While the focus at Monday's press conference was properly on the newest additions to the basketball roster, a fourth face might have looked unfamiliar to anyone in attendance: that of the newest appointee to the Nets' Board of Directors, Sergey Kushchenko.
Also the Executive Director of the Russian Biathalon Union, Kushchenko serves as Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov's chief advisor for sport affairs. The two share a relationship that dates back several years, including their time at CSKA Moscow, which Prokhorov part-owned.
"Mikhail played a very important role in my life," said Kushchenko, through translator Vitaliy Darovskikh. "He asked me to participate in his sport projects. And what's really important to me is I feel that I'm not working for Mikhail – I'm working with Mikhail, and together we achieve victories and successes in our ventures.
With the Nets, they envision replicating those past successes, notably their two Euroleague championships at CSKA, with Kushchenko at the helm. Individually, Kushchenko has been recognized with a slew of national and international honors, awards and titles, notably including recognition as the 1999 "Man of the Year" in Russian basketball, the 2006 "Best European Sports Manager," as well as a 2006 "Wings for Success" Award (American Chamber of Commerce), a 2007 Order of Honor (Russian Federation) and inclusion on TIME magazine's 2008 list of "Best Sports Executives."
Kushchenko, who began recreationally playing basketball in the 7th grade, envisions part of his role to involve analyzing the organization to bring NBA best practices to Russia and help continue to grow a developing passion for the sport. As a member of the board of directors, he will be involved in all major decisions, ready to offer his expertise where it applies, while remaining aware that executives like GM Billy King and head coach Avery Johnson wield more NBA-specific experience.
"I've been watching NBA and communicating with the NBA – not just clubs, but the NBA office – for over 10 years and accumulated a lot of knowledge," Kushchenko said. "At the end of the day, I'll rely on the expertise that is currently here: Avery, Billy and others. But I can bring a lot of creativity to existing structure. I feel I understand how the NBA works and how clubs operate and I will be contributing in the areas where I feel strongest, bringing creative ideas in building an organization."
The formalized role will require Kushchenko to continue commuting between Russia and the New York-metro area, which he's prepared for as a frequent flyer.
"(My location) will depend on the type of connections we have developed and I'll choose the best medium for it," Kushchenko explained. "If I need to get involved more frequently, I live in flight – literally – so I'll find a way."
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