. He did not make a play on the ball, and made unnecessary and dangerous contact with Miller's head. Did Rondo deserve a flagrant foul, based on the way the rule is consistently interpreted? No, absolutely not. The ridiculousness of the flagrant-foul interpretation is that, in practice, it is determined almost entirely by whether the fouled player hits the floor in an awkward, scary-looking manner, and Miller ultimately did not hit the floor that hard. Many times, you'll see a guy go for a legitimate blocked shot on a breakaway, and get called for a ridiculous flagrant ONLY b/c of the way the fouled player falls. I had been planning to write this all day, and then lo and behold we got a textbook example of this tonight..."
  • I made a big stink about Trevor Ariza's foul on Rudy Fernandez. So a lot of people want to know: What about Dwyane Wade's foul last night on Maurice Evans. The recurring theme: Messing with an airborne player. Although I could have written this less passionately, my point about the Ariza deal was that fouling someone on the way to the hoop is normal, as is changing the radio station on your car. However, when a player is high in the air, they need their feet under them to land safely -- otherwise the list of potential injuries is long and scary. So, if you foul them when they're high in the air, and they happen to get badly hurt, that's your fault. Just like if you're changing the radio station in your car, and you happen not to notice a dog in the street and you hit it, that's your fault, too. Yes, everybody changes stations. Yes everybody fouls. But no, that doesn't get you out of the more important obligation not to injure people. The exact way you took that risk was not skilled enough. Try to do better next time. So, getting to Wade ... yes he contacted a guy and messed with his ability to land. But this was somewhat mitigated by the fact that it was a wholly credible play on the ball! Ariza had no shot at the ball (UPDATE: My bad, should have added "without getting Fernandez in the head"), and got Fernandez in the head and arms. But for the tiniest of miscalculations, Wade had both a block and a play where Evans and Wade land cleanly. In fact, it's possible that grabbing the rim is the main thing that messed with Evans' landing here -- very hard for me to tell from the video what kind of contact they had. The big theme is the same: Be careful with the airborne player. But to me the specifics of this play are different. (You might be wondering, why am I not mentioning Rajon Rondo here ... I think that was certainly not a play on the ball, but Brad Miller did not get high enough to make me worry about spinal injuries and the like.)
  • Danny Ainge has been quiet since his heart attack, but recently talked to WEEI, as transcribed by SportsRadioInteriews: "I think that our team has been leaking oil a little bit; I'm a little worried about the amount of minutes they're playing and the possessions they're pacing themselves and taking off throughout the series. But, I think that they've showed a lot of character and showed a lot of grit and found ways to win these games."
  • The D-League as a potential basketball home for players like Jeremy Tyler, who want to develop their games without the NCAA.
  • David Thorpe makes a prediction: "In most respects, this kind of game is pretty easy to go with the home team playing a close-out game. But Portland is grittier and more talented than most of the NBA's teams and, with Roy, has a chance in anyone's arena. On the other hand, this Houston team is loaded with strong chemistry and great defense, so unless something happens to destroy that chemistry, the Rockets should be able to pull out the clinching win."
  • Thorpe also picks undermanned Orlando -- playing on the road without Courtney Lee and Dwight Howard -- to knock off the Sixers.
  • It would be a mistake to judge Eddie Jordan -- who has coached so-so Kings teams, and heavily injured Wizard teams -- by his career 44% winning percentage.
  • Dave from BlazersEdge on the officials the Blazers can expect to face on the road: "Seriously, folks ... complaining about this is going to be the same as the diehard Trekkies going to that new movie and complaining that it isn't as good as the original because Shatner isn't playing Kirk. You knew that already. If that's why you went you wasted ten bucks. That's on you, not them."
  • Ross Siler of the Salt Lake Tribune: "By the time you read this, Jerry Sloan could be undergoing surgery to have his right knee replaced. Sloan has been battling pain almost since the start of the season and was hopeful he could have the surgery as early as Thursday after the Jazz were eliminated." That's a tough man that doesn't mention that until now ...
  • With Chris Paul out, and Dwyane Wade on the brink, Basketball-Reference's Neil Paine looks at top NBA players who have left the playoffs early.
  • NBA's Finest appreciates J.R. Smith: "If you read this blog back in its heyday when I posted more than once a month, you know of my fondness for JR Smith. I mean the boy had Spongebob slippers that were 5 sizes too small for him, he bought his first house in New Orleans only to be kicked out of the master bedroom by his parents, and he read Harold and the Purple Crayon. How could you not love him? (Don't answer that, Byron Scott.) He was the living embodiment of the term 'childlike insouciance.'"

