the property that he sold me. We’ve
become great friends since. On more
than a few occasions, he’s said, “It’s
not very often that you get to pick your
neighbors,” and he’s very happy with his
decision. So it’s worked out very well.
Q Do your grandchildren live in the area?
I have two grandchildren,
both boys. One is about 2½ and lives
about 15 minutes away. My other
grandson is almost three months and is
not quite an hour away, on the west side
of Cleveland. But we have space here so
it’s nice that we can have the families
visit with us and stay here. And even
though they’re not at the level where
they can fully appreciate it, we’ve had
both grandkids sleep over, and there will
be plenty more sleepovers to come.
Q I foresee a lot of summers at Grandma and Grandpa’s in
Q What might people who only know you in your professional
capacity be most surprised to learn
Probably the fact that
during my misspent youth I was part of
a group that tried to get foreign players
here and into the NBA, one of whom
was a very tall North Korean. He was 7
foot 8½ inches. At the time he was the
tallest living human, going into the 1996
Guinness Book of Records. We got the
North Koreans to agree to let him come.
The biggest challenge was trying to get
the U.S. State Department to let him in.
There was and still is a Trading with the
Enemy Act, so we had to set it up such
that we didn’t violate any laws. The U.S.
Treasury Department gave us a call to
make sure we weren’t doing anything
wrong. We had a group up in Canada
handling the initial transactions. The
player was being trained up there while
we were waiting for the State
It was really a fun time, a crazy time. For
example, I took a photo of him once.
I gave it to the Associated Press and
the next thing I knew, the photo was
all over the national news. I remember
watching Peter Jennings and behind
his head was the photo that I had taken.
Dealing with the State Department at
the time was quite a challenge. In one
of the more notable conversations I
had with them, a guy from the State
Department said to me that I should
tell the North Koreans to stop pursuing
nuclear weapons. I’m thinking, “Really?
This is just basketball.” The North
Koreans just want the guy to come and
play here in the United States, so it was
just kind of an absurd situation with
our State Department. Ultimately, the
State Department refused to let him
in. Two years later, they changed their
decision, but it was really too late.
There was a columnist who wrote about
the whole thing. He was talking to some
folks in the State Department and the
officials admitted that they’d made a
mistake by not letting the guy in. If I
understand it correctly, some folks in
the State Department think that our
relationship with North Korea might
be different today had they let him in.
Q How did you fall into doing that?
My brother-in-law had been
looking at various foreign players, and
he had identified that guy. He came to
me—we were sharing an office at the
time—and asked me if it was possible to
get a North Korean into the United
States. I said, “Are you crazy? There’s a
Trading with the Enemy Act. It’s against
the law. You can’t do it.”
What was really bizarre is that a day
or two later I was talking to someone
who said they knew someone who had
some interaction with the North Korean
government. I called my brother-in-
law and said, “You won’t believe it, but I
might have connections.” I was able to
connect with the guy and work a deal
such that we were able to get the North
Koreans to approve it. Unfortunately, the
more difficult side of it was the U.S. side.
Q What items are at the top of your bucket list?
You know, I’ve never
created a bucket list. I would hate to
create a bucket list, risking
disappointment that I couldn’t
complete it. Let me just say that I’m
truly happy with my today, my here and
now. If I were to put something on a
bucket list, it would probably be to have
way more than my share of todays. J