Ian Begley, SNY.tv | Twitter |
Rich Kleiman, Kevin Durant's manager and business partner with Thirty Five Ventures, was at the Museum of the City of New York on Tuesday. Kleiman was among the guests on hand to honor Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Owen D. Thomas with Gotham Icon Awards.
Before checking out the new New York City basketball exhibition at the museum, Kleiman took a few minutes to speak with SNY about Durant, the Nets, Leon Rose, his name being linked to the Knicks presidency, Steve Stoute and his Stephon Marbury documentary.
The Q&A has been lightly edited for length.
SNY: You and Kevin have produced a documentary on Stephon Marbury. What would you like viewers to learn about Marbury from the film?
Kleiman: "For me, Stephon Marbury is one of the most exceptional stories of our generation. To come from New York City and to garner such fame and such a following at such a young age; to come from such a legendary place like Coney Island, (it's remarkable). And to be a Knick, to be a Net, to go through what he went through and to have it happen at like the dawn of social media. And for people to write him off. And without anyone knowing it, to go China and become the success story that he's become and to become the star that he's become. People know (Marbury's story). But I think when you see it in its entirety, and you see the way the directors (Coodie & Chike) put it together, it's something special. And it's really incredible because Steph deserves that praise and recognition."
SNY: There was at least one report that you were on the Knicks' radar for the team presidency position. Was there any accuracy to that?
KLEIMAN: "No accuracy to it. Never heard from them. It clearly has to do with the fact that, two or three years ago, I tweeted that I wanted to run the Knicks one day -- and, of course, I grew up in New York City. It's hard for me with all of the access that I've gotten to not still be a kid at times and realize that the Knicks were my life growing up.
"So, yeah, it's still a dream of mine but I'm also building a business with Kevin. And I think that it's flattering to know that my name was mentioned because I think, at least, it justifies some of the work I've done within the world of business and basketball. But it was never real because nobody ever called me. But if what they're reporting is true about Leon Rose, then I think they did the right job. Because I think Leon is going to be incredible."
SNY: You know the business from a 360-degree perspective. You know how Leon rose to prominence in the field. This is a different position for Rose. Do you think he can be successful running the Knicks?
KLEIMAN: "One hundred fifty percent -- if he ends up being who they give the job to. Which, I guess, it looks like he will be. Sometimes I think that people get a bit caught up in having experience on paper, experience doing a certain job. But what Leon's done for the last 20 years has been this job times 10. Managing athletes in all different cities, managing the families and the enterprises that these athletes become, and knowing all the different players in that world and coming out of it and having everybody talk so highly of you and respect you the way they respect Leon, that's a great start. And for me, it's a home run they were able to get Leon.
"Again, I'm hoping that it's true. Because if it's true, I think the Knicks got somebody. And I really did respect (former president) Steve Mills and do respect Steve Mills and think he did an honorable job under the circumstances. And life is timing, and things like this are timing. I think for Leon, the time is right and he's in position to do really well."
SNY: As a Knick fan and Kevin's manager and business partner, do you feel any conflict in rooting for the Knicks and the Nets, for Kevin?
KLEIMAN: "No, not at all. They play eachother (four) times a year. They're never going to play eachother in the Finals. And Kevin's my family, that's my brother. I'm always going to root for him as if he's a family member. And that's bigger than business. But, of course, I want the Knicks to do well. Of course, I want to live in a city where both basketball teams are competitive. And I'm 43 years old. I hope one day in my journey of what I'm going to do professionally, that maybe there is an opportunity for me to be closer to the organization. But for me right now, I'm building (businesses) with Kevin and … (supporting Kevin) with the Nets."
SNY: There were reports about you wanting Mark Jackson to be the Knicks coach at one point. Obviously, the job is Mike Miller's now. But let's say there is a vacancy. What about Mark do you think makes him the right man for the job?