Although it seems there is still nothing official, of course you have all seen the reports that John Calipari may be leaving the University of Memphis for Kentucky.

That surprises me none. Kentucky is one of the winningest teams in history but has had something of a lull. Calipari is one of the winningest coaches in college basketball history, a recruiter of elite talent and the leader of an exciting offense that has been heavily replicated. He's also one of the coaches who has been most supportive of talented players moving on to the NBA, which has been a key factor in luring top recruits like Derrick Rose and Tyreke Evans.

But the e-mail I have gotten from TrueHoop readers about this potential move has mostly been along the lines of: Why would Kentucky stoop to such a level?

I guess the idea is that Calipari -- who is closely associated with one of basketball's most powerful behind-the-scenes operators in William Wesley -- is somehow beneath the traditions of a place like Kentucky.

And my knee-jerk reaction to that is: There are clean college programs? Are you sure about that?

Having talked about college recruiting with people who have lived it first hand, I'm not under the impression that there are major college programs who really want to get righteous about this kind of stuff. Of course there must be exceptions -- and everyone I have asked about Bob Knight seems to single him out for being legit in this regard, but he's no longer coaching.

Yahoo was able to get their hands on the cell phone records of the University of Connecticut coaching staff, and found some rather damning evidence. That made them one for one. It's early in the game, but they're shooting 100% plowing through detailed phone records and finding something.

Here's my challenge to literally any top basketball school: If you want to prove you're clean, share your phone records with reporters.

Any school that hands over the full and complete phone records of every phone their coaches routinely use has a nice chance here to exonerate themselves.

But until that kind of thing happens (and I'm not holding my breath) I'm not ready to buy that anyone in college basketball could really sully anybody else. The rules as they are written are outdated and seldom enforced, and to the extent there are unwritten rules, they allow for way more than ever normally makes it into the papers.

Let me be clear: I'm no champion of NCAA rules. In fact, I think the whole thing works a lot more tidily in Europe and in baseball, where many of the best teenagers develop out of the spotlight in the minor leagues while making reasonable salaries.

As for the idea that there are a few bad actors in college basketball, and everybody else is chaste ... I'm not buying it.

Videos to Make You Think

March, 27, 2009
3/27/09
10:36
AM ET
Last night Shaquille O'Neal and Robin Lopez argued on the bench after the Suns didn't get back on D.
 
Doug Collins noted that it's good to see a veteran involved in the game even when he's done for the day.

Lopez certainly seemed engaged listening to what the big man had to say and played with a different fire during the rest of his meaningless minutes, probably so as not to upset the Shaqtus.

As Gentry recently wrote on his Twitter feed, "Anyone would enjoy coaching this group of guys. It's what a team should be. Young players learning from the veterans. Vets that work hard."

Here's what bugs me: Nobody knows what O'Neal said to Lopez. But why assume it's wise? (And when has O'Neal ever been -- as Lopez was -- the first Sun back?) I'm totally open to the idea that O'Neal was doing something that was good for the Suns. But I'm also open to the idea that one or both of them was being petulant, and no wisdom was exchanged at all.

OK, here's another video to make you think. As a father, I'm always torn when I see these kinds of things. What do you think about young kids spending hours a day working on basketball skills? Shouldn't they use some of that time to, you know, make friends and stuff?

The truth is ... being professional grade at something probably does usually require some pretty wicked imbalance. I'm just not at all sure at what age that should begin.

Anyway, here's a glimpse into the childhood of Xavier head coach Sean Miller.

(First saw this video on NESW Sports)
 
And finally, somewhere William Wesley is sad that his favorite college team is out. And right here at my desk I'm sad because my bracket is busted. I had Memphis winning it all. Then came Missouri.

Why I Picked Memphis

March, 17, 2009
3/17/09
10:50
AM ET

I know so little about college basketball that I'm not even certain when the NCAA tournament starts, but I'm sure you can still sign up to make me look bad for picking Memphis to win the whole thing.

I feel pretty good about the pick, honestly. First of all -- a single elimination tournament is a crap-shoot, so any good team is a reasonable pick.

