Former Cleveland Cavaliers star Brad Daugherty and former Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis have joined Octagon to co-lead the sports and entertainment agency’s new career-development-and-transition division, alongside seasoned agents Mike Liut and Eddie Pope—both former professional athletes themselves.
While Octagon has helped its athlete clients find post-playing career opportunities in the past, often through long-term endorsement deals or partnerships, the new advisory division formalizes its transition support system and expands the practice. Career development support will extend to all of Octagon’s clients, including coaches, on-air talent and executives trying to enter, advance or change roles in the industry, and to athletes looking to pursue career paths outside of sports.
Octagon client Michael Phelps is an example of what the agency has done: The Olympic champion swimmer was in the broadcast booth with NBC in Tokyo, is an ambassador for online therapy company TalkSpace and still boasts a robust endorsement portfolio.
“Preparing talent for career paths they’re best suited for and most interested in, and where there’s the most opportunity, really requires an exceptionally high degree of credibility on the people providing that preparation,” Octagon founder and president Phil de Picciotto said in an interview. “It starts with the education and the preparation, and then it ends with really making an effective difference and converting networks and opportunities into success. There are no people better than Marvin than Brad [for that]. They’ve done it themselves.”
Daugherty and Lewis were also clients of Octagon before joining the agency as employees.
All four of the division’s leaders bring personal career-transition-and-development stories to the table: Lewis served as head coach of the Bengals for 16 seasons until 2018. After his departure, the 2009 NFL Coach of the Year joined the Arizona State football staff and was hired by Turner Sports as an analyst for the network’s coverage of the short-lived Alliance of American Football (AAF), which flamed out in 2019.
After eight seasons in the NBA with Cleveland, Daugherty became a NASCAR team owner with JTG Daugherty Racing, and he served as an on-air analyst for the sport for ESPN and NBC. The North Carolina native and five-time NBA All-Star also hosts a number of sports radio programs.
Liut was a professional hockey player for the World Hockey Association and the NHL, winning the league’s MVP award as voted on by its players in 1981. Liut’s playing career was followed by stints in coaching, broadcasting and work with the NHL Players’ Association before joining Octagon in 1998 to manage its ice hockey division. Pope, a Major League Soccer and U.S. men’s national team veteran, worked for the MLS Players Union upon his retirement. He left the union in 2015 to join Octagon, where he co-manages the company’s soccer division.
The quartet will help guide Octagon clients through the different phases of their careers. For athletes, that will often take the form of a second act off the playing field or court. De Picciotto said the division will look to handle the placement of its clients into new roles. Lewis added the group’s marker of success will be seeing clients not only obtain new positions, but succeed in them.
“These men have already been very successful in their next transition, and now we’re looking to help the next group of people with their transition and their future,” Lewis said. “For me, the NFL hiring cycle over the last couple of years has not been what people expected. So people like myself [have] really tried to go overboard on trying to help prepare others for the opportunities that were afforded to me.”
Octagon isn’t limiting its efforts to sports, though team and league opportunities are a priority. It hopes the division will secure leadership positions for clients with broadcast networks and Fortune 500 companies, and says it will operate with an eye on diversifying sports, business and entertainment workforces at senior levels.
Octagon currently represents more than 900 athletes, talent and properties globally.
(This story has been updated to clarify the relationship of Lewis and Daugherty with Octagon in the fifth paragraph, as well as details about Liut’s playing career in the eight paragraph.)