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SBJ/September 16 - 22, 2002/Labor Agents
Deposition links agent to cash payments
Published September 16, 2002
Agent Dan Fegan made donations to teams in an Adidas-sponsored summer basketball program for star amateur players and cash payments to some of the program's coaches, according to a sworn deposition by a former employee of the agent.
The allegation was contained in a deposition by Brian Dyke, the former employee who was to be the first witness in a breach-of-contract suit brought by Dyke. A trial was aborted after opening arguments last week when Dyke reached a settlement with Fegan and Assante Corp., which now owns Fegan's agency.
In a deposition contained in a Los Angeles Superior Court file, Dyke testified that he saw Fegan stuff more than $1,000 in cash into a Federal Express envelope that was sent to Christopher Grier, coach of an Adidas-sponsored summer basketball team. Grier did not return calls to his cell phone or inquiries made through Adidas.
Adidas sponsors about 50 summer basketball teams made up of the best high school players, including many who have gone on to play in the NBA.
National Basketball Players Association rules prohibit agents from giving financial inducements to anyone to encourage a player to sign a contract with an agent.
Also in his deposition, Dyke said Fegan made payments to Darren Matsubara, coach of the Adidas-sponsored Fresno Elite Basketball Organization; Thad Foucher, former coach of the Adidas-sponsored New Orleans Jazz; and Grier, coach of the Michigan Hurricanes, formerly the Michigan Mustangs.
"I don't know how much or what it was, but I know he had to make them," Dyke testified in the deposition.
Additionally, Dyke's attorney, Jeffrey Winikow, told Judge James C. Chalfant during pretrial motions earlier this month that payments were made to Gary Charles, coach of the Adidas-sponsored Long Island (N.Y.) Panthers.
When Charles was contacted for this story he said, "Legally, I have been told I can't talk about it."
Foucher, who now is vice president of SFX Basketball and works for prominent agent Arn Tellem, was also asked to comment for this story. He said Fegan never paid him and never donated money to his old team, the New Orleans Jazz.
Matsubara could not be reached for comment. His attorney, Seth Maxwell, said he knew nothing about any payments, but that Matsubara would never do anything improper or illegal.
Fegan and Assante officials wouldn't comment on the deposition last week after they reached the confidential settlement. But earlier this month, David Cornwell, general counsel of Assante's sports group, said some youth basketball coaches were paid as trainers to help prepare Fegan's clients for the NBA draft. He said the allegations about the payments were an effort to blackmail and smear Fegan.
Dyke's attorney, Winikow, said earlier this month that testimony about the payments was needed to defend Dyke against a countersuit filed after Dyke sued Fegan. That suit was later dropped. Dyke left Fegan, in part, because he didn't want to be the "bag man" making payments to coaches, Winikow said during a hearing on a pretrial motion.
Both Dyke and Winikow refused comment last week.
Dyke, in his deposition, claimed Fegan curried favor with a network of Adidas-sponsored coaches that were headed by Adidas basketball director Sonny Vaccaro in order to gain access to the best high school basketball players in America. Fegan did not pay Vaccaro any money, but paid money to the Adidas-sponsored summer basketball teams, Dyke said in the deposition.
In the deposition, Fegan's attorneys asked Dyke, "Dan told you that if he paid certain monies certain ways that Sonny would help him with the players, okay?"
Dyke answered, "Yeah, help him, and that is not necessarily guaranteeing you delivery of a player, but putting you in the mix. I mean, if there's players you are trying to sign ... you could be ... one of five that the guy's going to bring into his house. It's a lot better than [being] on the outside looking in."
In responding to questions about the deposition, Vaccaro said he never received any money from Fegan or encouraged him to pay Adidas-sponsored programs or coaches.
Vaccaro said Fegan did not sign many players who were on the teams to which he allegedly made payments. But the teams and coaches mentioned in the depositions produced a number of college and NBA stars, including Jonathan Bender, DeShawn Stevenson, Lamar Odom and Carlos Boozer, among others, according to the book "Sole Influence," which details Adidas' and Nike's grassroots basketball summer basketball programs.