The following posts were interviews conducted before and during the free agency period. If you have a player on the roster of the Dakota Bikers and would like to conduct one of these with the assistant general manager, feel free to get in touch with me
The Bikers practice facility was always a quiet one during the off-season. Typically it was not so quiet this early in the post-season. That simple fact had caused numerous members of the management team and coaching staff to be let go. However, there was one member of the Biker's staff that somehow survived the purge. Their assistant general manager. The man who had sat at Vick Turner's side throughout her run as GM of the Bikers.
The assistant GM was currently on the phone and looking over some paperwork on his desk as the door to his office opened. Fenruss Brylee had arrived for his meeting, but knew better then to interrupt the conversation, especially as he overheard the tail end of it.
"I understand your concerns, but let’s look objectively at this shall we? Your salary cap situation is atrocious. What would your fans think if you had to miss the playoffs because you couldn't manage your money?"
There was a long pause and then he continued.
"I can get you that draft pick you so desperately covet and save you tens of millions of dollars. What more could you possibly want?"
Another pause followed.
"Trust me; it is in the best interests of both parties to make this happen. I'm not trying to buy low on goods. In fact, you may owe me after this one. I'm the one taking care of your mess."
He waited once more and then chuckled, finally noticing Fenruss.
"We'll talk later my good man. I have a meeting I need to attend and I won't keep the other party waiting. Take care."
He hung up the phone and stood up, extending a hand. "Mr. Brylee. Thank you for coming."
Fenruss hung back by the door as he listened intently to the interim GMs side of the conversation, running through scenarios in his head over what he was hearing. But once the call was ended and he was acknowledged, the black wolf approached the desk and shook the lion's paw. "Not a problem. Hopefully that call wasn't about me."
"Trust me when I say you have nothing to worry about." He smiled and took his seat. "I do apologize for the lack of communication since the purge as it is called, went down. Typically Vicki would handle these matters, but sadly it falls to me with barely a janitor left on staff."
Fenruss also took his seat opposite from the feline, shaking his head. "Don't apologize for something out of your control. Besides, most of management has been rather tight-lipped this season, so this purge just was another part of the new modus operandi."
He grinned a bit. "Honestly this place was crawling with sycophantic parasites. Extermination was imminent" He went through some papers on his desk, shuffling them and finding the folder he was looking for. "The last pick in the draft. I remember scouting you in your final season at Canis Lupus. Steal of that draft in my humble opinion. My, my how time flies."
He looked Fenruss over before placing the open file on his desk. "You'll forgive my lack of preparation. I've been quite busy trying to prepare for a draft I wasn't expected to run." He smirks. "Officially at least." He leans forward. "How have you been since the season ended?"
The bigfur smirked at the flattering comment, though his tail twitched slightly at the veiled insult of the folks on the coaching staff that he had befriended other than Ning. As the lion continued, Fenruss casually glanced briefly over the other papers on the desk until the lean forward brought his attention back to the GM.
"I've been fine," shrugged the wolf. "Disappointed, sure, but it doesn't hurt as much as getting swept in the Finals. Edmonton may have had the better team this year, but I don't regret turning down their contract offer to re-sign here."
The lion grins. "They don't know how to utilize you. You were built for Biker black and white. Just look at yourself." He shifted in his seat as he contemplated his next sentence. "This is a very straight forward interview. Simple questions. Let me preface this with something first."
He looked over at his wall; pictures of various Biker greats decorated the office as a replica of the championship banner hung behind him. "This organization has a long history of dominating the FBA. It also has a long history of being misunderstood and misrepresented. The "Bad Boys" of the league as it were."
He smiled. "But we aren't bad. Sure, we have some bad apples in an otherwise pure organization. Vicki Turner's firing was a shame. She truly did her best. I begged Mr. Dwight to keep her on as team president. She wasn't always the best general manager, few hall of fame caliber players ever are, but she certainly had a way with people. As for our dear coaching staff, we technically did fire Ning. He wasn't able to coach anymore, but he will be paid his full salary because of that decision. He'll be able to take care of himself and we will always remember what he and his staff did for us last year."
The wolf nodded to the appraisal, knowing that James Frestrikial was pretty much getting the brunt of the Totems' mismanagement that would've been his own had he given up his faith and loyalty to Dakota. But then the lion's tone shifted with his position in his seat, and Fenruss knew that he was getting down to business.
