Part Two of Rich Lederer’s “Breakfast with Bill” interview is up. I like this exchange regarding a trio of James’ former assistants:
RL:…I was wondering if you could talk about some of the different people that worked for you. The fact that your disciples have become notable in their own right reminds me of the success of Bill Walsh and his assistant coaches.
BJ: Jim Baker is a very talented person. I conducted perhaps an over-organized search for an assistant at that time and hired him. He was the most talented person I could find. He is an extremely funny writer. He’s hilarious. I think everybody who knows Jim and knows how good his stuff is has been waiting for him to explode as a popular pop icon for 20 years. It hasn’t happened yet and maybe it won’t, but he’s a very talented guy.
RL: Rob Neyer was your second assistant.
BJ: Rob is the easiest person to work with that I’ve had. I hired him just because I liked him. I knew he was a big baseball fan. It was sort of a trial thing and I didn’t really know how long it would last. He is a natural assistant to me because I’m not organized enough to spend any time directing anybody’s work. You give Neyer a stack full of baseball books and he’s busy. He was naturally doing it by his own intellectual curiosity and interests so I never really had to worry about what he was doing, which was a good thing for me.
RL: How about John Sickels?
BJ: I hired John because I was looking for an assistant. We went to lunch and one of the things I did was draw up a list of young players. I thought I’d ask John to see if he knew anything about them as sort of an intern test. He knew far more about these players than I did! Just off the top of his head, he could rattle off where they were last year and what they were doing. I was quite amazed at that. John always had — and it doesn’t have anything to do with me — an area of expertise. He always knew more about that stuff than anybody did. Through working with me, he was able to let people know all of the expertise he had in that area.