SBD/June 26, 2012/FranchisesPrint All
The Hawks announced yesterday that Spurs VP/Basketball Operations Danny Ferry will “become the club's new general manager and agreed to a six-year deal,” according to Chris Broussard of ESPN.com. Ferry will replace Rick Sund, Atlanta's GM the past four seasons. Sund, whose contract “expires on June 30, could remain with the organization as a consultant.” Ferry said, "I was not looking to leave San Antonio. I was very happy there.” The move to hire Ferry is “the strongest indication yet that the owners of the Hawks are no longer looking to sell their franchise,” as his six-year deal “seems to indicate that the current owners are intent on holding on to the club.” Hawks co-Owner Bruce Levenson said, "We're very much in control of the team and we'll be in control of the team for a long, long time" (ESPN.com, 6/25). ESPN.com’s John Hollinger wrote the Hawks’ ownership “identified a single candidate, went after him and got the deal done.” In the “big picture this was a good call.” With no buyer “in sight, Atlanta's current owners decided to take the plunge themselves.” Hollinger: “I'm not sure I'd describe them as ‘all in’ so much as ‘no longer racing for the exit,’ but I'll note that with [former co-Owner] Steve Belkin out of the picture and no [Thrashers] hockey team to distract them, they've been able to operate a lot more cohesively and have been a regular presence -- in particular, [co-Owners] Michael Gearon Jr. and Ed Peskowitz -- at most home games.” Now the Atlanta Spirit group needs to “get some other people to show up.” Hollinger added, “The most jaw-dropping part of this puzzle: He got a six-year deal” (ESPN.com, 6/25).
THAT'S THE SPIRIT! Ferry yesterday said the Hawks’ ownership “had its challenges to deal with: the lawsuit, the sale.” Ferry: “That’s a tough thing for a team to deal with. They’ve done a good job, they really have. From the outside looking in, they’ve been a successful team. I don’t think they are satisfied, and they shouldn’t be. I’m here to build on that success but I knew I need the tools and the ability to be able to build on that.” When asked if selling the team is now off the table, Ferry said, “Bruce has made me comfortable that he’s in this for the long haul and he hopes I’m standing next to him 12 years from now” (AJC.com, 6/25). In Atlanta, Jeff Schultz wrote the Hawks organization “seems to have the right guy in charge.” Ferry “appeared to be ticketed for Philadelphia but the Hawks obviously put enough on the table in terms of autonomy and compensation to lure him to Atlanta” (AJC.com, 6/24). Also in Atlanta, Mark Bradley wrote the issue “won’t be whether Danny Ferry knows his business -- obviously he does -- but whether his new bosses will allow him to conduct that business as he sees fit” (AJC.com, 6/25). Bradley wrote for a franchise that “has chosen wrong so often has finally done it right.” It has hired a “basketball man of impeccable pedigree and plans to get out of his way” (AJC.com, 6/25). NBA.com’s Sekou Smith wrote Ferry is “the perfect man for the job,” and he has “proved capable of mastering the mini-makeover” (NBA.com, 6/25). Levenson estimated that he had “dozens of talks with Ferry as the two discussed what it would take to pry him loose” from the Spurs. Levenson said that Ferry was “the only candidate interviewed to replace"Sund. In San Antonio, Jeff McDonald noted Ferry's six-year contract signals “a bit of stability for a franchise that as recently as a year ago was on the market” (MYSANANTONIO.com, 6/25).
EARLY BIRD GETS THE WORM: In Philadelphia, John Mitchell notes the hiring of Ferry, "believed to be the 76ers' top choice" to replace President & GM Rod Thorn, could be "paving the way for Thorn to remain in his position not only through Thursday's draft but also for the foreseeable future" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 6/26).
The Astros have developed a $40M "signature sponsor initiative called the Community Leaders Program that blends some of the club's largest sponsors with a significant civic revitalization effort," according to Eric Fisher of SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL. Created by Astros Owner Jim Crane in conjunction with Houston Mayor Annise Parker, the Community Leaders Program "will feature 12 major corporate partners, each displayed on a new sign being constructed on the Minute Maid Park left-field light tower." That sign is "scheduled to be complete by July 20." Of the $40M in "combined sponsor commitments over a five-year period, $18 million will be earmarked to build and repair youth baseball and softball fields in disadvantaged Houston neighborhoods." Seven companies thus far have "signed on to the program, most of which are in the energy industry." The initial group of sponsors is National Oilwell Varco, Nabors Industries, Halliburton, BlueCross and Blue Shield of Texas, Calpine Corp., Champion Energy Services and Schlumberger. The other five companies are "expected to be in place by August, shortly after the sign is unveiled." The initial seven companies have previously held various levels of partnership with the Astros. Each is now "significantly increasing its spending level and community involvement with the team for deals that collectively will average" more than $4M per year. In total, upon full participation, the Astros' goal "is $8 million per year on average for the 12 partners in the Community Leaders Program for a five-year term" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 6/25 issue).
