A former general manager of the New York Jets will help to determine whether Steve Kerr is the next coach of the New York Knicks.
Kerr is represented in negotiations with the Knicks by Mike Tannenbaum, who used to be the general manager of Jets. After being fired by the National Football League team following the 2012 season, Tannenbaum became the head of Priority Sports & Entertainment’s fledgling coaches, front-office and broadcasters division.
Representing executives and would-be coaches such as Kerr, who according to the New York Post is seeking a five-year, $30 million contract from the Knicks, has in some cases become more lucrative than negotiating on behalf of players. If Kerr gets what he wants, his $6 million annual payday would eclipse the league’s average player salary, which is about $5.3 million.
“A head coach in the NBA is a critical hire because he sets the culture,” said Priority Sports founder Mark Bartelstein, whose clients include Bradley Beal of the Washington Wizards and David Lee of the Golden State Warriors, who are also interested in Kerr. “It’s a vital part of a team being able to get where they want to go.”
Bartelstein said he hired Tannenbaum to build the division because so many of his athlete clients had expressed an interest in pursuing careers as coaches or front-office executives after retirement.
“Mike has a vision and an experience level that’s hard to match,” Bartelstein said. “When you can look at the world through a different set of lenses it gives you the ability to solve people’s problems and make the right fits.”
Tannenbaum, a graduate of the Tulane University Law School, had been the Jets’ general manager since 2006 after joining the club in 1997 as director of player contract negotiations. He didn’t immediately respond to a voice mail seeking comment.
Kerr, in New York, would be working for his former Chicago Bulls coach, Phil Jackson, whose contract with the Madison Square Garden Co.-owned club is worth about $60 million over five seasons, ESPN said. The paydays aren’t limited to New York.
Gabe Feldman, director of the sports law program at Tulane, said Kerr, a former Phoenix Suns general manager with no head coaching experience, has an agent with the right experience advocating on his behalf.
“If you’re a coach potentially looking to sign a contract with a New York team there may not be a better person than Mike,” Feldman said in a telephone interview. “He brings a unique perspective of negotiating contracts under the glare of the New York spotlight for more than a decade.”
Coaches aren’t just getting paid in New York.
Stan Van Gundy today was named coach and president of basketball operations of the Detroit Pistons, who are owned by Platinum Equity founder Tom Gores. He got a five-year, $35 million contract, ESPN said.
A bidding war might drive up the price for Kerr, who played for Jackson in Chicago, winning three NBA championships on the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls. Kerr also won two titles with the San Antonio Spurs.
Executives with the Warriors, who this month fired coach Mark Jackson, yesterday flew to Oklahoma City to meet with Kerr, who is currently an NBA analyst with Turner Sports.
Priority isn’t the only management firm seeking to capitalize on coaches and sports executives.
Excel Sports Management, whose clients include golfer Tiger Woods, Yankees captain Derek Jeter and Brooklyn Nets coach Jason Kidd, in 2012 hired former NBA players’ union attorney and Wasserman Media Group executive Hal Biagas as general counsel and charged him with building the firm’s coaches and executives division.
“It’s a great corollary business for a sports agency,” Biagas said via e-mail, adding that salaries are rising again in part due to college coaches commanding higher wages. “You have a reliable supply of future clients as your athletes retire from playing and move into coaching and front-office work.”