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Johnson move signals new direction for NBPA search

Former All-Star, mayor Kevin Johnson to head search

By TNT analyst David Aldridge, for NBA.com
POSTED: Apr 7, 2014 9:25 PM ET

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Responding to criticism of its ongoing selection process to find a new executive director, the National Basketball Players Association announced Monday that former NBA player and current Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson would head a retooled search to fill the position no later than the start of the 2014-15 season.

Johnson, who spearheaded the effort that kept the Kings in Sacramento last year after the team's former owners had agreed to a deal with a Seattle-based group that would have moved the team to Washington state, will chair a search committee of, according to a statement released Monday by the union, "outside professionals with unique NBPA and executive search connections and experiences to guide the Executive Committee."

Johnson will continue to serve as mayor while helping the union pick a permanent successor to Billy Hunter, who was fired by the NBPA in 2013 amid investigations into his business practices while running the union.

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

The NBPA has been sharply criticized by prominent player agents for how it has handled the search to replace Hunter. It initially hired an outside headhunter, Reilly Partners, to head the search, but the agents believed the process was done in relative secrecy with little input from them or from most players.

Bringing in Johnson, a former star with the Suns who has credibility with players and displayed his coalition-building chops in putting together the unlikely group that kept the Kings in Sacramento, is a signal by the union that its membership—many of whom, including its president, Chris Paul, will be busy the next couple of months in the playoffs—may need outside assistance in getting its house in order.

During All-Star Weekend in February, union members were introduced to two candidates that were believed to be the finalists for the job—David White, the executive director of the Screen Actors Guild, and Michele Roberts, a partner at the powerful law firm Skadden, Arps. But the process was decried as too secretive and not inclusive by agents and by potential candidates for the job, most notably former player Danny Schayes.

Prominent agent Jeff Schwartz wrote an op-ed for ESPN.com last month that the union was employing "opaque methods" to pick Hunter's successor.

"The only way to repair the damage that has already been done, in my view, is to bring an immediate stop to the current process and then start the executive-director search over from scratch with a much broader approach," Schwartz wrote.

The Johnson Committee is expected to reach out to non-players with experience in labor negotiations. White and Roberts, according to a source, are expected to remain potential candidates for the executive director job. It is unclear whether Johnson will utilize his mayoral staff for the search or the NBPA's staff.

In the Monday statement, the union said Johnson would work directly with Paul, the union's executive committee and acting executive director Ron Klempner "to ensure that players and agents are consistently apprised of the plan and pending decisions at all times."

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