OTC: Star’s Kent Babb Blows Cover Off Pioli’s Arrowhead / TBP & Fescoe Shrug At Story

Todd Haley Todd Haley of the Kansas City Chiefs looks on in pregame prior to the game against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on December 4, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois.“Todd Haley walked into the public relations office at Chiefs headquarters on a Thursday in early December. Four days before he was fired as the team’s coach, he wanted to talk about what life was like inside this organization. But he didn’t know who else might be listening. Looking up toward the ceiling, he darted into a back hallway before hesitating. Then he turned around, going back through a door and stopping again. Haley suspected that many rooms at the team facility were bugged so that team administrators could monitor employees’ conversations. Stopping finally in a conference room, Haley said he believed his personal cellphone, a line he used before being hired by the Chiefs in 2009, had been tampered with.”
Kent Babb, Chiefs beat writer, Kansas City Star
GH: This was the lede for Babb’s front-page story in Sunday’s Kansas City Star. When you write a story, an article or a column, one goal should be to capture the reader’s interest immediately with your lede. Babb accomplished his goal and more with these
riveting sentences. Read on.

“That also makes you think, what’s the hell’s wrong with Todd Haley? That’s the first
thing I think of.”
Steven St. John, 810 AM
GH: Babb’s story created a flood of comments on Twitter from members of the media across the country. Almost every one of them that I read was complimentary to Babb’s work on this article. Some effusively so. St. John and Nate Bukaty though were far from impressed by Babb’s article.

“Interviews with more than two dozen current and former employees suggest that intimidation and secrecy are among the Chiefs’ principal management styles — and that Haley wasn’t the only one with paranoid thoughts.”
Kent Babb, Kansas City Star

“A common notion is that employees are constantly being watched. When they arrive and
leave, where they’re going within the building and who they’re talking to. Indeed, the technology exists at the Chiefs’ offices, as it does in many corporate settings, to monitor phone calls and emails. But here, some staffers even hesitated before using their cell phones or speaking inside the building, because, like Haley, they suspected that conversations were monitored.”
Kent Babb, Kansas City Star

“I’ll be honest with you though, this is a time when I have to remind myself that I hear
a lot of things that a lot of people who don’t have access to out information. Did
any of this really surprise you?”
Steven St. John, 810 AM
GH: I was stunned at SSJ’s cavalier attitude to the allegations laid out by Babb’s sources. But maybe I shouldn’t have been. Scott Pioli had graced The Border Patrol with his presence the week before with an interview. Pioli did the same for Bob Fescoe at 610 Sports. Read on.

“You know what. You’ve got to adapt to your bosses. If Todd Haley was my head coach, I’d
probably have his stuff bugged too.”
Bob Fescoe, on the Chiefs employees who complained about the actions of the Pioli regime, 610 AM
GH: I found it very interesting that both The Border Patrol and Fescoe staunchly defended the side of Pioli and the Chiefs while discussing Babb’s article. Maybe it was simply coincidental that Pioli was a guest on their shows only a few days before. Maybe not.

“We’ve had a couple of tweets and a couple of phone calls asking if we’re going to talk
about the article that was in The Kansas City Star by Kent Babb.”
Steven St. John, at 8:30 AM Monday, two-and-a-half hours into their show, 810 AM
GH: SSJ and Bukaty did not even address Babb’s story until the 8:30 AM hour. This shows either an incredible lack of understanding of what is the hot local subject of the day or their willingness to allow their biasness to weaken their show content.

“There’s always two sides to every story.”
Steven St. John, 810 AM
GH: SSJ made this comment in a way that made me think Babb’s story ignored any alternative opinions to Haley’s and some fired Chiefs employees’ thought s that Pioli is bugging phones and offices and an overall pain in the ass for which to work. But Babb did an excellent job in his story of providing balance. Read on.

“Everybody has a style and it’s your job to figure out that style. I didn’t have any problems.”
Mike Davidson, who left the team last year after 22 years as equipment manager, Kansas City Star

“I remember the same feelings and people saying the same things. I was a young kid working in the equipment department, and everybody was talking about how everybody was worried about getting fired. … Any time there’s change, that’s just the feeling
that people have.”
Allen Wright, Chiefs equipment manager since 1988, Kansas City Star

“In some instances you could say that [Pioli] is a micromanager to a degree. I think he
likes to know what information is and what you’re doing. … Scott wants to know,
like as a math teacher, ‘How did you get to your problem; how did you get to
the answer of the problem?’ ”
Ray Farmer, Chiefs’ pro personnel director, Kansas City Star

“Donovan denied that conversations are monitored or that the building is bugged. He said
that in cases of suspected policy breaches or criminal activity, phone logs
have been requested. ‘I’m not going to say that we’ve never done it, but it’s
not something we do,’ Donovan said. ‘It’s not how we operate this business.’ ”
Kent Babb, Kansas City Star
GH: Donovan’s above comment needs more explanation. In the very same sentence, he discounts his comment that the Chiefs have not bugged the building and are monitoring their employees. Either you do or you don’t.

