The Nets war room will have two new generals on hand Thursday night, the two new assistant generals Jeff Peterson and Andy Birdsong. The two 30-somethings joined Brooklyn just weeks ago and the Nets official website spoke to both recently about their experiences getting to their new jobs ... and their connections to Sean Marks and Kenny Atkinson as well as each other. Both have masters degrees in sports management from Florida State, for example.
Peterson, who was an assistant GM with the Hawks for three years, was asked why Brooklyn?
“To start with, just Sean and Kenny’s vision,” said Peterson. “They want to be the best and compete at the highest level. They’re both innovative and they’re creative. They don’t want to settle. They want to keep pushing and find ways to get the Nets better and you could sense that.
“For Sean and Kenny to take the job under the circumstances they took the job and where they’ve been able to take the organization in this period of time is pretty impressive. They just found a way, whether it’s through the draft or being creative in free agency. It’s something I really wanted to come learn from both of those guys in terms of a leadership standpoint and running an organization and their thought process.”
Peterson knew Atkinson from Atlanta when both were pieces in the Hawks rebuild.
“Just an unbelievable worker. Very good person. Somebody who grinds and who’s unselfish,” Peterson said of Atkinson. “He has this approach that he wants to be the best. He would be in the gym at 5 or 5:30 running barefoot on the court, and then he’s on the bike and he’s watching film. Just his dedication to being the best.
“He’s relatable. He played. I think guys gravitate to him because of his level of authenticity.”
Asked about his strengths and his responsibilities, Peterson said he’ll be dealing with scouting issues in Brooklyn.
“I was in charge of the scouting processes from the draft to trades and free agency. We had specialists to deal with the salary cap and contracts and analytics, and I would try to guide them into the areas we wanted to delve deeper into.”
Birdsong’s relationship with his new boss goes back to when both were interns —yes, interns— in San Antonio, Birdsong in his first job, Marks in his first job after the NBA.
“We were interns together. He and I dreamed about having the opportunity to do what he’s doing, and when he was in San Antonio he was a big reason I wanted to move back and learn and grow there.”
Marks was also a big reason why he left San Antonio to join the Nets. “A massive draw was Sean Marks,” said Birdsong.
So was the Nets culture that reminded him of what R.C. Buford and Gregg Popovich built in San Antonio.
“It was a hard and emotional decision to leave San Antonio. That’s family to me. I grew up as an intern and I’m leaving a family of 45 people. I got married in San Antonio, we welcomed our first child while in San Antonio. It was emotional to leave that. But the opportunity to come and build on what Sean and Kenny have done here and be a part of that, Sean and I dreamed about that to some extent.”
As for his responsibilities with the Spurs, it was more basketball operations management.
“Day-to-day basketball operations management, serving as the lead with the G League team. Being a conduit between our development program in San Antonio and our development plan in Austin,” said Birdsong. “Making sure there’s precise communication. Aiding our pro scouting process, free agency, interacting with the draft. Is someone a culture fit, a system fit?”
Birdsong, who spent three years in Atlanta between his two stints with the Spurs, spoke as well about his relationship with Peterson.
“We have really worked well together. It’s surreal to be working together again,” he added. “We had a special camaraderie there. We were groomed and grown by Danny Ferry, Wes Wilcox and Rick Sund in the front office and to carry how we were raised into a new environment, that’s really cool.”