MORE DRAMA ON KIRBY?

Did the Texans know about discriminatory firings, and hope no one would notice?

Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

*Editor's note:

The original headline on this story has changed and the intention of the headline was not to assume or state that the Texans had any knowledge of any discriminatory firings.

Wednesday was a busy day for the Texans. Not only were they served with tampering charges from Patriots over contact with their top choice to be their new GM in Nick Caserio, but they also got served with a discrimination complaint against their former GM, Brian Gaine.

Former Texans staffer Jeff Pope alleged to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission he was fired unjustly on Friday – which happened to be Gaine's last day as well (sources agreed Gaine's firing had absolutely zero to do with the alleged discriminatory practices). The complaint went on to state that Gaine had created a hostile work environment towards African-Americans and that his firing was just one in a long line of terminations of African-American employees replaced by white males.

According to sources, Gaine knew exactly what he was doing with all of these terminations, and so did Texans head coach Bill O'Brien. The two had been discussing the issue as far back as last year.

Both agreed that it "looked bad", according to the sources, and they hoped no one would notice. The two also had hoped that the hiring of CJ Leak as Assistant Director of Pro Scouting would be enough of a deterrent to anyone thinking that the front office was acting in a discriminatory fashion.

Leak was a combine scout for the Saints prior to joining the Texans, and combine scout to assistant director of pro scouting is a major leap up the ranks (imagine hiring another team's Assistant Linebackers Coach as your new Defensive Coordinator). While the sources spoke highly of Leak as a scout, they agreed race was likely a factor in the decision because both Gaine and O'Brien were overly conscious of perception of all the terminated African-American staffers, none of whom were replaced by other minorities.

Perhaps the biggest unjust firing, according to the sources, was that of assistant director of college scouting Mike Martin, who was terminated a few months after Gaine took over as GM. Martin was one of the first hires made by former GM Rick Smith when he took over, and was highly regarded as a scout.

Martin is noted for being the scout who convinced the Texans to sign Arian Foster and AJ Bouye as undrafted free agents. He is also the scout who made the recommendations of Duane Brown, DeAndre Hopkins, and Jadeveon Clowney. Martin was a big advocate for the team choosing Clowney over Blake Bortles.

Martin was also a big proponent of Deshaun Watson, and was the man who scouted Benardrick McKinney and Kareem Jackson.

None of that sounds like the resume of a guy you want to fire, does it?

It seems like the biggest red X he had was that he was hired by Rick Smith. Perhaps that was all he needed.

Sources indicated that O'Brien and Gaine worked collaboratively on these terminations (they were in "alignment") because one of the most important issues to O'Brien was to get rid of anyone that he thought was a "Rick Smith guy" and replace them with "his guys". Whether or not a staffer was good at their job was not important, just who hired them was (and perhaps the color of their skin as well).

The sources also indicated that former assistant GM Jimmy Raye III was terminated because he was the guy Rick Smith hired to replace Gaine when Gaine left the Texans to become the VP of Player Personnel in Buffalo.

Being African-American and hired by Rick Smith were the two biggest reasons people were getting terminated. It's the perfect intersection where discrimination meets pettiness.

It's also where the two most powerful people in the Texans organization whose last names aren't McNair sat down, broke bread, and deliberately turned a blind eye to a practice they knew "looked bad" and was wrong.

They hoped no one would notice. Now they may find themselves under a microscope.



Patrick Creighton is the host of "Late Hits" weeknights 7-9p on ESPN 97.5 Houston. Follow him on Twitter: @PCreighton1

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The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

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