NBA Players Union to Decide on New Director After All-Star Break

The National Basketball Players Association won’t pick a replacement for ousted Executive Director Billy Hunter during All-Star weekend, instead using the midseason break to introduce the finalists to the organization’s leadership, according to Ron Klempner, the union’s acting executive director.

The All-Star break begins today in New Orleans, where Klempner in a telephone interview said the remaining candidates will meet with the union’s executive committee and player representatives tomorrow. No vote will be taken, he said.

Neither Klempner nor Roger Mason Jr. of the Miami Heat, the union’s first vice president, would disclose the names of the finalists or how many are still being considered.

Mason, whose teammate James Jones is the union’s secretary and treasurer, said he’s devoted so much time to the process, including travel, conference calls and meetings, that his wife has questioned him whether it’s worth it.

“She has been, ‘Hey, dude, what’s going on -- you don’t get paid for this,"' Mason said in a telephone interview. “The hours have been countless. Those are the sacrifices that we made.”

The union has been without an executive director since Hunter, a former National Football League player and U.S. attorney, was fired from his $3 million a year position in a unanimous vote of 24 of the 30 player representatives at last season’s All-Star break.

Reilly Partners, a Chicago-based executive search firm, was hired by the association in September to help find Hunter’s replacement. The company, Klempner said, identified hundreds of candidates, which the executive committee, led by Los Angeles Clippers All-Star and union President Chris Paul, has whittled down to the finalists.

‘Thorough Search’

“We take the job of finding an executive director very seriously and have spent a great deal of time and resources on making sure we have conducted a thorough search,” Paul said.

The executive committee will use the All-Star meeting with player representatives to detail the search process, who the candidates were, what was considered and where the search stands.

Mason said he’s satisfied with the finalists, a group he called “very, very qualified” to help the union forge a more congenial and profitable relationship with the NBA and its new commissioner, Adam Silver.

“We want to bring somebody in who can work with the NBA to create a better game, better services and grow the pot as a whole,” he said. “This is not an adversarial position. This is really a new outlook for this role.”

The Process

Former NBA player and executive director of the retired players’ union Danny Schayes, a candidate who didn’t advance to the final round, complained about the process, calling it “incredibly inefficient.”

Schayes said he was told that he would meet with each member of the union’s nine-man executive committee. After interviewing with two he was told he was no longer a candidate.

“I don’t consider that a fair process,” said Schayes, who also objected to the search taking place during training camp, when a majority of players are focused solely on basketball. “That opens the door for a small group to have huge influence.”

He said he was speaking out so players don’t repeat the mistakes of the past and they get the union leadership they deserve.

Mason said Schayes might not have a full understanding of the process. “Its tough to know when you’re not there in the trenches,” he said. “There’s always going to be grumbling with whatever process, especially with high-profile guys who have day jobs and night jobs that are pretty hectic. Trying to find time when everybody could get together is tough. You do the best you can.”

Union Audit

Hunter’s dismissal came a month after a union audit found that he failed to manage conflicts of interest, lacked proper corporate governance and didn’t disclose that his contract wasn’t properly ratified.

The audit, conducted by the New York-based law firm Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison LLP, concluded that while Hunter’s actions might not have been illegal, they reflected poor judgment. The U.S. Attorney in Manhattan is investigating union practices, which is one reason why, according to Mason, the finalists share two qualities: leadership and very high integrity.

“I know how much time guys on the executive committee put into vetting the candidates,” Mason said. “It has led to candidates that can take the union to a place it has never been.”

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