DALLAS — Thursday morning, the Dallas Mavericks introduced their new general manager and head coach at a press conference. Mavericks’ owner Mark Cuban and CEO Cynt Marshall flanked Nico Harrison and Jason Kidd, who will fill those roles, respectively, on a stage at center court at the American Airlines Center in Dallas.
In terms of press conferences, it was fairly routine. Each spoke with enthusiasm about the future of the organization. Harrison and Kidd specifically said how excited they were to get to work alongside Luka Doncic. Through all the smiles and platitudes, though, an elephant hung in the room. Kidd’s hiring sparked much criticism because of his guilty plea to domestic abuse in 2001. While Kidd, Marshall, and Cuban spoke broadly about his past, it was clear that they didn’t want to tackle the matter head on in a public setting.
Cuban hired Marshall in 2018 in the wake of reporting by Sports Illustrated that uncovered a deep-seeded culture of sexual harassment, domestic abuse, and workplace misconduct in order to change the internal culture of the organization. At her introductory press conference, Marshall stated that she was instituting a zero-tolerance policy for all team employees for both the office and basketball operations side of the organization. The hiring of Kidd, because of his history of domestic violence, called into question whether the Mavericks were following their own self-imposed guidelines.
“We talked about his past,” Marshall said about her conversations with Kidd upon his hiring. “We talked about some of the history, and he walked me through his journey, which I will call it a journey. He walked me through that. And at the end of that process, I very much felt like we were doing the right thing. I didn’t feel like we were undermining our zero-tolerance policy or our values or our code of conduct at all.”
Marshall says that she didn’t bring in outside help in evaluating Kidd and his past during the hiring process. Instead, she went through the process of vetting him herself. However, when asked about the zero-tolerance policy that she imposed upon her hiring, she deflected the question and spoke more broadly about the team’s code of conduct rather than how Kidd’s hiring falls within those parameters.
“The Dallas Mavericks have a set of values—character, respect, authenticity, fairness, teamwork, and safety, both physical and emotional safety,” Marshall said. “We have a zero-tolerance policy for misconduct, sexual harassment, false allegations, or anything that puts our employees in danger. If you don’t adhere to our code of conduct and our values, you don’t get the benefit of enjoying employment at the Dallas Mavericks.”
For his part, Kidd readily admits his past indiscretions. He didn’t go into great detail about his conversations with Marshall. He did, however, discuss his time in counselling and the tools the Mavericks have to address the issues that he’s dealt with over the past 20 years and the importance of being open and talking about the action’s he’s committed.
“The journey that I’ve been on has not always been perfect, but we learn from our mistakes,” Kidd said. “Understanding God is great and that given the opportunity to prove yourself, to learn from your mistakes, to have the opportunity to talk about it.”
While Kidd’s readiness to speak about and learn from his past is to be commended, the whole tone of the Mavericks’ approach to his past guilty plea to domestic violence during the press conference is at odds with previous statements from the organization. In July 2020, Sports Illustrated published another story centered on the misconduct of a Mavericks employee. A woman accused former scout Tony Ronzone of sexual assault. In a lengthy and inflammatory statement responding to SI’s reporting, the organization denounced the accusation saying, in part, “it dredges up the past for so many women and men in the Mavs’ organization and some who no longer work at the Mavs.” A year after the Mavericks criticism of the reporting, the organization quietly fired Ronzone.
Marshall, a victim of domestic violence herself, says that she can’t speak for all the women who have experienced abuse at the hands of another person. She says that it’s taken her a lot of time in counseling and through prayer to be able to speak about her experiences. However, she does not address how the hiring may adversely impact current or former employees of the team as well as members of the public who are suffering through the emotional burden of abuse.
“What I can do is continue to pray for them,” Marshall said. “I can’t give any advice because I don’t know their circumstances. I know my circumstances.”
Rather than choosing to confront Kidd’s past, the Marshall and Cuban chose to deflect questions posed to them. For an organization still reeling from the fallout of the initial SI report in 2018, it was disappointing to see. They forfeited an opportunity to discuss the internal decision making and conversations that took place during the hiring process and how Kidd aligned with the Mavericks’ stated culture. Instead, they more or less said “trust us,” giving their word that the organization is now a better place because they claim to adhere to an internal evaluation process.
“It’s not just with our head coach in Jason, it’s for everybody we bring in,” Cuban said. “We have a process that we go through that enables us to make a determination whether or not they can be part of the culture we’re defining. And, beyond that, once you’re in, there’s still an ongoing set of responsibilities that you have to uphold.”
Editor Doyle Rader attended the press conference Thursday and we talk about it here. Search Mavs Moneyball Podcast on your favorite app to find the episode, click the link, or press play in the player below.