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SBD/November 13, 2012/FranchisesPrint All
There were “a handful of reasons” the Lakers hired coach Mike D’Antoni, including the fact Lakers Owner Jerry Buss had become “incredibly animated in discussing the immediate future of the team," according to a source cited by Mike Bresnahan of the L.A. TIMES. Buss knows C Dwight Howard's contract expires in July, and Buss was "cognizant he needed to do something to keep Howard interested in the Lakers.” Buss “considered D'Antoni's high-scoring offense to be the wave of the future and perhaps a slight reminder of the Lakers' high-scoring past, when the franchise earned the nickname ‘Showtime.’” But the team “agonized over the decision because it knew Lakers fans would clamor" for former Lakers coach Phil Jackson and "didn't want to take a public-relations hit.” Jackson “laughed at media reports that said he had wanted to skip road games and demanded to have final say in personnel decisions” as conditions for taking the Lakers job. Jackson said, "There's nothing about that. [Exec VP/Player Personnel Jim Buss] and I had an agreement when I came back for the second tenure that there would be complete transparency in personnel decisions. I did bring up there were a couple things that went by me that time and I would be part and parcel of such a thing this time” (L.A. TIMES, 11/13).
IN HIGH DEMAND: Jackson’s agent, Todd Musburger, said that he “felt Jackson's reported demands -- including a salary in line with his previous Lakers contracts, more say over personnel decisions and the ability to skip some road games -- had been leaked to the media by the Lakers or D'Antoni's representative.” Musburger said, "There were no demands, outrageous or otherwise. To say that he wanted control or that he wanted a zillion dollars or that he wanted equity, those were not topics discussed in the meeting between [GM Mitch] Kupchak, Buss and Phil” (ESPN.com, 11/12). NBA.com’s David Aldridge wrote the “sudden change in direction” from Jackson to D’Antoni does “reinforce an immutable fact of life in the Time of Buss: no one's bigger than the franchise.” As much as Jerry Buss “wants to win, he will only bend so much.” Aldridge: “We will never know, I suspect, exactly what Jackson was asking for, since it's in neither party's interest to disclose exactly what was on the table, the better for both sides to be able to claim they were the one who walked away. But whether it was money, title, authority, ownership or some combination of all of those, things fell apart quickly Sunday night, leaving Jim Buss, the executive vice president who'd hired Brown, still in charge of basketball operations” (NBA.com, 11/12).
CROSS PURPOSES: In California, Kevin Ding writes there were “indications that Jim Buss was on guard going into this coaching interview, leery of Jackson snubbing him if Buss reached out.” So “maybe the Lakers went into this process planning a token gesture toward Jackson that they could present to the fans.” The “sordid maybe is that Jim Buss wanted to pull the rug out from under Jackson for all his previous airing of superiority -- no matter how that would hurt Lakers fans and especially devastate Jim's sister Jeanie, Jackson's longtime girlfriend.” Ding: “Even if all the stories don't fit together straight, there is a rational explanation for everyone to make peace with the Lakers not getting Jackson back. They just didn't want him back” (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 11/13). YAHOO SPORTS’ Adrian Wojnarowski wrote Jackson “wanted to humiliate Lakers vice president Jim Buss far more than he wanted to coach the team.” Jackson “had his chance, and the strangest thing happened: The greatest coach in history overreached, misread the circumstances and had someone tell him ‘no’ on Sunday night.” The Lakers are now “going out of their way to spare Jackson the embarrassment of his overreaching” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 11/12).
The Dodgers’ int'l strategy has been "a less-publicized aspect of their transformation" since Guggenheim Partners formally took control of the club, according to Jon Paul Morosi of FOXSPORTS.com. But "look carefully ... and there's a global subtext to some of the team’s most important moves in recent months." Cuban OF Yasiel Puig "signed a seven-year, $42 million contract in June" and two months later the Dodgers traded for 1B Adrian Gonzalez. He arrived in the "midst of an effort to strengthen the franchise’s brand in Mexico and among Mexican-Americans, three decades after the Fernando Valenzuela phenomenon." The Dodgers earlier this month "hired the universally respected" Bob Engle as VP/Int'l Scouting. And with him in place, "the Dodgers plan to blanket the map with scouting hires in Asia, Latin America and even Europe." Most recently, the team "learned over the weekend that they had submitted the winning bid -- $25.7 million -- for the negotiating rights" to South Korean P Ryu Hyun-Jin. Taken together, the investments "are a dramatic and welcome shift." Dodgers GM Ned Colletti said, "This is very rewarding for the people who stayed with this through the tough times, when they felt deep down that we didn't have chances to sign players." Morosi wrote, "In a very real way, the effort marked a return to the Dodgers' multicultural identity" (FOXSPORTS.com, 11/12).
WAITING GAME: Dodgers President & CEO Stan Kasten yesterday said that the team could "wait until after the winter meetings to decide whether to sign" Ryu. In L.A., Bill Shaikin notes if the Dodgers "do not sign him by Dec. 10," they get their $25.7M negotiating rights fee back. It is "unlikely they would damage their expanded presence in international baseball by failing to sign him" (L.A. TIMES, 11/13). In California, Bill Plunkett noted the Dodgers "have already spent at least" $77M on Puig and Ryu to "demonstrate their renewed commitment to searching the globe for talent." But they "emphasized that commitment Monday by announcing the hiring of six scouts to a reconstructed international scouting department." All six "have ties" to Engle from his time with the Mariners (OCREGISTER.com, 11/12).
Following the CFL Toronto Argonauts' recent postseason win, Toronto sports fans are “celebrating their highest profile playoff victory in years, but the precarious state of the city’s professional franchises came into sharp focus Monday as team executives vowed to spend more time wooing fans and less time building condos,” according to Steve Ladurantaye of the GLOBE & MAIL. MLSE, Rogers Media and Argonauts execs said at the PrimeTime Sports & Entertainment Conference that they have “spent too much time with off-field distractions and need to start fielding contenders if they are going to prosper in a fast-evolving social media world.” MLSE President & COO Tom Anselmi said, “Where we are going next as an organization is to step back a little bit and really focus on the core business -- the teams, what they are doing, our relationship with the fans and what we are doing in our community.” Argonauts Exec Chair & CEO Chris Rudge said that he has “never faced a challenge as great as getting Torontonians excited about three-down football after years of waning interest.” Rudge said, “You have a highly mixed cultural environment that is probably unlike any other market in the world. Look at our fan base -- we have too many people who are older white guys whose tickets have been in the family for many years.” Rogers Media President Keith Pelley, whose company is a part owner of MLSE and also owns the Blue Jays, said that it is “increasingly important for teams to focus on making their teams ‘fashionable.’” Pelley said, “There are only four types of fans. But the group which I think is most important are the people who just come because it’s fashionable. And social media can make something fashionable or not. As well as winning” (GLOBE & MAIL, 11/13).
GAINING TRACTION? In Toronto, Morgan Campbell noted the growth of the two-day event “reflects the growing profile and popularity of professional sports industry boardroom players.” Conference co-Chair and OHL London Knights Governor Trevor Whiffen said that the event in its fifth year has “a record 350 delegates registered, making the Prime Time conference the largest event of its kind in Canada.” Whiffen said that as its list of attendees has grown, the audience “has broadened, encompassing not just high-level executives but entrepreneurs, agents and students who aspire to careers in the sports industry.” He attributes the event’s growth “to a pair of factors.” One is social media, while he also “credits the increased visibility of the business behind pro sports.” Campbell notes in recent years “similar but smaller events have sprouted on campuses on both sides of the border” (TORONTO STAR, 11/13).