Prospective Grizzlies buyer Robert Pera is rich, "just not super-rich" and that might be the "one snag in the rags-to-basketball glory tale that might jar Memphians some day,” according to Evanoff & Veazey of the Memphis COMMERCIAL APPEAL. Professional sports franchises “are the province of the very wealthy," and Pera is “not one of them -- the very wealthy -- at least not yet.” His wealth “still hinges on the value of Ubiquiti shares of stock,” the company he founded and owns, and the price of that stock “has reeled.” If he buys the Grizzlies, and Ubiquiti's “stock gyrations continue, it's unclear how that would affect his ability to fund the team's operations.” Pera is “a bit of a mystery.” For three days last week in San Jose, the Commercial Appeal “sought out more than a dozen people believed to know Pera,” and “most declined repeated requests for interviews.” A source said that Pera “values his privacy” in his personal life. Evanoff & Veazey noted his “unique and efficient business style continues to draw attention.” Phoenix-based Triad Wireless CEO Rory Conaway, who is a customer of Ubiquiti, said of Pera, "He probably needs to spend five hours a week in there. He comes in, checks the NBA scores, walks around, talks to each of the product developers. A guy wanders in for an interview and Robert leans against the wall talking to him for 15 minutes and he's hired.” He added, “He has management down to a minimalist amount. Robert's real skill set is he finds the people who are the best or second-best in their product line then he hires them and gets out of their way. He has no middle management structure. There's nobody between Robert and the guy who designs the products" (Memphis COMMERCIAL APPEAL, 6/24). In Memphis, Robert Tillery wrote Pera has “been invited to town to meet and greet influential business leaders and participate” in Thursday’s NBA Draft. But he has “declined all offers and there is no reason to believe he’ll impact the Grizzlies’ draft” (Memphis COMMERCIAL APPEAL, 6/24).
The Bobcats’ new database scouting system “has over 50,000 web pages,” and the platform is team GM Rich Cho’s “baby, an Internet-friendly system that took six months and a six-figure cost to develop,” according to Rick Bonnell of the CHARLOTTE OBSERVER. The result, the Bobcats hope, is "quicker access to a buffet of information offers a competitive advantage in player evaluation.” The Bobcats were using “Hawkeye,” one of “several plug-in scouting tools NBA teams can buy and adapt to their needs.” But Cho “thought it wiser to start from scratch, to customize a Bobcats-only system,” and he “enlisted an acquaintance from Microsoft” to build it. In an attempt to “see trends ahead of the pack, Cho remade how Bobcats scouts file their reports.” He came up with “a nine-level system with labels, descriptions and examples, for scouts to use as a guide.” Cho installed a scouting template “for every report,” and that includes “an Internet function that automatically pops pertinent numbers into reports quickly after games end.” Cho said that he “wants scouts writing evaluations, not keyboarding numbers.” Bonnell noted what the Bobcats “got for this investment is a system that drills deeper into player backgrounds, offers consistent evaluations and is dramatically speedier in updating information” (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 6/24). Meanwhile, in Indianapolis, Mike Wells noted the Pacers “use a statistics consultant to do analytical work,” and the consultant “looks deeper at complicated stats that give an indication of what kind of NBA player the prospect could be” (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 6/24).
The O'Malley family is "believed to be the sole group remaining in negotiations" to purchase the Padres from team Chair John Moores, according to sources cited by Scott Miller of CBSSPORTS.com. Reports indicate that Liquid Investments Chair & CEO Ron Fowler "also will play a much more prominent role in the new ownership group than previously known." Fowler, a limited partner in the Padres "under exiled would-be owner Jeff Moorad, has ascended to manage that limited partnership as Moores worked on his exit strategy." Fowler is "expected to be the point man of a new ownership group." Fowler's Liquid Investments "owns Mesa Distributing, one of the country's largest wholesale beer distributorships." He previously served as '03 San Diego Super Bowl Task Force Chair, San Diego Int'l Sports Council President and U.S. Olympic Training Center Foundation Treasurer. He has "given millions to San Diego State University athletics, and currently the University of San Diego is building a new baseball stadium that will open in the spring and be named for Fowler, who donated millions to that project, too." Fowler also was "heavily involved with construction of Petco Park." Because both the O'Malley family and Fowler "have been involved in an ownership capacity with major league baseball, unlike as was the case with Moorad, the sale is expected to be approved without any problems." The next owners' quarterly meetings "are scheduled for August" (CBSSPORTS.com, 6/25).