“Pioli pored over former president Denny Thum’s call log, a former high-ranking employee
said, before Thum was asked to resign in September 2010 after 36 years with the
team. Thum declined comment when reached by telephone.”
Kent Babb, Kansas City Star
GH: The firing of long-time Carl Peterson ally Denny Thum alone would likely make a great book. One we will probably never get the chance to read.

“The vast majority of the stuff in this article was, ‘Yeah, we’ve heard that before. I
read it and thought, yeah, we’ve heard that, we’ve heard that. We’ve all heard that before. To me, I look at it and I say, football coaches are just paranoid. Now the house is getting cleaned and everybody is saying the guy who fired me is a jerk.”
Nate Bukaty, 810 AM
GH: Bukaty was just as adamant as SSJ that Babb’s story was not news. Are these guys this blind to what makes for good talk radio? If Kevin Kietzman waits until 4:30 PM to address Babb’s article, I will know that the Mayans were right.

“During his first year, Pioli noticed a candy wrapper in a back stairwell and waited to see
how long it took to be picked up. About a week passed, and it remained in the stairwell. He placed the wrapper in an envelope, and during a meeting of department heads, Donovan, then the team’s chief operating officer, brandished the wrapper as evidence of the attention to detail that Chiefs employees had grown to ignore.”
Kent Babb, Kansas City Star
GH: This nugget from Babb’s article has legs. If the Chiefs fall on hard times next season, expect to see Arrowhead being dotted with signs that reference Pioli’s fascination with discarded candy wrappers. Bob Fescoe is already referring to the article as Candy Wrapper-gate.

“Since Scott Pioli was hired as general manager in January 2009, life for many inside the
Chiefs’ front office has been marked by massive staff turnover, fear and insecurity about how closely they are watched. Numerous current and former staffers paint a picture of constant worry — and, in a few cases, of alleged age discrimination.”
Kent Babb, Kansas City Star

“Pioli, who was not made available by the team for this story, has said in the past that
the changes were about ending a period of entitlement and emphasizing
Kent Babb, Kansas City Star
GH: This was a big miss by Babb. How could Babb NOT get a quote from Pioli for this story? It sounds like an excuse to say Pioli was “not made available by the team for this story.” Were the Chiefs supposed to serve Pioli up on a platter for Babb? No excuses for not having him quoted in this article – he lives in KC and was on at least two
local radio stations last week and TV 41. Camp out in their parking lots if you have to – but get a quote from Pioli for this story.

“It’s not true at all.”
Clark Hunt, on Chiefs employees who felt they were being watched and their communications monitored, Kansas City Star
GH: Hunt allowed himself to be quoted for The Star’s story. So why didn’t Pioli speak? Was he too busy scouring the hallways for candy wrappers?

“I think [Todd Haley] was THE source for this article. Kent Babb had a very good
relationship with Todd Haley for a long time.  I think most of us have known that for quite a while. So yeah, I think he was the source.”
Nate Bukaty, 810 AM
GH: A couple of things to remember. While Babb may have a good relationship with Haley, 810 has a business relationship with the Chiefs. SSJ and Bukaty have a good relationship with Pioli – it is evident to me when they talk to the Chiefs’ GM that they are smitten that he knows them by name. Another thing to remember is that Kent Babb and The Kansas City Star writers have a business relationship with 610 Sports – 810’s
competitor. You will not hear Babb or Sam Mellinger or Adam Teicher on 810 – only
610. Just a few things to keep in mind.

“We needed a culture that pursued excellence. One that valued honesty and integrity, one
where the employees would be held accountable. … I believe that good leaders do
bring an attention to detail to their leadership roles.”
Clark Hunt, responding to the above allegations, Kansas City Star
GH: All well and good. But Pioli had to fire his chosen leader before the end of his third season. That shows a tremendous lack of insight by Pioli. He picked a guy so wrong for his first run as a GM that he now appears to be sabotaging the Chiefs’ franchise in print, even after being canned. Pioli’s reign in KC is now riddled with bullet holes. He is now far
from the Messiah from the east we once thought him to be.

