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Sports agents sometimes have a balancing act with clients

It's not unsual for a representative to negotiate for clients vying for the same position. The case of USC football coaches Ed Orgeron and Steve Sarkisian is an example.

December 25, 2013|By Paresh Dave

Still, some in the industry, while declining to provide specific examples on the record, said they've seen agents throw one client under the bus to nudge another inside. A revolving door of firing and hiring can be lucrative for an agent, who collects fees from both parties.

"That's a pretty dastardly way of running your business, but to think it doesn't happen is wrong," said NBA player agent Keith Glass.

Frustration can also arise when someone in charge plays favorite with an agent or when an agent pressures a head coach or general manager to sign more of that agent's clients as assistants or roster fillers.

"I would like to think guys hire the best guy for the job, regardless of who the agent is, but I know that doesn't always happen," said P.J. Carlesimo, an ESPN basketball analyst and former NBA coach. "It's totally within their right. They might even say it makes sense to have those good relationships."

In the NFL, six agents represent at least 17 of the 32 head coaches with Sexton, Reno-based Bob LaMonte and Irvine-based David Dunn topping the list. The situation's tighter in the NBA. Three agents — Atlanta-based Lonnie Cooper, San Francisco-based Warren LeGarie and Los Angeles-based Steve Kauffman — represent at least 19 of the 30 coaches. Some of them also represent general managers. LeGarie, for example, has Portland Trail Blazers General Manager Neil Olshey, Coach Terry Stotts and the interim coach before him, Kaleb Canales.

Kauffman now represents coaches and executives exclusively, saying that true conflicts occur when representing a coach and a player on the same team. Arguing that a player should get more playing time while the coach might be feeling pressure to bench him can become dicey, he suggested.

"It just doesn't pass our smell test," Kauffman said.

Uberstine said the trick is to let everyone know up front about potential relationships. For example, Carroll and Seahawks wide receiver Jermaine Kearse are Uberstine clients.

"I think [Carroll] understands when I'm representing players, I'm doing what I can think best represents that player's interests," Uberstine said. "Likewise, if he cuts one of my players, I don't take it personally."

Kauffman did agree that representing coaches going for the same position is less of a conflict. Teams have their own evaluation system, and the agent's role is capped at helping set a salary target and handing over a PowerPoint with testimonials and a resume. Kauffman's clients at the time, Mark Jackson and Mike Malone, finished one-two out of seven finalists to become the Golden State Warriors' coach in 2011.

Kauffman first called Jackson, the winner. Jackson immediately asked Kauffman to get Malone on board as lead assistant.

Malone refused the associate head coach title, saying he didn't want to make it look as if he were waiting in the wings to replace his friend, Jackson, a rookie on the job.

"It's amazing, the fraternity and how much they care about each other," Kauffman said. "We screen so selectively that conflict comes up less than you would think."

Jackson reportedly later switched to his agent as a player, Arn Tellem, when Jackson realized nothing precluded him from having an advisor who also represented players — more than 40 of them, including the Warriors' Jermaine O'Neal. Through a Warriors spokesman, Jackson said he now represents himself.

paresh.dave@latimes.com

Twitter: @peard33

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