It’s nearly 24 hours after news broke on Twitter by Marc Stein that Jason Levien and Stu Lash were fired/resigned/let go, however you’d like to state it. After spending way too much of my personal time reading articles, listening to radio interviews and talking to people (none actual sources, just fans & friends), I’ve put together my SPECULATIVE “connecting the dots” theory.
At first glance many seemed to take the side of Jason Levien and Stu Lash, yet as more facts have been released and time has passed, it appears the pendulum has already started to swing back towards the middle in the “blame game.”
Here is what I see happened (again speculation & connecting the dots):
Jason Levien is an agent at heart. He hasn’t rubbed ALL people the right way, but generally he has made many more friends than he has put off. When Robert Pera, his best friend, brought him on to be CEO of the Grizzlies, Levien went right to work. He took his role as CEO seriously and began to control every aspect of the team, including putting together multiple ownership groups with over 30 minority owners. He also was responsible for relegating Chris Wallace from team operations. Pera seemed fine with all of this and the way his friend, Levien, was moving forward. Then the renewal of Hollins’ contract came up & Pera, not being 100% on board, was persuaded by Levien and obliged.
However, when the Grizzlies started off the season 10-15, Pera wanted to meet with Joerger (has been reported he wanted to fire him, but that was refuted by Ron Tillery on Sports 56 Tuesday morning). Levien tried to “roadblock” Pera coming to talk with Joerger, but Pera came anyway. (This could be considered a turning point in the relationship.)
(Enter David Mincberg) Mincberg was a law student of Levien’s. Levien brought him into the organization as a “protege” of sorts and named him general counsel for the Grizzlies. Mincberg however, wanted a larger role in basketball operations. Levien wasn’t down with this and relegated Mincberg to a scout/consultant position from Washington DC. Mincberg then was able to get the ear of Robert Pera. He began to share details to (some have said poison) Pera of what was taking place in his organization by Levien. Pera didn’t seem too thrilled by this.
As Pera began to desire more insight into the team and operations, Levien was unwilling to share everything with Pera and began managing Pera and keeping him at arm’s length from decision making. As time went on, Pera became untrusting of Levien. He felt unable to trust what Levien was telling him about players, coaches and their thoughts on what was going on inside the locker room. Being a passionate basketball fan, Pera decided to speak with players on his own after the season. After hearing things from player interviews, he decided to let Levien go and as a casualty, Stu Lash was let go as well. Levien and Lash are close friends. Wallace still being on contract made easier Pera’s decision to let go of Levien.
As of this morning: Pera has not spoken with Joerger but Pera’s attorney did speak with Joerger. (Weird?) No one’s future is safe at this moment, though currently all is proceeding as it was previously, only Chris Wallace is running operations. Pera has spoken with players and Hollinger about the changes.
It seems like this was 2 friends who got into business together without realizing how the other one operated. They soon realized they were unable to work together and after a series of events and decisions, the trust was broken and they had to part ways. I don’t necessarily think either is completely at fault. I also think this is a usual power struggle that takes place regularly at businesses everyday. No need to isolate this and make it more than it is. They are both seemingly good guys and smart businessmen who were unable to make it work.
Maybe the most impressive aspect of this to me is how it all remained “hush hush” for so long.
Chris Wallace put the core of the team together. He made the moves that assembled Conley, Gasol, ZBO, TA together. He has an established relationship with Mike Miller from Mike’s prior stint with the team. If you’re a fan of keeping the core together, Chris Wallace is the guy you want running things. John Hollinger also has been retained and Jason Wexler as COO. Again, Pera has not spoken publicly. Levien was the mouthpiece for the team. Now Chris Wallace is that guy. Many (including us here) like and trust Chris Wallace. There are worse spots to be than with Chris Wallace in charge of your basketball operations 5 weeks before the draft. He’s a humble guy who gets the job done.
Pera still remains largely unknown to the fan base and media. He is passionate about basketball and is a multi-millionaire. He wants to win badly. However, moving forward you have to wonder if he will want a more hands on approach to the team operations, or if he will find a guy, hire him just as he did with Levien and remain hidden from fans and media.
Where do the owners go from here (Levien being one of them)? Levien put together that ownership group and very few of them know Robert Pera. Will they stay? Will they look to sell?
Levien is not the only guy around who can run a successful franchise. There are other options. So while this is shocking and unwanted, it isn’t the end of the franchise.
Most all of the rumors brought up about Grizzlies trading for guys were former Lash/Levien players. Most of the guys signed to the Grizzlies this season were former Lash/Levien guys. One plausible theory into Pera letting Levien go was that other agents around the league did not prefer to work with him or he only went after his former guys.
There are still a litany of unanswered questions and decisions to be made. Unfortunately, most fans (myself included) are unsure of where things will go from here. For now, we wait.
Decide who you will trust, and realize we here at 3 Shades of Blue are doing our best to follow what is going on and bring you the best coverage of the organization moving forward. We also will let you know when something is sourced and when it is not. In this case, it is all speculation.