Mark Cuban has been and will continue to be the final say in major basketball decisions for the Mavericks.
The reason for that is simple as the owner explained on Thursday when new general manager and head of basketball operations Nico Harrison was introduced alongside new coach Jason Kidd in a well-attended news conference at American Airlines Center.
“Because it’s a lot of money,” he said Thursday. “It always comes down to money at some point.
“I do understand that you can’t give somebody responsibility without also giving them authority. But at the end of the day, the reality is when you’re making commitments for $50-, $100-, $200-million, the person who writes the checks has to be the one who signs off on it.”
You’re OK with that, right, Nico?
“Makes sense to me,” the new GM said.
Harrison, the incoming executive who has spent the last 19 years with Nike, admits he’s going to be learning a lot of things on the fly in the coming weeks and months in his new job.
But there are certain things he doesn’t worry about.
Such as the question during Thursday’s 45-minute interview session that featured the owner, the new coach, the new GM and CEO Cynt Marshall.
Even though the Mavericks don’t have a pick in the July 29 draft, Harrison was asked: “Have you evaluated the draft?”
To which, he said calmly said: “I’ve evaluated the last 19 drafts. So, yeah.”
Harrison has built a wealth of intelligence on NBA players and operations. He has dealt with virtually every major superstar and a lot of others from the entire spectrum. He has worked with every agent of importance. He knows key executives for all the teams and the NBA office.
His job for Nike was to know people and make sure he and everybody who worked with him could succeed in the competitive shoe/apparel industry.
So this is not a daunting challenge for him.
That said . . .
“I’m not a newbie,” Harrison said on Wednesday, a day before the news conference, at the inaugural, all-girls Mavericks’ GEM (Girls Empowered by Mavericks) camp at Duncanville Fieldhouse. “But there are some intricacies day in and day out of what a front office does that I just haven’t done. But once you understand those – and I have a great team with (Michael) Finley and KG (Keith Grant) and the rest of the team. So all I need to do is now insert myself and then I can bring what I bring, which is leadership and the process and I have the relationships.
“Anything worth having, there’s going to be a touch of nerves. Whether you’re about to enter a big basketball game or a track meet, you’re going to have butterflies. But that’s good. That gets the juices flowing.”
And Harrison sees nothing that dampens his enthusiasm going into this job.
He’s a savvy veteran from Nike’s most marquee turf. And he’s also got a track record as a stellar leader.
“The reason I’m excited is the coach, the team, the fans, the owner and the city,” Harrison said. “My approach is really simple. It’s about serving and leadership, the kind that empowers the team and the staff to be at their best. Communication, communicating often, communicating truthfully. I think that’s a very important ingredient.
“And then the culture – a culture that everybody wants to be a part of, that the fans want to be part of, that the staff wants to be part of and that the team wants to be part of. I think if you have those three, you’re going to win. I really do.”
Cuban said he had known Harrison for years “because he was always around.” But he was not familiar with the work he had done. Once the interview process got series and Cuban did a deep dive into Harrison’s portfolio, it became clear what credentials he could bring to the organization.
“With Nico, it’s hard to realize the success he’s had at Nike unless you really dig in and look at his background,” Cuban said. “To go from taking basically a low-level position and working his way up over 19 years. Talk about a commitment.
“He demonstrated a long history of putting people in position to succeed, and then enabling them to succeed. That’s a unique skill set that’s hard to find. That requires not only being a great communicator, not only being a great evaluator of talent. Not only being a great evaluator of people, but also being a great enabler of success. That’s why when Nico’s name came up . . . in doing the homework, it was a no-brainer. I felt very fortunate when he said yes.”
Harrison has been approached by NBA teams before. He always told them he had a dream job at Nike.
The only way to leave that job, he said, was for another dream job.
“And for me to leave a dream job to go to another dream job, everything has to check the boxes,” he said. “So you got to think of the city, the coach, the fans. And this checked all the boxes. Mark and I spent time talking and our values aligned and it actually was a no-brainer.”
And about that upcoming draft?
“There’s always a chance,” he said of potentially getting a pick for the Mavericks. “Everybody knows we don’t have a pick, but there’s always a chance to get in the draft. So you just have to do your homework and be prepared for the opportunity to present itself – or go out and create the opportunity.”