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Pacers hire Happy Walters. He discusses the move from NBA agent to front office consultant.
Happy Walters is from Fort Wayne, built a successful career representing music artists and NBA players, and now will contribute to the Indiana Pacers.
There was a new, but familiar face at the St. Vincent Center on Wednesday.
Sitting beside team president Kevin Pritchard, courtside for the Pacers’ fifth workout with draft prospects, was Happy Walters. A player agent for the past decade, Walters wasn’t just looking on with Pritchard. He was wearing a navy team-issued Nike polo with the Pacers’ logo.
He’s the latest addition to the front office.
Walters joined the Pacers in recent months as a consultant to the front office, he confirmed during a phone conversation with Fieldhouse Files on Wednesday. Marc Stein first reported the hire.
“I’m from here and the Pacers have always been my team,” Walters said. “Kevin (Pritchard) I’ve known forever and (general manger) Chad (Buchanan) too. They’re two of the best guys with no egos and that’s Indiana people in general.
“The front office is small and they’re very collaborative. So I’m just here to learn and to help where I can — just from the agent side and 15 years of doing that and looking at things in a different way. But these guys are the experts. I’m just really here to help when they need it and learn the other side of the business.”
Walters has an eye for talent and can bring creative ideas to the table with the front office and Herb Simon, the longest-tenured NBA owner. This continues a trend of sports agents moving into front-office roles, the most notable transitions being executives Bob Myers of the Warriors, Rob Pelinka of the Lakers, Justin Zanik of the Jazz and Leon Rose of the Knicks.
“Between free agency and the draft and all that kinds of stuff, agents evaluate players in their own way,” he said. “It’s just a different way of looking at it.”
Longtime Pacers executive Donnie Walsh retired from his role as consultant at the end of 2020. (He explained why here.)
Walters is a native of Fort Wayne, Indiana and his parents still live there. His father, Robert, was born there and then became a lawyer.
Walters had lived in Los Angeles since the ‘90s, but moved to Puerto Rico a few years ago.
“I’m going to be between here (Indy) and Puerto Rico,” he said. “I’m going to scout, help out wherever I can and go on the road. I’m starting at the bottom and will see how it goes and try to learn as much as I can.”
Walters, a graduate of the University of Michigan, first had a successful career in the music industry, founder of Immortal Records. He managed multi-platinum recording artists such as Korn, Incubus and Thirty Seconds to Mars, according to his LinkedIn.
Then in 2012, he launched Relativity Sports, which was once estimated to be the third most valuable sports agency in 2015. From there, Walters founded Catalyst Sports and his list of clients included a pair of local standouts, Romeo Langford (Spurs) and John Konchar (Grizzlies).
Over the years, Walters represented several former Pacers like Shawne Williams, Monta Ellis, Ty Lawson, Ike Anigbogu and Brad Wanamaker.
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Walters decide to move on from being an NBA agent last season. But first, he helped Konchar and Celtics’ Marcus Smart find new agents. “I stopped doing agent stuff a while ago because I was kind of burnt on it,” he said.
“Talking to Kevin and Chad, they said we could always use some help and they knew me for a long time. We’re friends, first and foremost. And then I thought I could learn that side of the business. I’ve always been interested and these guys are super open and collaborative. No one has an ego, which is important.”
In addition to this new role, Walters said he has his hands in other stuff in the business world. But this is something he’s excited about because it’s for the NBA franchise in his home state and alongside friends in the business.
“Some other teams had approached me, but between Kevin and (owner) Herb (Simon) and Chad and the Pacers, it was like a no-brainer for me,” he added. “It was nothing to do with money or whoever would pay more or anything like that. It was about fit and being able to learn from, and frankly, I think Kevin and these guys are amazing at what they do and have been for a long time. I’ve always had tons of respect as an agent and always gotten along with everyone here.”
The Pacers’ front office consists of Pritchard, Buchanan, VP of basketball operations and cap management Ted Wu, and assistant GM Kelly Krauskopf.
It’s an important offseason for the team with three draft picks (6, 31, 58) and several key roster decisions to be made.