“It’s not Lamar Hunt’s organization anymore.”
Steve Schneider, the former stadium operations director who spent 14 years with the Chiefs before being fired in 2010, he said, for being disorganized, Kansas City Star
GH: Well, good. Lamar allowed Carl Peterson to drive his once-proud organization into the ditch and leave it there to flounder. The Chiefs should be about winning football games, not catering to their secretaries’ parking needs.

“You may think it’s harmless. Other people may think it’s very harmful to our
competitive advantage. It’s about winning.”
Mark Donovan, Chiefs president, when asked about some of the measures, such as lowering window shades, Kansas City Star
GH: Sounds good. Let’s have more winning and less Tyler Palko moves.

“I don’t think all of [Pioli’s changes] are negative. I think it has come a long way
since they got here. Their emphasis is on winning football. I totally understand the business side of it. They came here to change the culture.”
Danan Hughes, when asked by Parkins about Babb’s article, 610 AM
GH: While they are changing the culture, they may want to win the weakest division in football.

“I think this is the best place to work. We feel like family [at WHB 810]. You talk to
some people who are gone from here, they would tell a much different story. That’s the nature of the world when you break up with somebody. Well, consider the source.”
Steven St. John, 810 AM
GH: So how does that change the truth in Babb’s story? Would SSJ’s story about WHB
change if he gets fired this week? Are his words of praise for the work environment at 810 more credible because he is still employed there? Would he immediately become an unreliable source if he was not? I believe his story will become far more interesting once he leaves – not unlike those former Chiefs’ employees

[email protected]  and Twitter / greghall24 

About Greg Hall

Software guy who has been writing my Off The Couch column in KC newspapers, publications and websites since 1994. Has been bounced from some of the finest media establishments this side of State Line Road. Dad first and everything else second...and there are a lot of everything elses.
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44 Responses to OTC: Star’s Kent Babb Blows Cover Off Pioli’s Arrowhead / TBP & Fescoe Shrug At Story

  1. nick says:

    My reaction to Babb’s article….yawn.

  2. Doug says:

    Why is Blair Kirkhoff on Petro’s show? I understand the 810/610/Star deal – does it not follow down to the college writers for the Star?

    • Greg Hall says:

      I think The Star writers are free agents when it comes to striking deals with radio stations. 610 has contracted with Babb, Mellinger and Teicher for exclusive deals. Petro obviously likes Blair and has a deal with him. For a time there was an all-out war between KK and The Star. I think that has dimished somewhat but it is still very rare to hear anyone from The Star on Between The Lines. Maybe someone from The Star can (annonymously) give us more insight.

  3. smartman says:

    I have met two ex-Chiefs employees, through friends who were talking about the KGB tactics that Scott AND Clark put in place right after Scott arrived. FEAR is rampant at 1AD. I guess when your accomplishments in life come from riding other peoples coattails you can be a little insecure.

    Similarly, FEAR is the big motivator at WHB. Talk to ANYONE that has worked there in ANY capacity and they can cite chapters and verses of the dysfunction that Chad and Kevin have introduced into that environment.

  4. Orphan of the Road says:

    One of the greatest owners vs the media battle was Ed Snider vs Mike Missanelli. Mike’s station broadcast the Flyers and Mike was highly critical of Ed and often reported on a Eric Lindros’ friendship with mob figures.

    Snider went to the station to have management fire Mike. Mike reminded Mr. Snider he had a contract with the station and by trying to get him fired he was interfering in a contractual obligation. Snider backed off when he couldn’t find another outlet which would pay what WIP payed for broadcast rights.

    The Chiefs are only the latest to adopt the NE Way. Jeff Lurie operates the Eagles in the same way. Don’t say anything and always remind the people who is in charge.

    The NFL went from being a SPORTS business to being a sports BUSINESS. Every piece has to be cut from the same die.

    If things continue with Scott & Clark then those who operate under the rules which the Chiefs set will get the interviews.

    It’s just INFOTAINMENT.

    • Orphan of the Road says:

      Do you think it is any different at any big business?

      Twenty-years at the world HQ and R&D facility working for a Fortune 500 chemical company was much the same.

  5. Merle Tagladucci says:

    Fescoe, St. John and Bukaty’s reactions are not only indicative of the pitty pat nature of sports media in Kansas City but also the lack of a headline-worthy revelation in Babb’s article. It may have be enlightening to a lot of fans to read that stuff but to local media who frequent 1AD it’s yesterday’s news. The story is also ill-timed as focus has already shifted away from the Chiefs until April. Babb’s article would have made more news were it printed in the midst of a four-game losing streak.