But Memphis has some things going for it:

  • Stat Geek Power: It's America's top-ranked team according to my very cursory glance at Ken Pomeroy's rankings.
  • Guard Power: All kinds of people say the tournament requires great guard play, and I know Coach John Calipari's much-copied offensive system empowers guards to attack. Having honed those skills all season, Tyreke Evans and company ought to be right at home in the tournament environment.
  • Experience Power: Although last year's runner-up team lost big names Derrick Rose, Joey Dorsey, and Chris Douglas-Roberts to the NBA, two seniors, four juniors, and one sophomore play real minutes now. They have a powerful body of knowledge from last year's run.
  • William Wesley Power: Never bad to have one of the most powerful men in sports pulling for your team, and everybody knows this is his favorite college program.

So that's all good. What's bad is that I haven't seen them play one time -- and last night I heard from a basketball expert in Memphis who watches all their games, and he says he thinks my pick is crazy.

LeBron James' Big Announcement

January, 16, 2009
1/16/09
12:42
PM ET

And a William Wesley sighting.

There has been a lot of hubbub about LeBron James having a big announcement, talking about following his first love, and photos of him in a Cleveland Browns' NFL uniform.

Today a blogger has more of the story.

Check out those photos.

They are screenshots from a longer version of a State Farm ad that appeared on Hulu.com. 

In any case, it seems quite clear that the big announcement is really just part of an ad campaign. Creative, for sure.

And ... poignant.

Check out those still photos. 

In the second one, we see a fabricated scene. LeBron at a podium, addressing basketball fans. But it's not wholly fake. For one thing, at some point (presumably in the summer of 2010) LeBron James will hold a similar press conference, and will really announce what his future plans are.

And when he does, who will be present representing James' inner circle? I don't know, but the lineup here -- if I'm not mistaken, that's Randy Mims, Richard Paul, and William Wesley to James' left -- is a realistic bet. (Surely Maverick Carter and Leon Rose are in on that conversation, too.)

So, this ad is a funny fiction. But also, maybe, perhaps a little bit of a preview of something real.

David Falk Explains

May, 8, 2008
5/08/08
3:36
PM ET

The other day, CNBC's Darren Rovell interviewed agent David Falk. I quoted Falk from Rovell's interview on TrueHoop. It went like this:

I wanted to meet a college player who I really enjoyed watching this year.

So I asked a friend of mine, who is a very powerful man in the game, to introduce me to him. And he said, "I'd like to help but I can't."

And when I asked why. He said, "You are three years and $500,000 short."

I didn't really waste any time wondering who that story might be about. How could you ever know? I printed it as Falk intended it: as a general comment on the sad state of recruiting in basketball.

But, let's not forget, TrueHoop is home to the big ol' William Wesley investigation. TrueHoop readers are tuned into Wesley. And when a lot of people read this, they started to email me, comment on TrueHoop, and blog about the idea that the "very powerful man" had been William Wesley.

What's more, people took that even a step further, and implied that Wesley had been not just Falk's friend, but even more than that the actual person who had done the paying.

I heard that, and called some agents and the like -- NBA insider types -- to ask them what they thought about these comments, emails, and blog posts. Turns out this quote has become something of a parlour game among that set. Everyone has their theories about who is involved here.

But all were surprised at some of the reactions in the blogosphere, and the comments. Some took it as possible, or even likely, that Wesley had in fact been the friend Falk had been referring to. But no one thought he would have been the been the guy to do the paying. It just didn't make sense to them, for a number of reasons. One said it wasn't Wesley's style. Another pointed out that it would have been unlikely for Falk -- who knows the world of basketball and Wesley well -- to seek recruiting help from a man who was competing for that same player.

Everyone pointed out that the players in this draft who have a shot at being worth that kind of money signed with agents not known to have any connections to Wesley.

I thought David Falk might be willing to clarify a little bit. We spoke yesterday, and this is what he told me:

William Wesley has been a friend of mine for 22 years, and I wish him nothing but the best. He has a great talent to make connections to people, and I consider him a friend.

In no way did I want to imply that William Wesley was the person who paid the player I was referring to. It doesn't matter who the player involved was, and it doesn't matter who the agent was. But I have had some phone calls from people saying they thought I was talking about William Wesley paying somebody, and I want to make clear that I wasn't.