"It is a shame how Coach Fenwatcher had to leave the game the way he did, but sometimes it's a sign. I know he's had some difficulty managing his family here in the States, and with Redawn gone maybe he can focus on that more. Vicki... she's personable, but she's not like her teammate Carter Clausen. She related to us players too much, y'know? Like a grandma kinda doting on her grandkids.
"That's one thing that Ning's predecessor Coach O'Malley reminded me about the game -- once you leave it, you have to find enough separation from it. Otherwise you'll find yourself trying to get back on the court."
The lion leaned back in his chair, thoroughly impressed with the young forward. "I absolutely agree. Quite the wise words from someone so young. You would do well to listen to Coach O'Malley in all regards. He was a brilliant mind."
He then chuckled to himself, but quickly lost all the joy in his face as he growled softly. "Vicki isn't a GM. She couldn't make the tough choices. She never had to be a role player. She doesn't know how to build a team and she was completely bullied by..." His eyes grew intense as he spoke. "...Buck Hopper." The large feline leaned forward. "I don't feel I need to beat around the bush with you Mr. Brylee. So tell me truthfully. Where do you stand with the team? I want brutal honesty because unlike Vicki, you will get nothing but the truth with me."
Again a smirk crossed the lupine's muzzle. "I don't think you'd have been able to convince Coach Kurt from retiring. He was a good player in his day, and just as good a coach as Ning too, but I think he knew it was his time to leave the game. And as for Vicki, she lost control of Buck when we won the championship last year.
"On this team though? As it stands, I feel like I've proven that I should've gotten the original contract offer that my agent and I agreed I should've had, instead of still being paid below the average salary of an FBA player. And if the rumors are true about Blackjack potentially retiring a season early, that would make me the most senior front court player on the roster. I'd be extremely upset if I were to be shipped off elsewhere."
The lion nods. "Well as I said before, don't listen to the rumor mill. If there are trades or other things in the works you will hear it from me before anyone else. Reporters love to create stories here in America. It's rather annoying. They are like flies that need to be swatted away. You are not being moved. In fact, I plan to talk to Mr. Wayans sooner rather than later about that very subject."
He adjusted his posture once more. "My goal when I drafted you, and yes it was my call, was that you would be the heir to that power forward spot. Of course Vicki has since added DQ and Mr. Jazz to the mix, so next year, if Mr. Wayans retires, you'll battle in training camp for the starting power forward spot. I intend to give you every opportunity to thrive in this league."
He looks through the papers in his file. "You'll be getting a raise and be making 3 million next year. Do you feel under paid?"
Fenruss nods as well, shrugging a bit. "Jack's got four rings. Every time I've had a chance to talk to him off the court he's dropped hints that he's been considering retiring early. He even brought up Coach Kurt and those same words about knowing when to walk away.”
"As for my contract, I do feel that I am being underpaid for what I've brought to this team so far and what I hope to continue to contribute to the Bikers. I understand there are budgets and salary caps and taxes and such -- this was all covered in my Business Administration classes in college -- but when the average salary is $4 million it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see why I'd be dissatisfied.
"Look," the wolf sighed, "I like Dan, and I tolerate Barnaby. One thing that I liked about Ning is he trusted me in my second year to keep the rookies in line. No extended hazing, just make sure they behaved. This year that responsibility fell to Arturo, and, well... you can see the results."
"Well let's talk about your numbers. 6 points and 2 rebounds in almost 20 minutes per game. Do those sound like numbers worthy of a raise to you?" The lion intertwines his fingers and puts his hands on the desk. His stare is intense, almost chilling.
"That's double what I was doing at the end of my draft contract," the wolf asserted. "It may not look like much, but compared to some other players that I know of above my current pay range, it's certainly comparable."
The lion pauses for a moment and claps his hands. "Very well said my boy. You have certainly played better than certain players making twice your salary. But I don’t pay my players more because other teams throw money at below replacement level players." He shuffled through his desk and opened a file. "However, if you account for playing time, you have very comparable numbers to a certain black panther." He spins around the file so Fenruss could see. "When I scouted you I heard all the comparisons. The Monster they called you." The lion smiles.
"I couldn't believe no one had the foresight to see what I saw. So tell me. How do you compare to Mr. Onca? Do you agree with the evaluation that you are in his mold?"
The confidence that the bigfur had after making his statement seemed to soften in his expression when the file on Onca was pulled out. "Ugh, not this again," grumbled the wolf.
"Sorry, but for as much as the analysts and scouts liked to hype me up that was just college ball. There's good talent there, sure, but the pros are a whole different world. And having gone up against Julio enough times, I know that my game was definitely similar to his when he first joined the league, but he's got some nice feline tricks that I just haven't been able to pick up on.
