Van Wagenen follows path of basketball GM

Warriors' Myers also went from agent to front office

October 29th, 2018

NEW YORK -- One of the few people in the world who has successfully transitioned from sports agent to general manager now has the perspective of more than half a decade. Seeking a chance to build something different, Bob Myers severed ties to his agency in 2011 to become the Golden State Warriors' assistant general manager. Seven years later, he is the GM and chief architect of a team that has won three of the last four NBA titles.

Consider Myers an interested observer of the Mets' decision to pluck Brodie Van Wagenen, lead baseball agent at CAA, from the agent ranks. The Mets introduced Van Wagenen as GM at a news conference at Citi Field on Tuesday, strolling down a path that Myers helped pave.

"If he's smart in what he did, which I imagine he was, he'll likely be smart in what he's going to do," Myers told reporters before the Warriors played the Nets on Sunday night in Brooklyn. "Smart people, hardworking, driven, usually succeed. If they've succeeded at one thing, it should give you the idea that they can succeed at another."

• Van Wagenen's father-in-law was Neil Armstrong

While Myers does not know Van Wagenen personally, he is well aware of both the advantages and disadvantages of moving from an agency to a front office.

"The attraction for me was the chance to build something," Myers said. "I know as an agent you build a practice, which is hard to do, and obviously he did a great job of that. But building a contender, building a championship team, the allure of trying to do that -- not knowing if you could or couldn't, but believing that you could do that was an allure for me. It was different from what I tried to do as an agent."

Van Wagenen's path is mostly, but not entirely, similar. Whereas Myers had only one client, Dorell Wright, on the Warriors when he took over, Van Wagenen personally represented , , and others. He engineered a sticky situation this July when he issued a soft ultimatum for the Mets either to sign deGrom to a long-term contract or trade him. Now, Van Wagenen is no longer beholden to his star client's desires.

Still, Myers said in his experience, the familiarity with the other side of the table did not hurt.

"I think that it actually helped for me, at least, to have an awareness of what was important to the players as far as things that they wanted," Myers said. "The negotiating does translate, I think. Understanding the players' perspective translates -- at least it translated in our sport."

For Myers, the challenge was navigating areas he was not typically exposed to as an agent -- scouting, for example, and media relations. His key was to lean on those who do boast that knowledge. In Van Wagenen's case, he is walking into a front office featuring a longtime assistant GM, John Ricco, who knows the ins and outs of the organization as well as anyone, plus two former big league GMs in J.P. Ricciardi and Omar Minaya. Both of the latter two boast deep scouting backgrounds. Van Wagenen also has the power to hire whom he pleases.

While top baseball agents such as Scott Boras have criticized Van Wagenen's hire, baseball has long been an industry of mimicry. In Myers' case, following the Warriors' success, the Lakers hired Rob Pelinka from the agent ranks to rebuild their franchise, beginning with the successful recruitment of LeBron James. If Van Wagenen succeeds in kind, baseball will almost certainly see a wave of copies in the years to come.

"A lot of agents don't want to do this," Myers said. "They don't want to be in a front office. But the ones that thought about it as a possible career were kind of quietly hoping it worked, because then they could be a candidate for a general manager or a front-office job. If it looked like the path was successful for me, it could give them the thought of, 'Hey, maybe I can do that too.'"