I'm not a guy to comment on the identity of a certain player. It was intended as a state-of-the-union comment about this industry.

We live in an environment where if you're a top player, everyone in the food chain expects to be paid. I'm not angry about it. But I was asked about young people studying to become agents, and I can tell you this is why I'm not as enthusiastic for them.

I suggested to Falk that, right or not, the phrase "powerful man in the game" nowadays seems to carry the implication that it's one of a very small group, including William Wesley or Sonny Vaccaro. 

There are a lot of powerful people in basketball. Some of them I know, and they help me. The person that I talked to in this instance wanted to help me, I believe, because he likes me.

In all my years of doing this, I never met a player through Sonny Vaccaro. Sonny was dealing with Arn Tellem, and then Bill Duffy, and now apparently back to Arn again.

I want to make it crystal clear. The person I turned to for help -- he said to me that he would like to help me, but he couldn't, because the situation was that someone else had paid that player a large amount of money over three years.

I wanted to meet the player, and he said I can't do it -- it's done.

If a friend of mine had paid that person, I never would have put this idea out there.

I was talking about the young people at Syracuse University's David B. Falk Center for Sport Management. I was asked if I would help them become agents, and I think that if you have talent and integrity, this is probably not the kind of business you'd want to get into.

It's not competition based on merit. It's competition based on improper inducements. I think it's an abomination as it is. There are a number of ways to fix it, if people really wanted to.

My days as an activist are probably behind me.

Have you seen Crocodile Dundee 2? There's a part where an African-American guy comes up to Paul Hogan and pulls a switchblade on him. Hogan is from the outback, and asks, what's that? And the guy says that's a knife. Hogan says that's not a knife. THIS is a knife, and then he pulls out this huge machete.

Sometimes I think that I'd like to be like Crocodile Dundee. You want to cheat? Let's really cheat. You want to pay someone $500,000? Let's pay them $5 million and see what happens. You want to do that?

But ... can you get that money back? Of course not. You lose before you even start. If you pay people $500,000 to get to represent them at the draft -- the minute you have to pay them is the minute you can no longer advise them as an impartial agent.

I've never met a player so valuable that I'd pay him, and I hope that I never will.

I have been hearing these whispers for more than a week, and Darren Rovell of CNBC has apparently heard the exact same thing -- Derrick Rose is reportedly about to sign with Arn Tellem's Wasserman Media Group:

Tellem, who is already representing the Lopez brothers from Stanford as well as Anthony Randolph from LSU, didn't return a call seeking comment.

This was a shock because Derrick Rose was so connected to William Wesley, who had steered clients towards Leon Rose, agent of LeBron James and Allen Iverson.

Turns out that although Wesley is well connected to Derrick Rose, his brother Reggie Rose was still running the show. So the assumption that there was a deal in place the entire time, that Wesley's connection with Derrick and friendship with Memphis coach John Calipari would yield a contract with Leon Rose and his Creative Artists Agency, was actually a faulty assumption.

According to these sources, Reggie Rose didn't let that happen. After the season was over, Reggie reopened negotiations with agents and eventually was leaning towards Tellem after believing that Tellem would make his brother the most most money in the end.

The new kid on the block at Wasserman Media Group is none other than three-time champion B.J. Armstrong. It will be interesting to see if Armstrong pops up as a key figure in handling the new recruits.

As far as Wesley's role in all this, it's a little unclear. Wesley's main role, according to his critics, is to steer players to Leon Rose. This would seem to poke a hole in that theory; Rose could hardly be getting rich off Memphis players. Besides Wesley and Rose's lifelong friend Dajuan Wagner, no Memphis players of consequence, that I'm aware of, have signed with Rose.

No one questions the depths of Wesley's connections to Memphis. He has long been tight with Coach John Calipari. And many have pointed out that the best Tigers come from places like Michigan (Chris Douglas-Roberts) and Chicago (Derrick Rose) where Wesley lives and is most active.

So the question is: is Wesley (UPDATE: who reportedly sat with Reggie Rose at the Final Four just last week and has reportedly been close to the Rose family for years) just not very good at directing players to Rose? Or is steering players to Rose not, as advertised, Wesley's top priority?