"But at least I got the bulk to keep him from powering through me," grinned Fenruss as he thumped his chest. "Do I think I'm destined to be like him?" added the bigfur. "As long as I keep my claws clean, why not?"
The lion nodded and smirked. "He also has a bit of a mean streak in him. As you know the Dakota Bikers are known for their rugged defense. We lost that last year. Whoever takes over this team is going to fix that with my help, but I have been around a long time. Names like Wayans, Papanastasopoulos, Malone, Bentham, Trusky and Munt struck fear into the hearts of players around the league. Guards thought twice before driving the lane into those towering players. Assuming they could even get past Toby and Doug."
The lion leaned over his desk and growled at Fenruss. "I want that back. I will do my best to improve the public image of the Bikers, but between those lines I want us to destroy the competition. Win or lose, teams will know they just played Dakota when they wake up in the morning."
He put his finger in Fenruss' chest. "What can you bring to the table Mr. Brylee? What will your off-season be spent you working on?"
Fenruss nodded as the lion rambled about the glory days of the feared Dakota D, than locked his gaze to the assistant GM's eyes when he leaned over the desk to poke the wolf in the chest. "What I bring to the table is my loyalty to this club and the dedication to continue improving. What I can offer is more rough and physical defense, and if that's what will be expected of me in the upcoming season then that's what I'll work on during this off-season."
The lion sat back down and smiled. "I knew I liked you from the moment I saw your draft workout Mr. Brylee." He looked over his papers one last time. "Loyalty is my number one priority with this franchise." He glares a hole into Brylee's eyes. "That might sound strange coming from a feline, but I assure you my commitment to anyone in Dakota is quite canine in nature."
He turns another sheet of paper towards Fenruss. "I have every intention of bringing back Mr. Redfield and Mr. Quvianuq. I will attempt to return as many players as I can as long as they able to contribute to our goal."
He keeps his eyes locked on the wolf as he continues. "I'll make you a deal. Improve that offensive game of yours. Become a terror on both ends of the court. Prove what Fenruss Brylee is all about. Why 23 other teams overlooked pure heart and grit for flashy numbers."
He then pulled out Fenruss' contract. "You do that for me and you won't have to wait two more years for a raise." He slams it down. "I'll tear this up next off-season and we'll make sure you're paid like the star you'll become and made a Biker for life."
Fenruss leaned back in his chair as the lion sat back down in his own, perking his ears up and acknowledging his glare as well as the reassurance of commitment. The wolf then briefly looked at the paper on the desk before returning his gaze to the feline and nodding slightly. "If I can double my points production in one year, I know I can do it again, especially against some of those aging pivots around the L and some hotshot rookies that think they're all that. And I'm not just referring to Vicki's son either."
“You play with a fire that can't be coached.” The lion added. “You have always put in the extra hours to get better. I reward my own players. I have built this team through the draft, in spite of Vicki's attempts to ruin it. Speaking of which..."
An almost evil grin came over his face. "What are your thoughts on Mr. Hopper?"
Fenruss stifled a laugh. "Before I go on, how much of this is getting reported upstairs?"
"As of right now I am upstairs." He looks around the room, then back to Fenruss. "First rule with me Fenruss, I can call you that yes?"
He keeps his grin present as he speaks. "What happens in the Bikers organization stays in the Bikers organization. We don't talk to the media, we don't blab on Twitter and if something is told to me in confidence, it stays in this room."
Fenruss nods to being referred to by his first name, but smirks at the lion's pretentiousness over being the only one upstairs. "As much as I told most everyone that I wouldn't show any disrespect toward the organization or those that were just let go from it, that courtesy doesn't extend to players as much. So if you want my honest opinion, then even Mr. Dwight doesn't hear this.”
"So that bunny? As good a player as he is, he wasn't good for team chemistry here. When he first showed up he was the proverbial prey caught in the predator's territory, and I think he only managed to get on the team's good graces because everyone in upper management was sucking on his carrot. All because they wanted a championship to close out Sturgis Stadium and usher in the new-and-improved Bikers.”
"But what do they do when they get the chip? Disrepect the bunny by clinging to Malone as the face of the franchise. Some new-and-improved franchise. I mean, I like Ryan too, but he's got as bad of an ego as Buck, and it showed early on in the season, along with the competition between Barnaby and Dan for the starting center spot.