    It doesn’t take a Ph.D to discern that Pioli has a prick side to him. Making his own employees draw the shades so they can’t glance out their windows at the team practicing is the most ridiculous detail I took from the article. Does he really think that provides a competitive advantage? If so, the guy’s a flat out joke. Unless there’s some other manipulative agenda being stroked, such as not wanting office staff to see how he behaves on the practice field or trying to prevent staff from knowing where he is. There’s no other reasonable explanation that one of those three. Any of the three paints a picture of a paranoid, egomaniacal, power-tripping control freak. Sounds like a glorious office atmosphere to come to work in every morning.

  6. Bill says:

    The Kansas City Chiefs… where ignoring a candy wrapper in a stairwell is frowned upon heavily, but ignoring your team’s needs in free agency is heavily advised.

    Also, Babb used to be on Monday mornings with The Border Patrol, and if I recall he and Nate had a icy relationship then.

    If this article comes off as no big deal to people, then I don’t know what to say. You might as well accept mediocrity at 1AHD and get used to 7-9 and 8-8 with the occasional 10-6 sprinkled in.

    • Jared says:

      Geez, it all smacks of Captain Queeg’s insane hunt for missing strawberries. Talk about fiddling while Rome is burning. It’s pretty obvious that you have a person at the helm looking to satisfy his swelling ego and draw any internal or external scrutiny away from obvious strategic shortcomings.

      Why not do the things other successful teams have done (e.g., draft well, sign the right free agents, install and support a superior coaching staff…)? Much better to focus on minutiae and think you’ve solved the riddle of the Sphinx by doing something everyone else doesn’t (thereby proving your superior intellect), like tracking down wayward candy wrappers. Talk about ego.

    • Hot Carl says:

      Bill you hit the nail on the head with “The Kansas City Chiefs… where ignoring a candy wrapper in a stairwell is frowned upon heavily, but ignoring your team’s needs in free agency is heavily advised. ”

      Pioli is worried about a candy wrapper and we’re trotting Matt Cassel and Tyler Palko onto the field? WTF?

  7. Bob says:

    Why didn’t PIOLI just pick up the wrapper when he saw it?…

  8. ra hoffman says:

    Terrible, terrible radio. Great story by Kent Babb! I was a season ticket holder for more than 25 years but gave up my tickets for the Direct TV package when Pioli/Haley were hired. No doubt, I had some great times at Arrowhead, especially during the 90s. However, that fun ended long ago. In the 90s, those who I sat a around were like family. We met at Arrowhead, became friends, watched our children grow and through the years developed life-long friendships – young and old alike. We tailgated together during the season and made sure we kept in touch with each other during the off season. We rejoiced in the births of new children and grandchildren and suffered the pain and sorrow when someone passed. Then some of us got old (not me) and began scalping their tickets. It took less than a year for the happiness began to fade. We were no longer a family. We were isolated in our seats by “once a year” fans who came to the game to get, drunk, curse our team and then leave after they quit serving beer at the end of the third quarter. Maybe that’s just the way life is. But I have a different take: I’m still in my 50s, energetic and able to withstand the rigors of crowds, parking lot hassles and high concession prices. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t worth it anymore because I didn’t trust Clark Hunt and his staff to put a winning team on the field. Slowly, but surely, our “Arrowhead family” died and with it my desire to go to 1 Arrowhead Drive. I’m still a Chiefs’ fan, but from a distance. I don’t invest my heart, soul and money in the team anymore. That’s what is sad! And, after reading Kent Babb’s article Sunday in was once known as the Kansas City Star, I realized I made the right choice. I’m embarrassed that Pioli is the face of a once great organization. So it goes!!!

    • once-a-year fan says:

      Sorry to hear that your chummy little second ‘family’ has been busted up by those who lack the resources for yearly season tickets, but this is professional football, not some frathouse reunion party and if the occasional barbarian at the gate gets a chance to see a game, more power to him.

      Also, FWIW, Kevin got to to the story on the 1st half hour and didn’t sound totally dismissive.

  9. PV_Pathfinder says:

    Being a “broadcast partner of the Chiefs” 810’s indifference doesn’t surprise me. But I figured 610 would be all over the story like a frat boy with a drunk date.

    My legal expertise only goes as far as about 20 seasons of Law and Order, but isn’t Babb’s source making some serious accusations when it comes to monitored phone calls and emails? Or is this a case of Haley being crazy enough to sabotage a golden ticket in the Good Ol Boys Club by tanking his last season, so why not add fuel to the fire? Whether it’s true, total BS or somewhere in between, nothing would surprise me at this point.