UPDATE: Many are shocked to hear that Tellem could be the choice. If Tellem does get the call, I can't say it'll be totally out of left field. Remember back when Derrick Rose was in high school, there was a lot of hubbub about the college recruiting process? (For instance. And this.) The final five schools on Derrick Rose's list were all Adidas schools, and the man explaining the recruiting party to the media was long-time sneaker king Sonny Vaccaro -- who worked for Reebok which has been owned by Adidas since 2005.

Writing in the Chicago Sun-Times (you can read it here) last summer, Michael O'Brien wrote: "It's obvious Vaccaro has become a significant influence on Rose's recruitment."

That's poignant now, because Vaccaro has long been open about having a close relationship with Arn Tellem.

William Wesley on the Air

April, 10, 2008
4/10/08
10:11
AM ET

This afternoon, for the first time in nearly a decade, William Wesley will be on the air, talking on the record to the public.

Radio host Rick Bozich will be doing the interviewing, and writes on his Courier-Journal blog:

On Thursday, around 1:40, new Indiana University coach Tom Crean will join me. Later that day, I'm hoping to have former U of L stars Billy Thompson, Kenny Payne and Milt Wagner, along with their friend William Wesley, a guy that the New York Times called the most powerful man in basketball on Saturday. 

Those players won a national title over Duke together in 1986, and Bozich was there then and is still covering Louisville now.

Should be interesting. 

Wesley, a childhood friend of (Dajuan Wagner's father) Milt Wagner, was reportedly around that Louisville team for years. I'm hoping we might learn a little bit today about what his role was.

From Pete Thamel's blog post on NYTimes.com:

"I think that lots of people are more powerful than me," Stern said. "I don't know whether World Wide Wes is more powerful."

When asked if he had any thoughts on Wes and his role in the N.B.A., Stern said: "I don't. I know him to say hi to because I see him at games."

He said that a New York Times profile on Wesley that ran on Saturday did not help unlock the mystery of the man known as Uncle Wes.

"Your story didn't shed any light on it," Stern said. "It was an interesting profile to see how one can be around and be influential and be open and above board."

When asked if any agent, coach or general manager ever complained about Wesley, Stern was adamant.

"No," he said. "Never. Not one word. Just positive things."

This cracks me up.

I guess the main point is -- look, Commissioner Stern has William Wesley's back. That's him being nice.

But only after he makes clear that he, Stern, is more powerful.

So, not too nice.

Hilarious!

Stern's take is also a tad bizarre: you only know him in passing from attending basketball games, but you'll vouch for his character and speak to the measure of his influence?

If you're wondering why Stern might feel compelled to stick up for Wesley (and even take the curious step of labeling sports biggest mystery "open"), when he could have easily ducked the question, here's my first thought:

William Wesley and David Stern are both big-time proponents of the globalization of the NBA. They're natural allies. 

Making NBA players into superstars in places like Europe and China is about as important a business objective as the NBA has. There is simply a ton of revenue and growth potential in those areas. In short: the moment that Allen Iverson and LeBron James are as well known in Budapest and Beijing as they are in Boston, there is exponentially more money to be made selling TV rights, jerseys, merchandise, and more around the globe.

One key to making it happen is the participation of the NBA's brightest stars in overseas competition like the World Championships and the Olympics. The world fell in love with NBA basketball with the Dream Team in 1992, and the league and Team USA has been running the same play ever since.

The problem is that some of the biggest stars -- Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan, Shaquille O'Neal, at times Jason Kidd and Kobe Bryant -- have been reluctant to commit their off-season time to the project.

So, here's my question: if you're Team USA, or the NBA, and you could really really use someone in the ear of the likes of the most marketable stars like LeBron James, Allen Iverson, and Carmelo Anthony -- who would you call?

If I ran the NBA, or Team USA, I'd call a guy those players are said to trust: William Wesley.

Did that happen? I sure can't prove it. 

But it is not hard to see that Wesley has been supportive of Team USA, and it's not hard to imagine David Stern might like Wesley for that.

It has been well documented that Wesley has been all over Team USA for years. And the spokesman for Team USA told me some time ago that Wesley was a contact for Team USA in dealing with LeBron James and Allen Iverson in the lead-up to the 2004 Olympics, where Wesley then stayed on the super-secure (freshly post 9/11) cruise ship with the national team. Wesley was also tooling around with the national team two summers ago in Japan.