"Honestly, I think Buck saw a downhill spiral when he injured his knee before the All-Star break and we went 6-3 without him. And his arguing with Ryan over how to run the offense just made it worse. I'm not happy that he's gone -- he's been an inspiration to a lot of fans in this area -- but the team's better for it. Though personally I think with his constant knee problems he should really retire before he ends up pulling a Jackson Price and not being able to even play casually."
The lion listened as the wolf lists his opinions on the last year and a half of events. When Brylee finished, a cold look came over the lion's eyes.
"Buck Hopper is a cancer," he stated bluntly.
"We never needed him to win a championship and he bullied Vicki into being traded for peanuts. Kinny and Les with one pick for an All-Star, former MVP and two time champion? Pure rubbish."
The lion stood up and pointed to a picture of Ryan Malone. "Mr. Malone has been here since 2003. He is the face of our franchise along with Mr. Wayans. They've made the Bikers the premier organization in all of sports. Yes, Ryan has an ego. And that's what has made him great. Better then Hopper ever was. That rabbit is a product of hype, a championship he stole and a championship you all carried him to."
He turns around to face Fenruss again. "If Vicki had done as I told her Buck would still be here..." He grinned. "...and he would be at home. Suspended indefinitely until he learned how to fit in to a team rather than try to mold it to mach himself."
He growled and sat down. "Our owner is very hands off. He expects results and lets us do whatever gets them." He stared daggers into Fenruss. "But I will not have turmoil in my locker room. This new and improved image is a facade Fenruss. The Bikers aren't evil. We play by the rules. We're just better at the game then everyone else. As for Hopper's knees, I assure you playing the Bikers will speed up that degenerative process next year. It was much safer on our bench for him."
A sly smirk appeared on his face. "But I thank you for your honesty. I expect much more of it moving forward. Any other concerns you'd like to get off your chest? I can promise that Barnaby's sit down with me will include a change in his attitude and behavior or else."
The wolf quirked his brow at the opening statement from the new GM, but listened to the feline provide his own viewpoint on the rabbit. Fenruss nodded slightly with each sentence, smirking at the description of how Hopper "earned" his rings, and letting out a soft chuckle at the lion's scenario with a homebound and suspended B-hop.
The bigfur waited patiently for the big cat to finish, chuckling again at the insinuation towards the future of the rabbit's knees, and took a deep breath. "My two biggest concerns right now are the morale of the club as it stands and the future of my own career. I'm not sure if you know that Ryan called a meeting of the players together to hash out feelings over the purge, but nothing really got resolved from it. The veterans under contract were mixed on the direction that they want to take their game, and the free agents were all too worried about their own careers to open up.”
"Which segues into my other concern, and that's coaching. All the relationships I've built in the past two years under Fenwatcher now have to be rebuilt from scratch. Will the coaches you hire be willing to listen to me and the other players on how we feel we should play the game? And would they be as accepting and willing to guide me towards a potential coaching position down the line?"
The lion smiled knowingly. "I have many plans for this team Fenruss. Communication has been at the heart of these issues. I again blame Ms. Turner and her inability to manage a franchise. We never had these problems before then. We simple went about our business and won championships."
He looked through his paper work and rubbed his head. "The point of these interviews is to address your first concern. I can't fix a problem I don't know about. I'm well aware of what went on in the meeting. I have my means of gathering information. I've seen constant reports of how we should trade Ryan Malone. Blow up the team. Dylan is already out the door. DQ won't last on those knees."
He grinned. "If we do not find a general manager soon, I will take it upon myself to address whatever concerns I hear about in these meetings. Mr. Dwight doesn't need to know everything that happens within these walls. That being said, the coaching search is already underway and I already have my leading candidate. If they accept the position, I have no doubt they will continue to help you expand on your game and the knowledge necessary to be a head coach in this league."
He smiles warmly at Fenruss. "I'm well aware of what my players want to do with their careers and lives. Or as much as I can be. It is my hope then when you are done winning titles for us as a player; it will be a smooth transition for you to our bench."
Fenruss relaxes a bit more once that warm smile returns to the lion's muzzle, the same one that had greeted him prior to the start of the interview, and the wolf nods. "Harking back to what you told me earlier, don't put too much stock into everything you hear or read. We're in a transition period so there's so much going on that even I get lost in all the information. Though I do hope that you can hold onto your current position a bit longer than Vicki did. I never had to get used to a third manager and coaching staff in my college career, and all this churn is not really conducive to a stable work environment." He winks.