The Heat yesterday held their NBA Championship parade and an estimated “400,000 people filled the streets of Miami,” and then “15,000 more got into the arena afterward for a long, loud reception for the NBA's new kings,” according to Tim Reynolds of the AP (AP, 6/25). In Miami, Greg Cote notes yesterday’s crowd “was bigger” than when the team won its first Championship in ‘06. That was the Heat’s “first crown, but this one was more personal, somehow.” This one “seemed to involve us more viscerally” (MIAMI HERALD, 6/26). Heat Fs LeBron James and Chris Bosh, along with G Dwyane Wade “agreed to be interviewed” by Oprah Winfrey. She said that the interview will be featured in an upcoming “Oprah’s Next Chapter” (MIAMI HERALD, 6/26). In Miami, Beasley & Smiley note from Heat President Pat Riley “on down, nearly everyone on stage sported the black-framed glasses that have become the NBA’s trendiest accessory” for the team’s celebration at AmericanAirlines Arena. The message “was clear: The future is bright in Miami.” Wade “gave as well as received, handing out ritzy Hublot watches ($10,000 and up)” to Riley, coach Erik Spoelstra and team Owner Micky Arison (MIAMI HERALD, 6/26).
HEY, MICKY YOU'RE SO FINE: In Ft. Lauderdale, Mike Berardino wrote, “This much South Florida sports fans should know by now: The Arison family will do everything in its power to give this market its first true dynasty since Joe Robbie's Dolphins ruled the NFL nearly four decades ago.” Heat F Udonis Haslem said of Arison, "He's been the epitome of what an owner should be for a team." Arison said, "We've been around this long enough to know a team doesn't get built that quickly. It takes chemistry. If you don't have a team that's clicking together and knows each other's moves before even having to think about it, it's not going to happen" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 6/23).
GETTING BURNED? In Miami, Hanks & Beasley noted the time “between now and next year’s playoffs will test the staying power of Heatmania.” A question for fans is “whether they will have to pay even more for seats in an arena that already charges some of the league’s top prices.” The Heat’s bottom line “gets particular attention in cash-strapped Miami-Dade County, which has yet to collect any money in a profit-sharing deal with the team now playing its 12th season in the tax-subsidized arena.” The Heat’s second championship in six years “will spark a windfall for the team.” Marlins President David Samson said, “When you win a title, you have a much longer-lasting, almost permanent buzz. The buzz that Miami had when they signed LeBron is nothing compared to the buzz they have now." Still, Heat execs said that even with the team’s championship run, they “do not expect this season’s revenues to top 2011’s, thanks to the shortened season caused by a labor dispute.” That means the arena, operated by an Arison-owned company, “likely will not pay Miami-Dade any rent for the championship season” (MIAMI HERALD, 6/24).
In New Jersey, John Brennan notes the NFL Giants and Jets “faced a barrage of criticism Monday over their lawsuit seeking to prevent a revival of the American Dream Meadowlands complex.” Triple Five spokesperson Alan Marcus, the developer for the proposed project, said, “It is an assault on the taxpayers of New Jersey who would benefit from the revenue to be generated by this complex.” Bergen County (New Jersey) Exec Kathleen Donovan “pointed to a 40 percent unemployment rate in the area’s building trades.” She added the NFL teams “have put Bergen County’s economic growth at risk” (Bergen RECORD, 6/26).
SCHEDULE TWEAKS: In Baltimore, Matt Vensel noted the Ravens are “examining the sleep patterns of their players this offseason and cross-checking the results with sleep studies conducted by the United States military to see if they can benefit from tweaking their schedules.” Team officials are “hoping to determine that they can gain a competitive advantage by gaining a little extra sleep in the morning.” The Ravens said that they are “considering adjusting their weekly practice schedule” based on the results (Baltimore SUN, 6/22).
GETTING THEIR KICKS: A Chicago franchise will join the Major Indoor Soccer League this season and the team is expected to play at the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates. The new team is led by Owners Armando Gamboa and Dave Mokry, who will act as CEO and COO, respectively. No name has been announced yet (Illinois DAILY HERALD, 6/23).
BLANK SLATE: In Arizona, Adam Green wrote the Suns are “heading into an uncertain offseason and, what most believe, an underwhelming future.” It is “worth wondering how the Suns went from the best team we had to the one that no one believes in going forward.” There is no "title or bust" mentality, “no belief that the team is one piece away from a ring.” But what there is “is a somewhat blank slate, from which” President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby, GM Lance Blanks and Managing Partner Robert Sarver “can build a team they believe can compete for a championship” (ARIZONASPORTS.com, 6/22).