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Kevin Johnson to lead renewed search for NBPA director

Kevin Johnson will head up a committee of 'outside professionals' to complete the search. (Getty Images)
Kevin Johnson will head up a committee of 'outside professionals' to complete the search. (Getty Images)

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, once viewed as a possible replacement for Billy Hunter as executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, will chair a new search committee for the job, the union announced Monday.

Johnson, whose successful bid to keep the Kings in Sacramento endeared him to those who thought he'd be a strong bargaining adversary for the players against the owners, will head up a committee of "outside professionals" to complete the search for Hunter's replacement, the union said. After initially hoping to have a permanent executive director in place in time for the transition from David Stern to Adam Silver in the commissioner's office in February, the union now expects to fill the job by the start of next season.

Reilly Partners, the Chicago-based executive search firm retained by the union in September 2013, remains involved in the process, a person familiar with the situation told CBSSports.com. Hunter was ousted as executive director in February 2013 after a damning report that criticized his failure to properly manage conflicts of interest and accused him of putting his own personal interests ahead of the union's.

More than a year later, the NBPA's pedestrian search for Hunter's replacement is inspiring little conficence among its stakeholders -- not to mention its partners/adversaries in the ownership ranks -- that the union has righted its course. Enter Johnson, whose skillful handling of the Kings situation elevated him to cult-hero status in Sacramento and beyond.

Johnson was selected to help the union finalize its choice for Hunter's replacement after he consulted with NBPA president Chris Paul and all members of the players' executive committee, the union said. The committee that Johnson will chair has not been selected yet, though it will not include an active player agent, according to the person familiar with the process.

The union's executive committee met at All-Star weekend in New Orleans in February and narrowed the field of candidates to two finalists -- David White of the Screen Actors Guild and corporate attorney Michele Roberts.

After that meeting, some prominent agents privately vented about the selection process. One, Jeff Schwartz -- the president of Excel Sports Management whose clients include Paul Pierce, Blake Griffin and Kevin Love -- wrote an online op-ed piece advocating for the search to be stopped and restarted "with a much broader approach."

"Mayor Johnson is in a unique position as a former player and someone skilled in the politics of negotiations to lead this effort," said Paul, who characterized Johnson's role as not to start the process over, but rather "lead that effort across the finish line."

"I have a deep passion for the NBA and the promise it has for everyone connected to it," Johnson said. "Everything I've been able to achieve in life was a result of embracing the opportunities that I had as an NBA player.”

The NBPA has been led by interim executive director Ron Klempner, the union's top in-house attorney, since Hunter was ousted.


Before joining CBSSports.com, Ken Berger covered the NBA for Newsday. The Long Island, N.Y., native has also worked for the Associated Press and can be seen on SportsNet New York. Catch Ken every Saturday, when he hosts Eye on Basketball from 6-8 p.m. ET on cbssportsradio.com
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