When Stan Kasten arrived in Atlanta in the mid-’70s, its lackluster sports franchises had earned the city a dubious label: Losersville. In 1979, the 27-yearold Kasten became the youngest general manager in the history of the NBA, proceeding to build the Hawks into a championship-caliber team around Dominique Wilkins. In 1986 and 1987, he won back-to-back NBA Executive of the Year awards. Adept at multi-tasking, Kasten became president of Atlanta’s baseball team in 1986. During his tenure, the Braves won 12 straight division titles and one World Series with a core of stars that included Greg Maddux, John Smoltz, and Chipper Jones.
Now in charge of MLB’s second most valuable franchise (and second highest payroll), Kasten gamely fielded a few soft grounders (and one or two worm burners) from CSQ’s ace staff of inquisitors.
CSQ What do you remember most about this year’s Opening Day?
Stan Kasten Clayton Kershaw. He was Cy Young and Babe Ruth that day. A great combination.
CSQ What were the most valuable things you learned from Ted Turner early on in your career?
SK He was willing to take big risks for big rewards. It was really the beginning of the explosion of the cable television business. He gambled big on some innovative ideas.
CSQ How would you describe Magic Johnson’s management style?
SK Magic is a never-ending source of energy, enthusiasm, and motivation. He is always encouraging people to be up and on top of their game and to raise their own expectations.
CSQ What other executives do you admire and respect the most?
SK My current partners, Mark Walter and Todd Boehly. They are brilliant and bold, and watching them maneuver, first to get the franchise and then to enable it to run at a high level has been an awful lot of fun.
CSQ What was the vision behind creating the culture of winning in Atlanta with both the Hawks and the Braves?
SK Long ago, there was a story in Sports Illustrated calling the city of Atlanta Losersville. The Hawks picked up some steam and became a perennial playoff team. That was followed shortly by the Braves being a perennial winner, eventually becoming a World Series champion. It changed the sports image of Atlanta, locally as well as nationally.
CSQ What stars of past organizations have you have remained close to?
SK I have a great relationship with most of the players who ever played for me. Two of the ones I am closest to are probably Tom Glavine and Doc Rivers. Players like that. I just saw John Smoltz last week.
CSQ Who’s the last Hall of Famer you talked to?
SK The answer would be Tommy Lasorda. The answer would be within the last 15 minutes. You can ask me that question almost any time of day or night and the answer would still be the same.
CSQ Who’s the last Hall of Famer you texted?
SK I don’t think any Hall of Famers text. Vin Scully is dipping his toes in that water. I think he is tweeting, but I don’t think he texts.
CSQ Who was your sports idol growing up?
SK Mickey Mantle. Everyone idolized him. I grew up New York in the ’50s and ’60s; that should say it all. I also liked Bill Bradley. He played for the Knicks and went to college in New Jersey and I was from there.
CSQ What is the most memorable sports moment you have personally witnessed?
SK I don’t know. I’ve been to World Series, Super Bowls, and Olympics. I think Stephen Strasburg’s major league debut was something extraordinary. All the hype, and he outperformed the hype with 14 strikeouts and no walks in seven innings. I do remember Charles Barkley getting thrown out of a game between free throws. He got the call and he’s still bitching, so much so that he gets thrown out between free throw number one and free throw number two. There’s more to the story. It’s memorable… it’s so memorable, I still remember it.
CSQ What’s the best lesson about business that you learned from an athlete?
SK The best lesson about business that I learned from an athlete is that they are better negotiators than I am.