One of the most prominent and respected men in the NFL, Eugene Parker, has passed. He died of cancer at age 60. His reputation was that of a shrewd and ruthless negotiator. His magic was using escalators in contracts, and he knew how to get it done.
He maximized so many NFL players’ contracts that they loved him. He could be trusted. They called Parker a father figure. He was unique, honest, mild mannered and God-fearing. He was a basketball star at Purdue University and was drafted by the five-time NBA champion San Antonio Spurs.Parker passed on going to the NBA. He decided to become a grad assistant at Valparaiso University, where he earned his law degree.
My son Larry Jr. called me late last Thursday with the news that his agent, Parker, had passed. I have been in a daze since he told me. Next weekend is the 12th Annual Carol Fitzgerald Memorial Benefit Friday at 6 pm at the Minneapolis Event Center. Parker and his lovely wife have attended every one of my foundation events.
I always looked forward to talking life and football with Parker. I had to search and find Parker back in 2004, the year my son Larry Jr. was the third overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft.
Parker’s list of clients is a Who’s Who Deion Sanders, Emmitt Smith, Ron Woodson, Curtis Martin, Walter Jones all in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He also represented Jason Pierre Paul, Jarius Byrd, Michael Crabtree, Greg Jennings and Alshon Jeffrey.
You hear so many horror stories about athletes going broke after their MLB, NFL, NBA or NHL careers come to an end. I interviewed 50 different agents before deciding on Parker. When you lose your wife, as I did the year before to cancer, you have to make certain you make no mistakes and take good care of your children, continuing to lead and support their dreams and careers.
I had to have the right agent to represent Larry Jr. I knew he was special and I wanted to maximize his value and position going into the NFL Draft. Remember, Larry Jr. was in college for only two years, at the University of Pittsburgh that’s rare. Parker delivered big time for Larry Jr., negotiating a six year, $60 million deal. Twenty million dollars was guaranteed!
Parker was a man of great character and faith, and everything he told me he would do he did. Larry Jr. is a nine-time Pro Bowler, but you still have to maximize the contract through relationships and values. It’s business.
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones once said, “Eugene Parker is who I would call to represent me right now if I needed an agent.” Deion Sanders said, “He was the best human being I’ve met almost 30 years ago. He did every deal I had. My God, I’ve lost so much in one man.”
I cannot emphasize enough what a quality human being he was. I know much pain is felt across the NFL players’ community. The greatest honor I can pay him is this: My son has earned $130 million over his 12 year NFL career. Parker has negotiated all four of my son’s deals. He called me on each one.
Larry Jr. is listed among the top 10 all-time money earners in NFL history. Larry Jr. is a receiver; the other nine Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, etc.are all quarterbacks. Bless you, Mr. Parker. You will be missed, my friend, and thank you for being a man of your word and taking care of my son.
We’ve learned nationally that Black men are under attack in this country just look at our prisons. They seem to be under attack in Minnesota sports as well. Since I’ve been in Minnesota, I have witnessed three glaring examples of Black coaches being treated unfairly and fired for no reason despite winning and being successful. That specific history here in the Land of 10,000 Lakes and Minnesota Nice is warming up to repeat itself.
From 1992-2001, Dennis Green was head coach of the Vikings. In his 10 years he guided the Vikings to the playoffs eight times. He founded the community relations program. He signed Randall Cunningham, NFL MVP, and drafted Randy Moss, Korey Stringer, Robert Smith and Daunte Culpepper.
He made Cris Carter a starter and hired Tony Dungy as defensive coordinator and Brian Billick as offensive coordinator. Both went on to win Super Bowls as head coaches.
Green set a Vikings record in 1998 going 16-2, at the time the highest scoring team in NFL history. He won four playoff games and reached two NFC Championship games. He was fired in 2001 after a cabal like media environment swept through Winter Park.
Since 2001, the Vikings have had four head coaches. Only one, Brad Childress, reached the playoffs twice and the NFC Championship game. The others Mike Tice, Lesley Frazier and current coach Mike Zimmer have reached the playoffs once each. That’s five playoff teams, and it’s 2016.
Tubby Smith was head coach of men’s basketball at the University of Minnesota for six years. Three years ago he was fired by Norwood Teague, the new athletic director. Smith had reached the NCAA Men’s tournament three times, including his final year.
