Fletcher F. Cockrell – Author, litigation attorney, former college basketball player and coach, NBA agent and now Chief Legal Counsel for Texas Association of Basketball Coaches has kindly answered our questions:
- Why did you write “Dismissed with Prejudice” and what is it about? I wrote “Dismissed with Prejudice” in order to deal with the legal aspects of being terminated as a collegiate coach and how it relates to university administrations and the NCAA. The story is about an assistant coach who gets fired (dismissed) by a dirty, political and philandering head coach. The coach literally throws the young assistant under the bus in order to keep the NCAA from digging in to his program for other issues that he has regarding his wealthy and crooked booster. A young attorney in a neighbouring city becomes enamoured with the pattern of this head coach because he has done the same thing over and over for years. The attorney decides to offer his services to the fired assistant and a legal battle uncovers layer upon layer of fraud, cover ups and back-room deals that lead all the way to the Governor’s office.
- Do things like this really happen in collegiate basketball? This type of thing could easily happen in collegiate basketball involving a big money program.
- What inspired you to write this book? I wrote this book because of my background in collegiate coaching and also my experience as a practicing trial attorney now.
- Based on your experiences, what lessons would you teach an up-and-coming basketball coach in the league today? I would tell them to listen more than you talk, bootstrap yourself to someone who is squeaky clean and trust no one.
- What exactly is your role as Chief Legal Counsel for the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches and how do you work with athletic directors? My role as Chief Legal Counsel for the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches is to represent coaches when they have been fired or have issues regarding their employment. I communicate with the athletic directors at times to try and mediate some of the problems and issues with the coaches in question.
- Were there any difficulties in moving from a coach (poacher) to helping to regulate the sport (gamekeeper)? I do miss coaching at times but am very comfortable where I am in my life. I wouldn’t trade my life experiences for anything in the world.
- Assuming the biggest threat to basketball are agents and big money, and how do you think this can be fixed? I don’t think the agent/money issue can be totally fixed but the only way it can be addressed is through the threat of imprisonment and serious fines.
- What has been the most interesting case you have been involved in and why? My most interesting case is when I represented an illegal immigrant from Mexico working as a contractor for a huge conglomerate company in Arkansas. They were basically hired illegally at a very low rate of pay. One of the workers lost his hand in a work accident, and they just tried to send him home without compensation of any kind. I exposed them and they settled in order to avoid further media exposure. It was a very sad experience and really opened my eyes about one of the biggest companies in the United States.
- How do you see the relationship between the NCAA, the NBA and FIBA? The NCAA is a money-making business that thrives on television contracts. The NCAA feeds the NBA, and their relationship is tenuous at times. The NBA is a company run by one of the brightest business minds in sports, David Stern, and they will continue to grow. FIBA is becoming more and more popular as basketball is the biggest sport worldwide. The money being paid by European teams leads me to believe that the NBA could become global at some point.
- It strikes us as unusual that few athletes who have had successful playing careers go on to become successful lawyers. Is this unusual and why isn’t anyone following in your footsteps? It is very unusual for a former college coach to enter the legal field and I think the reason no one has followed in my footsteps is because they aren’t quite as crazy as I was. It was a very stressful and difficult road attending law school, passing the bar and practicing law after 15 years of collegiate coaching. But as I said, I wouldn’t trade the road I have travelled for anything in the world.
- What will your 2nd book be on? My next novel that I am working on deals with a big oil company in Houston, Texas. This company has a risk manager that evaluates the dangers of oil and gas contamination throughout the country. He is basically a bean counter that weighs the financial risks of excavation of dangerous contaminants versus simply allowing them to remain in the ground and what the costs of litigating wrongful deaths caused from the poisons below the ground. This risk manager is desperately trying to move up in the company and is trying to cut costs by gambling in certain areas where the toxins are. His young assistant discovers what he is doing and begins investigating it, finding numerous deaths in certain areas where their company has old wells. He contacts his roommate from college who is a struggling street lawyer and the attorney begins doing his research as well. As the lawyer uncovers what is really going on, it leads to uncovering the fraud of one of the largest oil companies in the United States who also has ties to the Oval office.
For more information on Fletcher’s first novel, “Dismissed with Prejudice”: http://www.amazon.com/Dismissed-Prejudice-Fletcher-Cockrell/dp/1448919002.