We also know that Wesley is a big believer in the power of marketing to China, as John Calipari has said on the record. (In fact, it was another Pete Thamel New York Times article that says: "Calipari first hatched the idea of an agreement with China after a conversation with William Wesley ... 'William Wesley told me that I wouldn't believe how big this thing was,' Calipari said. 'He told me that LeBron was like a rock star over there.'") 

The other group that really benefits from people like Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, and Allen Iverson being famous overseas stars are the sneaker companies (respectively: Brand Jordan, Nike, and Reebok). That's where a lot of the money in sports is, and by being on the side of making NBA players international stars, Wesley is also helping Nike, Reebok, and just about everyone else who sponsors top NBA players.

So, if Wesley can be helpful in getting top NBA players to Team USA, there are all kinds of reasons for people in positions of power to like and praise him, you know? 

Monday Bullets

April, 7, 2008
4/07/08
1:53
PM ET
  • Dave D'Alessandro of The Star-Ledger: "Larry Brown, of course, went on to be one of the greatest coaches of his generation, as famous for winning as he is for being hated by the teams he leaves behind after winning. 'I always thought Larry is happiest when he's unhappy,' Mike Gminski said. 'He's one of the most delightful people you can know away from the sport, but get him in-season, and holy cow. That's just who he is. But what a coach. If my son's career was based on a single game and I had to have one coach to win it, I'd pick Larry Brown. But I would never want my son to play for Larry Brown.'"
  • A really hard read for Knick fans. New York magazine goes long and deep on the state of the Knicks.
  • For four months, as a rookie, Dwight Howard was a pretty good free throw shooter.
  • Benjamin Golliver of BlazersEdge: "If you told me Jarrett Jack would never make another jump pass again, I would feel 100% better about his game and 100% different about his future with the organization."
  • Antawn Jamison has had an amazing season, and by adjusted +/- is a real MVP candidate.
  • The bloggers at 3 Shades of Blue launch the first installment of a massive and fascinating conversation with Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley. He talks about a lot, but makes a really interesting point about the Celtics defense, Kevin Garnett, and Tom Thibodeau: "They've got Garnett and Allen who are fantastic scorers and everything else but in reality what they also got was a defensive coach out of Houston. They basically turned the team over to him and he was a great defensive coach. (Kevin) Garnett brought his enthusiasm to the team but my remembrance I don't ever remember Minnesota ever playing defense anywhere near as good as this team plays defense. They got Pierce who everyone thought could play defense but he never really did. He bought into the system and now they've got one hell of a defensive team. Matter of fact, we outscore them! We score more points per game than they do. They just don't let anyone score more than about 80 something points against them and we let teams score 120 against us."
  • Phil Jackson reportedly wants Vladimir Radmanovic to see the team psychologist.
  • Walter Herrmann won't play in the Olympics for Argentina.
  • Have you noticed that as the season has reached it's toughest phase, the Hornets keep winning? They're a game and a half up with six to play. A lot people thought they'd be slipping by now. But they're not.
  • Brian Windhorst of The Akron Beacon-Journal: ".. what to do next year is going to be an issue not just for Eric Snow, but for the Cavs. He has one year and $7.3 million left on his contract, which will be the largest salary of his career. Understandably, he doesn't plan on giving that money up because a knee injury prematurely ended his career. The decision probably won't be made for some time, Cavs General Manager Danny Ferry has other pressing matters on his plate at the moment, but what to do with Snow could have an impact on next year's roster. If the doctors agree, Snow and the Cavs could file for disability retirement and he could be released, which would clear his salary off the Cavs' books. ... By admitting it's over, Snow could be able to save the Cavs $10 million or more and in exchange get a chance to start his coaching career early. But Snow's contract, because it will be expiring next season, also has value in a potential trade."
  • Mark Madsen's former coach at Stanford -- and former Warriors coach -- Mike Montgomery, is going to UC Berkeley. Madsen is happy for all involved, but has complicated feelings about the school, in part because of a stolen email account: "All I can remember about UC Berkeley is hostility. One time one of our walk on players from the East Bay almost got into an altercation with a UC Berkeley fan even before the game started! I think the fan threatened a lawsuit or someting. Then last year someone actually hijacked my Gmail email account! The sad thing was that I could see when he was online through the 'Chat' functionality from another one of my gmail accounts. I 'chatted' with him online to my 'old' account and threatened to get the FBI, CIA and every law enforcement agency possible on his tail unless he gave me back my account. Finally he releneted and sent me a message: 'You can have your email account back, the new password is 'UCBerkeley.'"