    • Ward says:

      Granted, I have the same legal expertise as you, but I think Haley’s accusation that his personal cell phone may have been tapped deserves some following up on. Businesses monitor phone calls and emails at work all the time, but to tap a personal cell phone, if true, is highly disturbing and illegal….

  10. PV_Pathfinder says:

    Maybe the reason Pioli wasn’t made available to respond, is that any reason or rationale provided for the “new way” of doing things, can be easily refuted by the results on the field?

  11. Joe says:

    Pioli sounds like Steve Jobs…hey, wait a second! JH

  12. Guy Who Says What Others Think says:

    Who cares? Yet another worthless story, in a worthless newspaper about a worthless football team. YAWN. Next.

  13. Merle Tagladucci says:

    BREAKING NEWS: Kansas City Chiefs to hand out blindfolds to fans at each gate entrance for all home games in 2012.

    “You may think it’s harmless to allow fans to watch the team play,” Chiefs president Mark Donovan said when asked about making fans wear blindfolds during games. “Other people may think it’s very harmful to our competitive advantage.”

  14. Edward says:

    I guess we’ll find out how big an issue this is perceived within the NFL if Haley gets hired by the Jets.

  15. JP says:

    The article was very interesting. I do not doubt that there was a mentality by Pioli that some of the dead wood from the Peterson era had to go. They wanted a new fresh start and they got it. The Candy wrapper portion is fascinating, in that Pioli treated the wrapper the same he treats a good FA football player, leaves it behind for others (either employees or teams) to pick up.

    I have no doubt that Todd Haley is the main source for this story. He has a bone to pick with the team, and can’t keep quiet. Haley’s firing was in hindsight one of the best moves of the Pioli era. He is an erratic behaving coach, who let emotion trump logic when it came to his football team. While I admired his outside the box mentality, I felt he took it too far, particularily when it came to training camp and playing the starters in Green Bay. His recklessness IMO cost the Chiefs a chance to repeat as division champs. For Haley to use Kent Babb as his dumping ground for stories about “bugging” is a little crybaby. Haley needs to move on, and so do the Chiefs.

    As far as the impact of this story, if the Chiefs can sign some free agents, have a good draft and start winning again, this story will be long forgotten.

  16. Will says:

    Why didn’t a janitor pick up the candy wrapper? Shouldn’t the cleaning staff be fired first and foremost? You pay a VP to be a VP, a Scout to Scout and you pay a janitor to pick up trash. So much for being first in his class at SMU Clark Hunt has as much business running this football team as he does a trash business.

    I quit caring about the Chiefs a year or two before Marty started diddling the wait staff at Tanners.

  17. tigerdan4 says:

    If the Chiefs were winning 12 games a year and winning playoff games and appearing in Super Bowls, this wouldn’t even be a story. But when you go 7-9 in year 3 of a regime and your GM is worried about candy wrappers, you have a problem. Personally, I don’t give a damn about the work environment at Arrowhead. I just want good players on my football team and I want to win games. Plain and simple. If we won a Super Bowl, Pioli could be the meanest SOB ever and I’d be happy with him.

  18. Brian says:

    This blog is the perfect illustration of the point that Kietz is making. Greg Hall was fired by 810 a number of years ago. Because of that, any credibility that Hall has when commenting on issues at 810 goes right out the window. Fired employees typically have an ax to grind. Babb could have written this exact same article by taking horror stories from ex-employees of any major corporation in the world.

    • Merle Tagladucci says:

      That’s like saying if your girlfriend breaks up with you, any stories or opinion you have of her are irrelevant because you have an axe to grind.

  19. Hoppy says:

    The angle from the local sports radio folks is simple….810 is in bed with Chiefs, Nick’s has Babb on all the time and has a contract. The truth between a 810’s non-story angle and the biggest story in the history of humanity or whatever moniker that Nick white guilt Wright is giving this story right now is probably somewhere in the middle. The disingenuous nature of sports reporting in this town depending on contracts, relationships, etc while certainly not shocking, is downright shameful.

  20. Java Man says:

    Part of 810’s response may just be jealousy. Remember years ago when they actually did the leg work and dug up great stories? Now they just worry about who tweeted the latest firing 15 minutes before the other guy.

    • kcredsox says:

      Agree 100%, I remember not wanting to get out of my car when I got home because 810 was breaking a story and they were in the middle of explaining what was going on and I didn’t want to miss any information. I haven’t done that in years.

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