KLEIMAN: "I'll say this: I (don't) just like the job that (interim head coach) Mike Miller's doing -- I love the job Mike Miller's doing. And I was a fan of (former head coach) David Fizdale. I don't try to get caught up in the visceral, I don't try to have reactions to individuals that are working their hardest to try to do their job and who have had success in different times in their career. Mike Miller's doing an incredible job, and by the way this is how Jeff Van Gundy got started. You fill in and all of a sudden, you take (over the job). Lawrence Frank jumped in for Byron Scott, and now he's the GM of the Clippers. So if Lawrence Frank can do it, Jeff Van Gundy can do it, then Mike Miller can do it.
"That being said, whether it's the Knicks, Timberwolves, Pacers, Clippers, any team, Mark Jackson is, to me, just one of those unique individuals that knows how to lead people, that knows how to inspire people. He's got a personality that demands a certain level of attention. And I think it's unfair that he hasn't gotten a shot in the league, but I'm confident that he will. And I try not to get caught up in the six years that he hasn't gotten a job and understand that for me, as his friend, he's still the lead national analyst for the NBA (on ESPN) and the right job will come for him. And if it doesn't, it doesn't. Mark is winning in life. He's got a great family, he's got a great job and he's a great person…. I'm rooting for him as a friend but again, I think Mike Miller deserves a shot to see this through. He's doing well."
SNY: You know the city well because you grew up here. How is Kevin doing in the city so far? Is he used to it?
KLEIMAN: "He loves it. I've seen it more recently now, maybe because his rehab is picking up. But he loves it. He looks like he's fitting right in. Kevin wants to be able to do what he wants and move how he wants, and in New York City, people don't care what you're doing. Everybody moves at their own speed and I think he's fitting right in. (Durant) works so hard that you can put him on the moon and he's going rehab and work to this degree. So I think, for him, it doesn't matter what city he's in, he's going to lock in. But who wouldn't love living in New York? I think he's excited to really put Brooklyn on the map and really make that franchise something special. I think a lot of times people want to focus on why the Knicks didn't get him and (less) on about what the Nets did to get Kevin and Kyrie (Irving) there. And that's a shame because it wasn't in lieu of where the Knicks were. It was because Brooklyn was who they were."
SNY: You have a long history in both the music and basketball industries. I agree with those who say Stoute overstepped his bounds when talking about the Knicks coaching situation (on Tuesday). But given your perspective, what do you think about what Steve Stoute can bring to the Knicks?
KLEIMAN: "Steve Stoute is a winner, straight up. He's not phased by what happened (on Tuesday). I'm sure whatever's happening behind closed doors is to be kept behind closed doors. But someone like Steve Stoute knows exactly what his role is. He will deliver and then some and the Knicks will benefit greatly from it. When there's nothing really to talk about in terms of wins and success right now (with the Knicks), which is to come, people will be quick to harp on what they feel like is not the traditional thing to say. But Stoute has never done anything the traditional way. So you will see the benefit that the team will reap from his position in that organization. And he knows what his role his and he'll deliver. I didn't think twice about (what happened Tuesday). I know what Steve's doing."
SNY: We're here at the Museum of the City of New York, which is unveiling an exhibit called, 'City/Game: Basketball in New York.' What does basketball in this city mean to you?
KLEIMAN: "For me, you're not even interviewing me if it's not for basketball and it's not for the relationship between basketball and New York City. Everything about my childhood and about my upbringing is rooted in being a basketball fan and loving everything about the culture of New York basketball. So, for me, an exhibit like this is long overdue and something that, while it's based in New York City, it's for people around the world to come see."
SNY: What did the game mean to you as a kid growing up in this city?
KLEIMAN: "It's funny. The more time that I've got to spend with professional players and being so close to Kevin and seeing him at the highest level, I've learned everyone's relationship with a sport is different, basketball in particular. For me, coming up, basketball was my favorite sport and it was my passion. But it was also an escape from everything. To be able to just dive into (Knicks games) and forget about everything else in my life, it was always my reprieve. I found players and teams that I just became fascinated with. And everything about the culture of basketball is what I love. And you can see it in a lot of the things we're doing with business. I owe everything to it."