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Bondy: David Levy wanted control over basketball operations

Franca v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

When Joe Tsai dumped his CEO, David Levy, last November, it came as a shock. Levy, who had run Turner Media, had been hired less than two months earlier. At the time, there was some boiler plate language about the reasons for the departure.

Oliver Weisberg, Chief Executive Officer of J Tsai Sports and NBA Alternate Governor of the Nets, issued a statement at the time that concluded...

“As we enter an exciting next chapter of our organization, it’s important that ownership and management are completely aligned on our go forward plan. We are proud of the culture of the Brooklyn Nets under the leadership of General Manager Sean Marks and Head Coach Kenny Atkinson, and we look forward to continue bringing the best experience to our fans.”

Now, based on Stefan Bondy’s report Thursday, there was hint of what led to Levy’s departure in that last sentence. Levy wanted more control over basketball operations ... and basketball operations didn’t want to cede any.

According to multiple sources, Levy had written into his contract that he’d have influence over basketball operations. But that didn’t sit well with members of the Nets’ staff, and the pushback meant Levy was essentially bought out.

The key word of course is influence ... how much could exert. There’s no indication whether there was a breaking point between Levy and basketball operations. The Nets made only one major on-court move during Levy’s tenure, the signing of Taurean Prince to a two-year, $25 million contract on October 26.

The only time Tsai has discussed his rationale came in February during an interview with Bloomberg News. At that point, the Nets owner said Levy was too concerned about “vision” and not the “nuts and bolts.”

“He was already looking ahead at how to grow the J Tsai sports portfolio, but we also needed someone to do the nuts and bolts,” Tsai said during the interview. “Maybe he thought that he wanted to do something that’s bigger and he could just bring in other people to do it, and I’m of a view that before you outsource something you should do it yourself.”

Indeed, in an interview with Mike Francesa of WFAN, Levy suggested Tsai’s operations could include a sport book at Barclays, mobile betting, all backed by 5G, the fifth generation mobile technology, at Barclays Center. He even suggested that Barclays could be a test bed for new sports technologies that could then be exported to other venues and arenas.

In that same Bloomberg News story, Levy was quoted as saying, “It wasn’t the job I signed up for and we agreed to part ways.”

One source familiar with the relationship said that beyond his focus on development of Tsai’s sports assets, Levy also had some difficulty in dealing with a small company. Even though the Nets and their parent company, Brooklyn Sports and Entertainment control significant sports assets, it’s much smaller than Turner where he had worked for 30 years.