Former Los Angeles Times Clippers beat writer, Jonathan Abrams, has a story in his new outfit, the New York Times, on Elgin Baylor:
Baylor faces an uphill legal battle. Although his authority waned in recent seasons, he was a team executive for 22 years — a span that other general managers could only dream of matching…
The allegations in the lawsuit surfaced only after Baylor left his job. He said he was fired; the organization said he resigned.
After another dismal season in 2007-8, the Clippers’ president, Andy Roeser, presented Baylor with a take-it-or-leave offer to stay for a year as a consultant for $10,000 a month, said Carl E. Douglas, Baylor’s lawyer.
Baylor, who declined to comment for this article, left it.
“They wanted him to basically act like Joe Louis at the Caesars Palace after his career and to basically be a meeter-and-greeter, to take advantage of his popularity in Los Angeles basketball spheres,” Douglas said. “In many ways, he needed the job. He loved basketball. He loved living in L.A. And at 74 years old, his options were not wide and great.”
The lawsuit alleges that Sterling described Baylor as “a token” and wanted the team to be composed of “poor black kids from the South” with a white head coach. In 1988, according to the lawsuit, Sterling told the No. 1 draft pick, Danny Manning, “I’m offering a lot of money for a poor black kid.”
…Sterling’s legal entanglements have involved his team before. Two former Clippers coaches, Bill Fitch and Bob Weiss, ended up in salary disputes after their dismissals.
…In his suit, however, he suggests that the failures were a reflection of the unwillingness of players to sign with Sterling’s team. Despite the team’s dismal record, Baylor did not realize his power had been usurped until he discovered while digging through files early last year that Coach Mike Dunleavy had been granted general manager duties as part of a contract extension.
“The job that I loved was slowly being taken away from me, and there was never an explanation,” Baylor said when he announced the lawsuit in January.
Baylor voluntarily remained on the job at a frozen salary of $350,000 a year, while Dunleavy received a four-year contract extension for $22 million after a rare Clippers postseason appearance in 2006. Baylor told reporters that he held onto his position because few African-Americans occupied executive roles in the N.B.A.
The lawsuit does not explicitly seek compensation, and Douglas said only that he and Baylor were seeking “justice.”
…As an executive from his seats near the baseline, he often derided the play of his team and criticized Dunleavy to nearby reporters, always ending with a quick, “That’s off the record.”
There’s not much new to report here, though it’s a timely reminder that, Alvin Gentry a notable exception, there’s an unsettling record of hostile departures by coaches and executives. At a moment when, by all indications, the Clippers are courting candidates to work beside or in tandem with Mike Dunleavy, that history can’t help the recruiting process. It’s reductive to dismiss the Clippers’ efforts to bring on talent with “Who would want to come here?” But Baylor, while he may not have a case, is a respected old lion in this league, and crossing him will have a residual cost for the Clippers. As Jerry West told T.J. Simers, “Elgin Baylor is a good friend of mine and I certainly wouldn’t be one to succeed him.” West may not have been a realistic — or even the right — choice for the job, but it’s a reminder that burning bridges has consequences beyond the present. Smart people join losing organizations all the time, but they do so with the reassurance that, even if they fail, their eventual departure will be clean and dignified.