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Longtime Lakers Owner JERRY BUSS, “whose penchant for showmanship helped turn the game of basketball into ‘Showtime’ and who led the team to 10 NBA championships,” died this morning at the age of 80, according to David Wharton of the L.A. TIMES. A “self-made millionaire who built his fortune in real estate,” Buss bought the Lakers in ‘79. He “charted his successful course” with marquee players, HOF coaches, “celebrities sitting courtside and Laker Girls dancing during timeouts.” Buss at one time said, “I really tried to create a Laker image, a distinct identity. I mean, the Lakers are pretty damn Hollywood” (LATIMES.com, 2/18). In L.A., Tom Hoffarth writes Buss “showed two sides to his ownership ways.” In the media, he “tried to stay under the radar.” But he also "enjoyed appearing at Lakers games in his end-zone luxury box with young women on his arms.” His idea was “to add the Lakers dance team, the in-seat waitresses, live music, and an array of stars sitting [in] courtside seats, starting with JACK NICHOLSON planted firmly for all the cameras and patrons to see.” Buss also was the “first to figure out how to cash in on naming rights” (INSIDESOCAL.com, 2/18). The HOLLYWOOD REPORTER's Mike Barnes notes Buss “time and time again spared no expense in making his NBA team a top-notch title contender -- not to mention a premier entertainment attraction in Hollywood.” Buss’ son, Lakers Exec VP/Player Personnel JIM and daughter JEANIE, Lakers Exec VP/Business Operations, run the team. Other survivors include children JOHNNY and JANIE, who like Jim and Jeanie, are products of Buss’ marriage to ex-wife JOAN MUELLER, whom he divorced in the early '70s, and JOEY and JESSE, whom he had with former girlfriend KAREN DEMEL (HOLLYWOODREPORTER.com, 2/18). AEG President & CEO TIM LEIWEKE in a statement said, "Dr. Buss was our partner, our mentor and our friend. He was kind enough to allow us into his world and much of the success we enjoyed at Staples Center and L.A. Live is directly attributed to him. I do not believe we will ever find anyone quite like him. Our prayers and thoughts are with Jeanie and the entire Buss family” (THE DAILY).
REMEMBERING THE MAN: Radio host Dan Patrick said of Buss, "What I loved about Jerry Buss is he lived the life that you wanted your owner to live. He cared about the product, he reinvested into the product, he took chances, he made trades, he had fun.” He was “flamboyant” and “always had star power” (“The Dan Patrick Show,” 2/18). ESPN's Stephen A. Smith said of Buss, “He was about ‘Showtime.’ He was about not just winning basketball games but pleasing his patrons ... as often as he possibly could, making sure that he put on a show." Smith: "He was a winner and he demanded that from all the guys that worked under him, not in quite the same way that GEORGE STEINBRENNER did … but nevertheless, as equally profound.” ESPN’s Kurt Rambis, who played and coached for Buss, said, “Primarily, he wanted to win, and you can’t say that about every organization and every owner. He was willing to make extreme sacrifices, financial sacrifices namely, to put together a winning formula out there on the floor.” ESPN's Flip Saunders: "Basketball was a No. 1 priority for that team, and so you always knew they were going to do whatever they had to do to be successful. And for them it wasn’t about winning, it was about winning championships” ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 2/18).
TWEETS ON BUSS: The L.A. Times' Bill Plaschke wrote, "RIP the greatest owner in history of American professional sports...Lakers, and all of sports, will never be the same." Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban wrote, "RIP Jerry Buss. Your encouragement and support along with your stories of staying true to yourself had an enormous impact on me." ESPN's Rick Reilly: "RIP Jerry Buss, who made those years at the Forum the most outrageous, decadent and fun time a sportswriter could have." NFL Network's Andrew Siciliano: "Dr. Buss gave fans everything they wanted: the best players, the best coaches, and 10 championships." Former Lakers beat writer Ross Siler: "Jerry Buss went from growing up in Kemmerer, Wyo., to owning the Lakers and winning 10 titles. Just an incredible life journey." NBA.com's Steve Aschburner: "So much talk, esp. at Legends brunch, of All-Star Wknd as NBA family reunion. So Lakers owner Jerry Buss' passing hits many close to home."
FIFA Exec Committee member CHUCK BLAZER, “who went public with bribery accusations against his boss two years ago, said he won’t seek re-election for a fifth term and will leave his position in May after 16 years.” Blazer is the “most senior American official in world soccer but his departure was expected after his role in the scandal over" IFA presidential election candidate MOHAMED BIN HAMMAM. A “contest to replace” Blazer at FIFA is expected between U.S. Soccer Federation President SUNIL GULATI and Mexican Football Federation President JUSTINO COMPEAN (AP, 2/16).
A PASSAGE TO INDIA: The NBA named YANNICK COLACO Managing Dir of NBA India. Colaco will manage the league’s India office in Mumbai and report to NBA Int'l President HEIDI UEBERROTH. The Mumbai office opened in October '11. Colaco comes to the NBA from sports marketing firm Nimbus Sport, where he was COO, a position he was named to in '09 after joining the company in '02. In a statement, Ueberroth said, “Colaco has the ideal combination of experience and knowledge of the sports landscape in India necessary to lead our expanding operations in the country” (John Lombardo, Staff Writer).