He also beat the number-one team in the nation, Indiana University, the same year he was fired. Teague replaced Smith with Richard Pitino. Teague was later fired in a massive scandal last year after being accused of sexual harassment.
The 2015-16 Minnesota season was awful: The Gophers were 8-23 and finished 13th in the 14 team BIG conference. Pitino has zero NCAA appearances; 2016-17 will be year four.
NBA Minnesota Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor hired Dwayne Casey as head coach 2006-07 and fired him after 40 games. The Wolves were 20-20 when he was let go. The Timberwolves have missed the playoffs now 12 years in a row and have not been at .500 since Casey was fired, and it’s 2016.
The Timberwolves are 24-49 with nine games left in the 2016 season. They again are headed to the NBA lottery. Interim Coach Sam Mitchell replaced team part-owner and coach Flip Saunders after his tragic death in November of 2015.
Mitchell has done a good job developing the four 20-year-old future stars and teaching them how to play in the NBA as a competitive unit. Last week they were tied 101-101 with a minute left against Golden State before losing 109-104.
Last year’s team coached by Saunders was 16-66. Milt Newton is the general manager now in the third year of his three-year contract. Not many around town are advising owner Glen Taylor to retain Mitchell and Newton for 2017.
I ask you, what would Saunders’ record be if he were alive and coaching this team? Since we can’t answer that, you would have to say that Taylor should stay the course. After all, Saunders hired Newton and Mitchell and drafted the young core of talented 20-year olds: Andrew Wiggins, Karl Anthony Towns, Zach LaVine and Tyus Jones.
The consensus in town in the majority media is telling Taylor to fire everybody and bring in a new GM and head coach. Did you expect them to support Taylor staying the course with Mitchell and Newton, the guys that Saunders said are his guys who understand the plan he put in place?
Minnesota is simply not comfortable with Black men in charge, even when they win. I”m not making this up I have given you three clear historic examples. Stay tuned and watch if Taylor again listens to the media cabal and screws up this situation. After all, Minnesota has a history of assassinating Black coaches.
So far, the Golden State Warriors have snatched the NBA spotlight. They have established a standard that this league has not seen since 1995-96. Back then, the Chicago Bulls were nearing the end of winning six NBA titles over a seven-year span.
For me, it was the best of times. Being a Chicago native, I covered those teams led by NBA superstar Michael Jordan. He and I are friends; he has been regarded by many as the greatest player to ever play in the NBA.
Those Bulls teams were coached by Phil Jackson. The Bulls were 72-10, and that is the standard that all the great NBA teams over time have lined up behind.
Golden State had one of the 10 or 12 best seasons in NBA history last year. They finished 67-15 in the regular season and completed the year by beating LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers four games to two in the NBA Finals.
This season, the Warriors and NBA MVP Stephen Curry have become similar to the Bulls back in the day. They’ve grabbed the world sports spotlight.
Curry leads the NBA in scoring with 30.3 per game and has made an NBA-record 340 three-point shots. Steve Kerr, now the coach of the Warriors, is a former teammate of Jordan’s with the Bulls and played on that 72-10 team. Kerr also played with Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs, where he won two titles.
After beating the Timberwolves 109-104 Monday night before 19,452, the Warriors are now 63-7. That’s the best record in NBA history after 70 games.
“It’s pretty exciting and pretty amazing really,” said Coach Kerr. “The season is such a grind mentally and physically. To reach the 70-game mark and still not losing two in a row? It’s never been done before in the history of the league. And all the numbers and stats — that is what I’m most proud of. It shows our competitive spirit and desire to win night after night. It’s fantastic.”
With 12 games left, the Warriors are ahead of the Bulls’ pace when they finished 72-10. The Warriors are 63-7 at the point where the Bulls were 62-8.
The Warriors have won 50 straight games over two years at home. That is an NBA record, and they are 32-0 this season at home. Kerr, having played with the Bulls and Spurs, has combined two great championship systems with the talented players he coaches in Golden State.
“It’s a combination of things I learned in Chicago under Phil Jackson,” Kerr said, “and things I learned from Gregg Popovich in San Antonio and Mike D’Antoni and Alvin Gentry from my days in Phoenix. We just try to keep the ball moving and get good spacing and shooting. And the more decisions we can force the defense to make, the more likely they are to make a mistake.”
And that, folks — with good fortune and great players like MVP Curry, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson, NBA Finals MVP Andre Iguodala, and a deep bench — is why the Warriors are breaking records on the road to defending an NBA Championship.