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Book Review- Keith Glass: “Taking Shots”

Book Review- Keith Glass: “Taking Shots”
Mar 19, 2008, 11:02 pm
With things calming down a bit as we wait for the NCAA tournament to kick off, we thought this might be as good a time as any to review arguably the best basketball book that came out in 2007, Keith Glass’ “Taking Shots,” which delves into the dark and crazy world of being an NBA agent.

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Keith Glass has a unique perspective on the basketball industry, which he discusses in the opening chapters of “Taking Shots.” He grew up with NCAA and NBA coaching legend Larry Brown, who his father represented. He was also a high school for 18 years as well as an assistant coach at UCLA, and is best-known as a veteran NBA agent of players such as Mark Eaton, Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, and more recently, Jackie Butler, Quincy Douby and Royal Ivey.

He’s been around the game for a while, in various capacities, and therefore has a lot to say about the many strange, sad, and funny situations he’s encountered in this crazy business. For anyone that loves the NBA (particularly the NBA draft) and is interested in learning more about the often not-so-pleasant side of things that go on behind the scenes, this book will be very interesting. For those looking to get into the industry…this book is basically a must-read. Being around agents, players, and NBA executives you often hear stories about what the league is like behind closed doors, but very rarely do you get to read a first-hand account that goes into all the nitty gritty details, with nothing held back in terms of names of people involved.

For example, in a very illustrative chapter, Glass reveals in great depth how New York Knicks General Manager Ernie Grunfeld guaranteed he would draft his client Efthimios Rentzias with the #18 overall pick in the 1996 draft. He goes onto to tell how Grunfeld not only reneged on drafting him at #18, but also did not take him at #19 or #21. As he goes pick by pick and discusses all the behind the scenes conversations he had with each team, you get a real sense for just how ugly and distrustful the basketball business can be at times.

Earlier, Glass writes about the ups and downs he enjoyed and suffered representing Robert Horry as a collegiate out of Alabama. Starting with his junior year, where Glass advises him to return to school for another season after he learns from NBA people that he is a “late first to early second round draft choice”, and continuing with his senior season, where he improved his draft stock, and then surprised people by being selected with the 11th overall pick in the 1992 draft. Glass landed Horry a 5-year deal for 5 million dollars, plus endorsements. While Horry was in the midst of winning his first two NBA championships, Glass discusses how he was being courted by a pair of brothers from Houston, agents who were trying to get Horry to fire Glass and sign with them instead. Houston offered a 7-year, 21 million extension at one point, and Glass recommended he not sign it, thinking they could do better if they waited. He never got that far, as he was indeed fired, while Horry went onto sign a 27 million dollar deal with the Lakers with the agents from Houston representing him. His price for “doing the right thing” and looking out for the best interests of his client rather than taking the money and running when the writing was on the wall that he might not be the one doing the contract? 4 percent of 21 million, or $840,000.

It’s a familiar story that we’ve heard numerous times from talking to people in the business, and is discussed in this book in great depth. The lack of trust between players and their agents and vice-versa, as well as the NBA teams. There are many more similar stories, which slowly paint a vivid picture of how cold-hearted the basketball world can be. He talks about the “cesspool” involved in recruiting NCAA players through runners, AAU coaches and such, as well as the influence that sneaker companies have over athletes and high school and college coaches. We hear about the sad story of Tommy Hamilton, a 7-4 center with unbelievable talent, but also without a shred motivation or self-discipline to take advantage of it. It’s all told in a pointy, cynical tone that evokes quite a few smiles when considering the irony usually involved in the ridiculous situations presented to us.

Not all is negative, though. There are also very humorous chapters discussing back-door negotiations Glass had with NBA teams over clients such as Mark Eaton, Chuck Nevitt and Scott Skiles, amongst others. The parts about the recruitment of Skiles and the time he spent playing and coaching in Greece is extremely informative and entertaining. His encounters with an odd-ball runner by the name of Greg (“he never thought of himself as a runner, he truly thought of himself as a guy who was helping kids”) are nothing short of hysterical.

There is much, much more of course, but you should do yourself a favor and go ahead and read it yourself. The paperback version of the book came out recently.

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