The Transition: Iason Tranos, London Lions Men's Team Assistant General Manager

Beginning with a change of possession, transition basketball is the act of a team, or a single player, changing from one side of the court to the other. Be it from offence to defence, or vice versa, a transition play can either be incredibly fast or really slow. 

Iason Tranos’ transition from his life as a CAA Sports agent to his recently appointed role as London Lions’ Assistant General Manager somewhat swift but steady and a few years in the making. The news of said transition may raise some eyebrows because of its current novelty in the U.K. 

The proud Athens native sat with London Lions Media for a very relaxed Q&A session, discussing his experience as an agent and this new journey as an Assistant General Manager.

How did you get into basketball?

I was always in love with basketball. I grew up in a basketball environment. Six-time European champions Panathinaikos [B.C.] are my favourite team of all time. 

I travelled to multiple [Euroleague] Final Fours because of my father. He introduced me to the sport, and I'll always thank him for that. You know, having all that rich Panathinaikos history and traditions at my doorstep – a front-row seat to it all! All that mythology, it’s like no other.

My father was an under-18 Greek national team player. Basketball is in my blood, but my father introduced me to this world. He took me to the Final Fours and to watch the [Greek] national team. I become a student of the game. 

It sounds like your father played a huge part in your life.

Yes, of course! Both of my parents and my family as a whole. They’ve all been big influences. My parents are my role models. The loving relationships that I have with my brother and my sister all played a part.

Discuss your past experience in your education and work that led you to this point.

I went to the University of Brighton. My degree was in Sports Business Management. I had three beautiful years there. In the meantime,

While studying at the University of Brighton, I accumulated a breadth of experience, from interning at Olympiacos F.C. in their finance department to interning twice at Deloitte. I worked at Sportradar in their compliance team, analysing sports gambling fraud patterns, particularly in the NBA. 

I applied for and was hired as an assistant at CAA [Sports]. I’m proud to say that I was well-trained at the world's biggest agency by some of the most influential culture setters in entertainment, sport, music, and theatre. I was trained to also think outside the box.

There must have been a lot of late nights and early mornings.

Yeah. But you know what? There was more of just honesty with myself and about the work I was doing and having integrity, man. This is a tough business. When you have integrity, it goes a long way. I always said, “I'm going to do things differently.” And I remember not being taken seriously.  

Regardless of the late nights, the early mornings, and the fact that you know, it’s like what Confucius [Chinese philosopher] said: "Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” I love what I do so much; it doesn’t feel like work, you know?

How did to transition from your assistant role in Sports Partnerships and Endorsements to your European Basketball Lead role at CAA?

I was hired by an agent who worked in Sports Partnerships and Endorsements [at CAA]. He was doing well selling sponsorships for clients: Formula One, Red Bull Racing and Manchester City, to name a few. I worked for him for six or seven months, booking his flights and hotels… then COVID hit! 

How difficult was that period for you?

I was having a really hard time. Everything closed. The office closed. I went back to Greece, and I was freaking out. [I thought that] my dream job was gone after just seven months.

A lot changed during that period. My boss resigned, which hurt because we had a great working relationship. It's essential for assistants at agencies to be under an agent. The agent and assistant working relationship is core to the binary structure and the mentorship that’s a part of it. 

How has the transition from agent to Assistant GM been?

I’ve been so warmly welcomed by the entire organisation. Players, coaches and ownership. It’s a testament to the environment that has been created and nurtured from the top down. This is such a different role to the one I was holding prior, and there is a steep learning curve adjusting – understanding the needs of the organisation and how I can best create and add value to the brilliant job that has already been done since ownership and Brett Burman took over. Everyone is working towards a common goal: the pursuit of excellence, much like the goals and objectives I had at CAA as an agent. So, in that regard… the transition has been pretty seamless. 

Name two or three things that you have learnt and will incorporate in your new role here at the London Lions. 

Jack of all trades & Versatility – At CAA you start from the ground floor. Initially hired as an assistant to high profile agents, tending to their needs and making sure that they had the bandwidth required to be the best they can be – all the way up to being an agent and in the trenches with clients during the transfer window, NBA Draft etc. This versatility is something that I bring and plan to incorporate in my role day-to-day.

Work ethic & Work in service of a greater goal – In the service industry, which client representation falls under, putting one’s interests above yours becomes second nature. Whether it is getting a client the best deal or doing whatever it takes to put them in the best position possible to succeed – CAA taught me the values of working hard and always looking at the big picture.

Similarly, with the Lions, our goal is so important and bigger than all of us, and the sacrifice required is so great. 

Many former basketball agents have now transitioned towards working for basketball clubs. Of what you know, have you incorporated anything from the examples that have been set into your role as an Assistant General Manager?

Yeah. But more on the technical side. Such as how to approach a negotiation or a contract extension. You know, being thorough regarding the legal side of things. You know, of course, there are things that you can take from being an agent to being an Assistant GM, but it is a very entirely different, different job.

Quite simply, my job right now, even though it has many differences from my previous one, as an agent has one very distinct similarity: I am here to make sure that Brett and Ryan have the bandwidth to focus on the essential part of their jobs. I want them to be able to do their job without any distractions. 

This is the same thing I did as an agent. And that was part of my pitch to all of my former clients. At 27 years old, I had Euroleague players and players in other European leagues. I would tell them: “I'm here for you. So even if you spend even 1% of your day thinking about non-basketball-related stuff and how to get better on the court… that’s not good.”

I am here to take care of everything. So, you only have to worry about being good at basketball.

Where do you believe your impact will be felt most as an Assistant General Manager?

I am adding value to people with more important jobs than mine. Specifically, it could be scouting or analytics implementation to make intelligent data-driven decisions. Or whether it means utilising my extensive network of contacts in some way. 

Why is this role so important to you?

Even though I had a great job at CAA and some people don’t understand why I would leave, I owed it to myself to take this opportunity and be a part of something special, to work towards the betterment of European basketball.

This is truly a global project. That has such an immense cultural significance. I love puzzles, and I'm obsessed with problem-solving and solutions. There are many areas of basketball in Britain that I want to help solve problems and provide solutions for. At times, what we have ahead of us will be difficult. Yeah. But it's not going to be impossible.

London Lions have embarked on this project, which is essentially about connecting and empowering communities that identify with the sport but don’t necessarily identify with “traditional” sports.

I'll borrow a quote from [WME-IMG co-President] Mark Shapiro: “We’re in the emotion transportation business. Our job is to move people.” And whether it is people or eyeballs, it's this a competition, and we need to figure out a way to make [the London Lions] the most attractive project in global bicycle.

How excited are you about the future of the London Lions?

What the London Lions are building is the most exciting project in global basketball. I appreciate the London Lions and Brett [Burman] for giving me an opportunity at this young age. To undertake much responsibility at the club and to be a part of something so special that is only going upwards. I'm just blessed. I just feel so blessed just to be here!

Where do you believe your impact will be felt most as an Assistant General Manager?

I am adding value to people with more important jobs than mine. Specifically, it could be scouting or analytics implementation to make intelligent data-driven decisions. Or whether it means utilising my extensive network of contacts in some way. 

Any last words?

I’m proud to be associated with Jordan Taylor, Sam Dekker, [Tomislav] Zubčić, [Kosta] Koufos and the entire team! I’m pleased to say I represent the same badge. Wins and losses are going to come, but our ceiling is unlimited.

The most important thing is to follow Brett and Ryan’s lead to build a culture of good guys who appreciate the magnitude of their responsibility. Who appreciate the weight of the entire community's responsibility and the scope of global basketball. People whom we are proud of, whom we will be proud to call ambassadors. 


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