  • Exactly how the draft lottery works.
  • Michael Lee of the Washington Post says Dikembe Mutombo might keep playing: "After he had eight points and seven rebounds in just 16 minutes against the Los Angeles Clippers, I asked Mutombo if he really was going to leave the game when this season ends. Mutombo shook his head and chuckled. His career might not be over after 17 seasons, four defensive player of the year awards, more than 12,000 rebounds and 3,000 blocked shots. 'It's crazy,' Mutombo said. 'The owner [Les Alexander is] chasing me everyday, man. I'm going crazy in the back of my mind, man. When you have the GM [Dary Morey], the owner, the team president, your teammates, coaches. Walking away is tough, man. So, I'm just sitting down letting [agent] David [Falk] handle some of the issues, then me and my wife can talk and try and figure it out. I know she want me home at some time.'"
  • The butt-slap. Long a part of sports. Seldom captured on video quite like this.
  • Kevin Willis is retired and making some nice jeans for tall people. More and more athletes are asking for the Willis & Walker jeans. The demand is so great that former Michigan State basketball player Kevin Willis hasn't had time to make his annual NBA comeback. Willis, 45, and business partner and former teammate Ralph Walker are providing athletes a simple staple that the general public takes for granted. Players rarely wore denim because they were too big and tall to buy off the rack, and tailors made them look like dress pants. 'We wore dress pants or sweats when I played,' said Willis over the phone between visiting with clients at his factory near Atlanta. 'That was it.'"
  • Kevin Garnett wants you to know that he's from South Carolina first.
  • William Wesley is close to both LeBron James and John Calipari. Here's speculation that the Knicks could hire Calipari -- a hot coaching commodity at the moment for his work in Memphis -- and expect that would give them an advantage in recruiting LeBron James when he's a free agent.
  • Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald: "The deadline for media voting on NBA awards is April 17, and those banking on a second MVP honor for the Celtics' Kevin Garnett will likely be disappointed. But as Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and maybe even Paul Pierce [stats] fragment the process, Garnett should have another calling. He has transformed the Celtics into the league's best defensive team. He's not only responsible for the greatest turnaround in league history but one of the NBA's most remarkable defensive turnarounds, as well. It's inconceivable that Garnett has never won the league's Defensive Player of the Year award, but that drought deserves to end this year."
  • One of the best coaches in the world -- David Blatt -- is looking for work.
  • Reach way back in your memory and remember that game when the Raptors were apparently screwed out of a basket in Atlanta? Then there was talk that Al Horford might have tipped the ball? Here's some evidence he did not tip the ball.
  • Rod Benson, writing on Yahoo, on how to stay comfortable on an 11-hour D-League bus ride: "I bring four cushions from my teammate's couch, two of my own pillows, my comforter, and my travel bag onto the bus. I then put the bag in the aisle so that there is no gap between the 2 rows of chairs. I then lay out the couch cushions over the seats and my bag, creating an 8-foot-long bed. Boom. I throw on my noise-canceling headphones and call it a day."
  • Gary Peterson of the Contra Costa Times: "No fooling. Stephen Jackson is the NBA's Community Assist Award winner for March. It's a genuine, David Stern-endorsed honor, given to Jackson for his charitable work in the community. Volunteerism always has been one of Jackson's go-to moves, but he has elevated his game this season. In March alone, he appeared on a Silence the Violence panel with Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums; at a fundraiser for the Show Me campaign (which fights poverty, and to which he donated $15,000); and at a groundbreaking for a new basketball court he is funding in San Francisco. Oh yes, he has founded his own charitable organization -- the Jack 1 Foundation, based in his home town of Port Arthur, Texas -- which plans to open a K-5 school this summer."
  • UPDATE: Mike Wells of the Indianapolis Star has a good question. Larry Bird and Donnie Walsh ran the Pacers together. Now they each run their own terrible team. The question Wells has is: "Who do you think has a better chance of getting their respective teams turned around first: Walsh or Larry Bird?"

The New York Times' Pete Thamel is the latest to join the club of those journalists who have taken a crack at trying to explain the mercurial William Wesley.