The lion nods. "I agree. Stability and loyalty are a lost art in this current age of sports. I hope to weed out the troglodytes and the obsequious yes men..." He grinned. "...and women that have plagued our organization over these last few years. Whatever coach and manager Mr. Dwight brings on, I will work with them to insure locker room stability is a top priority. I don't expect people to be servile, but I do expect them to respect me and the Biker organization."
"I have the utmost respect for the organization," Fenruss says. "I feel that it's been mutual, even after all the changes in the past few years." The wolf stands up from the chair. "Though if there's nothing else, I shouldn't take up more of your time."
The lion extends his hand and shakes once more with Fenruss. "Always a pleasure to speak with a motivated young player such as yourself. You're everything we look for in a Dakota Biker and I expect great things from you next year."
As he turns to leave the lion calls out. "Oh Mr. Brylee. There is one more thing." He pauses and reorganizes some papers on his desk. "How would you feel about playing with this player?" He holds up a picture to the black wolf.
Fenruss shakes the paw and smiles, then stops at the door to that last question and turns around. The expression on his muzzle isn't surprise, though it's more ponderous and thoughtful. "Indifferent as of now," he finally replies. "With how long he's been in the game, if he's going to demand a starting position because of their experience they’d better earn it first. Stephanie let Ning have Hopper at starting point right out of the gate, but I hardly think Jack or Barnaby or even I will let anyone push us around."
The lion folds his arms and smirks. "They are a very productive player even at their advanced age. I simply ask if they were to come, would you commit yourself to being the best player coming off the bench in the FBA. Or would I have to deal with a disgruntled locker room? You don't acquire someone of this talent to bench them. But if they last more then another year or so I'd be stunned."
"I never said they shouldn't start," Fenruss explains, "but I know that if they get the nod without giving any of us the time of day, they'll not be happy. Personally, I'm fine coming off the bench. Heck, Patrick Suarez gave me an Honorable Mention for the Sixth Fur award. But if Jack retires and the team expects me to take his place on the starting line, I want to take fight for it in training camps before conceding it to anyone. I'm not going to be like Steph and just let some over-the-hill superstar take what should rightfully be mine without some fight."
The lion walks out from behind his desk, his massive frame and size now on full display. He walks Fenruss to the door and waits to open it.
"No one is handed anything on the Dakota Bikers. Steph, despite what you might think and what was said publicly, did not have a choice in the matter, nor did the organization. But that is a story for another day. Come training camp the only person with a guaranteed spot is Ryan Malone. You earn your place on this team."
He puts a massive hand on Brylee's shoulder. "And I love your fight. Your grit. Your determination to take what is yours." He grins. "Our potential acquisition has a similar fire.” He chuckles and points to the championship banner. "And while they have never been much of a teacher, I know they want one thing." The lion turns to Fenruss. "To win a championship."
The massive feline glares into Fenruss' eyes. "I've always admired their passion for the game. As I do yours. Bringing them here would save him from wasting away in Las Vegas." He grinned.
"And you two would fight each other in practice every day. They would probably go after everyone to be honest. You would learn firsthand how to dominate the backboards. How to control the paint and maybe a few of those tricks you so diligently study. How to work out and stay in peak physcal shape long past your prime. You wouldn't need words or lessons. You'd learn by doing and experiencing."
The lion opened the door. "And remember this my young wolf. It's not who starts a game, but who finishes." He smiled warmly once more. "Toby won Sixth Fur of the Year award in 2010 by doing just that. A vital cog and one of the teams five best players, starter or not."
He pats Fenruss on the back.
The wolf smirked. "Mr. Schmidt, Vicki's predecessor, had the same notion. Groom me behind BlackJack, learn his ways of controlling the front court. Said since we were both canines it would make the training easier.”
"I can't say I'm not surprised," Fenruss chuckled, "but I must say that I'm honored you think that highly of me to try and get a veteran player to be my mentor. I'll do my absolute best to not disappoint you, sir."
The lion sees the young forward out and grins. "He was right. Jack has helped you grow. Keep up that attitude and commitment to winning and training and you'll be just fine."
He pauses for a moment. "Oh, and when Buck Hopper tries to do one of his fancy dribble moves and get to the hoop..." The lion growls low and powerfully. "Make sure he feels the hardwood." The lion smiles wide and closes the door behind him.
Fenruss steps away from the office door, thinking about all the possibilities that lay ahead of him as he headed home.
Fenruss Brylee is owned by Stevie Maxwell and used with permission
Co-written with Stevie Maxwell
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