Ian Begley, SNY.tv | Twitter |
Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta spoke to SNY on Friday to promote his new book, 'Shut up and Listen', which provides advice for business entrepreneurs. He answered questions about the book, ex-Knick Carmelo Anthony's Rockets tenure, Knicks and Nets ownership and other topics.
Below is a Q&A with Fertitta, condensed and edited for clarity.
SNY: Why do you think it didn't work out with the Rockets and Carmelo last season?
FERTITTA: "You know, it's really unusual because I never really got a chance to meet Melo but all I heard is what a gentleman he was and that he was going to play whatever part or role on the team that the coaches wanted him to play. And basketball ops decided to make a decision and, you know, it kinda surprised me too, as a fan of the Houston Rockets. But I know what I know and I know what I don't know. And if my basketball ops thought that we should move on, then I sure wasn't going to tell them not to, even though I thought that Melo's one the greatest players to ever play the game."
The Rockets parted ways with Anthony after 10 games last season. At the time, general manager Daryl Morey cited Anthony's fit in Houston as a reason for the split. Anthony, a 10-time All Star, said in a recent ESPN interview that he'd like to play this season.
SNY: Do you believe Anthony can contribute to a team this season?
FERTITTA: One hundred percent. Let me tell you: there's a bunch of teams and I guarantee you if there's 150 starters for the 30 teams that Carmelo Anthony is still one of the top 150 players in the National Basketball Association.
Anthony, 35, said in August that his representatives had been in touch with several teams about potential roles this season. He worked out with the Nets over the summer and participated in an informal 5-on-5 scrimmage with the Knicks. As recently as Wednesday, some Nets players continued to support the idea of signing Anthony.
SNY: Anthony said in an ESPN interview that he was surprised by the decision to waive him and he didn't understand where it came from at the time. Do you have any regrets about how it all played out?
FERTITTA: "You know, I heard how my basketball ops people handled it. You hear different stories at different times and how different things are perceived. And it's disappointing that that's the way it was. But I just don't know enough facts about exactly how it went down."
Fertitta added that he 'would not push back' against his basketball operations staff on a decision like that if they felt it was the best course of action. "These guys are very analytical and they know that they do, this this is what they do every day. I sure wouldn't contradict them on something like that."
SNY: How important is an owner's role in the on-court success of an NBA team?
FERTITTA: "Well, I truly do believe this: I think the owner has as much influence as any star player because it's still the culture that you set. And the culture that I've set with my team, the Houston Rockets, and to my management team is that we are going to do whatever it takes to put as good a team out there as you can. And we're gonna try to set ourselves up every year to be one of the top five or six teams in the NBA.
SNY: Have you interacted with new Nets owner Joe Tsai and what do you think he can bring to the league and the Nets?
FERTITTA: It's really interesting. I met Joe this morning for the first time and I was very much impressed with Joe and I think that y'all got a great owner in Brooklyn that truly wants to win. And I look forward to him being one of my partners in the NBA, but I think that y'all are going to have a good team in Brooklyn for a long time because I think Joe's very competitive and wants to put a good team on the floor.
Coming off of a playoff appearance in the spring, the resurgent Nets signed Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and DeAndre Jordan in free agency this summer. Tsai was officially approved as controlling owner of the Nets this week.
SNY: What about your interactions with James Dolan and your thoughts on him as an owner and partner with you in the league?
FERTITTA: "I do think he's a great partner and he's quite a gentleman. He's very intelligent and I think that he's just run across some bad luck in the last few years with injuries and not getting a few players that he tried to get. But, you know, right when it gets to where things are really bad, you don't think they're going to be good again, I think Jim Dolan is gonna surprise you all. And he's gonna put a really good team out there with the Knicks in the years to come."
The Knicks have one just one playoff series since 2001 and have missed the playoffs in five straight seasons. Dolan has admittedly been overly involved in basketball decisions during his tenure as owner but said that he'd be hands off as an owner when he hired Phil Jackson to run the Knicks. Since then, he's mostly stayed out of basketball decisions, by all accounts.
SNY: How did this book come about?
FERTITTA: "You know, it's really interesting. I had always thought about writing a life story book, but Harper Collins contacted me about 18-20 months ago and said, 'Hey Tillman, we like your show Billion Dollar Buyer and we see you on business shows all the time and we've read all these articles about you and we would like you to write a book with all your Tillman-isms and just kind of tell how you did it. How did you become the sole owner of this huge $4 billion conglomerate of restaurants, casinos, amusement parks, and then you also own the Houston Rockets? So it was kind of fun to put together and talk about all the little things I've learned and how I did it over the last 30, 40 years."
SNY: What do you hope that entrepreneurs - or any readers - take away from the book?
FERTITTA: It's really the basics. Take no out of your damn vocabulary. Know your numbers. There are no spare customers. When things are really good, we know they're going to be bad again (at some point) and know when things are really bad they're going to be good again. So therefore, you've gotta be very opportunistic when you go in and you try to do deals. Just the different Tillmanisms. I think this is a book for anyone. If you're at a normal job that (shows) how to separate yourself from everybody else. It's a very much a self-help book. At the same time, it'll give you the right tips to be successful in business or just (be) a good corporate employee. But everybody that's read it has told me that they've found something in it that changed their life. So I think a lot of people will get something out of the book."
SNY: What are your thoughts on the tampering proposal that's been discussed at the Board of Governors meeting (and was confirmed by an ownership vote that took place after the interview)?
FERTITTA: Adam Silver's there to please all 30 owners and if all the owners want that to be done then they will vote on it and if they don't want it to be done, they won't vote on it. Remember Adam's only doing what owners requested. That's what everybody has to remember.