On the big question -- what is William Wesley's job? -- Thamel leaves the conversation where TrueHoop, GQ, the Akron Beacon-Journal, the Detroit News, and several others have left it. (Along the lines of: I can't say for sure, but it has something to do with a lot of really really big names in sports. It may or may not involve sneaker companies, college programs, agents, mortgages, and other stuff.)

What Thamel's article does have, however, that's excellent and new, is a first-hand account of Wesley getting himself first-time access to influential sports figures.

Here's the key story:

Wesley attended Brandywine College, now known as Widener, for a year.

He was better known in the area for his job at a local shoe store, Pro Shoes, where he sold the hottest sneakers to local athletes. He mingled with coaches, college players and professional athletes.

"It wasn't just a sneaker store," said Billy Thompson, who starred at Camden High and the University of Louisville, and later played in the N.B.A. "It was the sneaker store."

As the local stars he met through high school and Pro Shoes went off to college, he would visit them. Two incubators of Wesley's connections were the University of Miami football program and the Louisville basketball program.

Wesley met Jimmy Johnson, Miami's coach at the time, when Johnson traveled to Pennsauken to recruit Greg Mark and Jason Hicks.

Johnson said Wesley tipped him off about Mark, who was the only white player on the floor during a basketball game. Mark played the game of his life, and Johnson said Wesley offered him help in recruiting Mark in exchange for some sideline passes. When Wesley would visit Miami, Johnson said, he brought Nike gear for the players.

"He is such a good person," Johnson said. "He is extremely friendly, and you can trust him right away."

There is a big void of information surrounding William Wesley, and that void gets filled with assumptions. So many people have told me that they know Wesley is making money from this or that sinister or exploitative mechanism.

They can never prove it though, or even provide the slightest direct evidence, and almost everybody who speaks ill of him is competing with him in some way.

What this story shows, however, is something about Wesley that squares with what I have heard again and again.

In the example above, Jimmy Johnson was short of time and wanted an insider's perspective on football recruits. The players want cool gear and someone who knows what they're going through. Wesley offers both in exchange for access that's easy for Johnson and the players to give.

First of all, notice that one thing Wesley is not asking for, in this instance and a zillion others, is money. This distinguishes him from the vast majority of hangers on in sports, and makes him way more welcome with the rich and famous.

Wesley makes it his business to figure out what you want, and to help you get it. Doing that again and again and again, for countless people, is a rich source of good karma, good friends, and goodwill. (Can those things later help you get riches, advancement, or whatever else you want? You betcha. It's a great playbook. Is that what Wesley does? Who knows.)

Saturday Morning Notes

February, 16, 2008
2/16/08
12:49
PM ET
  • I walked around a fair amount last night -- the traffic is pretty bad, and while I saw a massive police presence, I did not see any trouble. Haven't heard any stories, or read any articles either. The NBA has to be cautiously optimistic that their approach this weekend is succeeding. Also, one note: the place in the city with more police than anywhere else I have seen is immediately outside the hotel where most of the media are staying. Those beat writers are trouble, I tell you.
  • I'm not much of a name-dropper, but at a party hosted by Michael Jordan last night, the following people walked through the door within less than a half-hour: Michael Jordan, Charles Oakley, Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Dikembe Mutombo, William Wesley, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Rudy Gay ... the list goes on and on. It was a great party to make you feel short.
  • Regular readers of TrueHoop know that I am a huge fan of PeacePlayers International (formerly Playing for Peace). The program teaches basketball to kids in war-divided communities, using the love of the game to engender cooperation between Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland, blacks and whites in South Africa, Jews and Palestineans in Israel, and elsewhere. Their latest program is here in New Orleans, and it kicked off this morning with some fanfare thanks to the presence of Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Chauncey Billups, Dwight Howard, and Antawn Jamison. They are all sponsored by Adidas, as is the New Orleans PeacePlayers program. Duncan and Garnett both get credit for being unbelievably disarming and fun with the two dozen or so students they shared the court with during some short full-court games. At one point, Howard had the ball at halfcourt and looked determined to drive on Duncan. Duncan quickly turned, grabbed about a ten-year-old girl from his team, shoved her toward Howard and said: "you get him!" Billups also taught a valuable life lesson by setting a pick on a young player, and showing him how an NBA player can artfully hold another player without it looking like a foul. It was all in good fun, and credit these athletes and this program with putting together a PR event that in fact felt like it was full of some genuine love.

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