MEDIA PLAYS: In this week’s SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, John Ourand reports ESPN “has restructured its customer marketing and sales group,” leading to the promotion of PATRICIA BETRON, WENDELL SCOTT and LISA VALENTINO to Senior VP/Multimedia Sales. All three will report to Exec VP/Multimedia Sales ERIC JOHNSON, who said that he “needed to cut down on his number of direct reports, in part, because he recently added ESPN’s international business to his portfolio.” Other promotions within the group include GREG ROSSI and JENNIFER HOFFNAGLE to VP/Multimedia Sales, as well as DANIELLE BROWN and SAL TALLUTO to Dir of Multimedia Sales (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 2/18 issue).
EXECS: USA Triathlon named BARRETT BRANDON, SUSAN HAAG, JACQUELINE MCCOOK and MICHAEL WIEN to its BOD (USA Triathlon)….The Univ. of Minnesota named Butler Univ. Associate AD and Senior Woman Administrator BETH GOETZ Senior Associate AD and Senior Woman Administrator (UM).
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In N.Y., Mitch Lawrence wrote former NBA Deputy Commissioner RUSS GRANIK has "received a richly deserved honor" for being inducted as a contributor in the '13 Basketball HOF class. Granik was "instrumental in helping put together the original Dream Team for the 1992 Summer Games" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 2/17). Several people tweeted out praise for Granik's selection. Basketball HOFer Bill Walton tweeted, "Congrats to Russ Granik for the @NBA HOF - well deserved & long overdue - thanks for being a giant." SI's Ian Thomsen wrote, "Congrats to Hall of Famer Russ Granik! Crucial to Dream Team, CBA talks + NBA's growth. Never sought fame, always deserved it = now has it." Bloomberg's Scott Soshnick: "Congrats to Russ Granik on the hoops Hall of Fame call. Always understated. Never underappreciated #NBA." However, Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski in a series of tweets took shots at the HOF's selection process. Wojnarowski: "Unreal. No Old Boys Network like Springfield. They need a separate Hall for the real HOFers. ... If you had any doubt about the influence DAVID STERN and JERRY COLANGELO have over the 'voting process' for Hall, you should have none now." Former L.A. Times writer Mark Heisler responded, "Someone thinks Russ Granik doesn't belong in HOF? That's like saying David Stern doesn't or that NBA's where it was in '84 when they arrived" (TWITTER.com, 2/15).
ROW, ROW, ROW YOUR BOAT: CNN’s Christine Romans noted Heat Owner MICKY ARISON, who is also CEO of the Carnival Corp., sat courtside for a Heat game last week while the Carnival Triumph was adrift in the Gulf of Mexico. Romans: “He’s courtside while those people are just desperate to be dockside. It’s a PR nightmare.” CNN’s Ali Velshi said, “It just made me cringe to see a rich guy at a basketball game while these passengers are stuck on a boat” (“Your Money,” CNN, 2/16).
LIFE IN THE FAST LANE: NASCAR drivers JIMMIE JOHNSON, KASEY KAHNE and ARIC ALMIROLA were among "nearly 1,400 runners" to participate in yesterday's Daytona Beach Half Marathon. Kahne finished in 1:28:44, Johnson at 1:29:48, and Almirola at 1:46:35. The Central Florida Sports Commission, Volusia County and Daytona Int'l Speedway "partnered to host the race, which was held in conjunction with speedweeks for the first time in its five-year history" (NEWS-JOURNALONLINE.com, 2/17).
AWARDS & HONORS: D'Backs President & CEO DERRICK HALL has been named the '12 recipient of the Bill Shover Leadership Award. The award recognizes an individual who has "voluntarily contributed time and talent to the betterment of the Arizona blood supply" (MLB.com, 2/15).
NAMES: Baseball HOFer SANDY KOUFAX arrived at Dodgers Spring Training "to begin a two-week stint as a pitching instructor as part of a one-year contract that will put him back in a Dodgers uniform for the first time in more than 20 years" (LATIMES.com, 2/18)....Heat G DWYANE WADE, pastor JOEL OSTEEN and Knicks Assistant GM ALLAN HOUSTON on Friday hosted a panel discussion on fatherhood (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 2/16). Wade on Saturday also hosted a luncheon to raise money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 2/17)….Bears K ROBBIE GOULD announced the launch of a new summer reading program, “Books in Bags,” which will be a partnership between Chicago’s Working in the Schools and his charity, the Goulden Touch Foundation. The program “will raise funds to send bags of books home with more than 3,000 students” (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 2/17)….Retired U.S. swimmer MICHAEL PHELPS “recently whisked his new girlfriend, SARAH HERNDON to the Bahamas.” Herndon is a “22-year-old California waitress” (N.Y. POST, 2/18)….Patriots DT VINCE WILFORK “celebrated wife BIANCA’s birthday at Strega” in Boston’s North End with Patriots LB JEROD MAYO and his wife (BOSTON GLOBE, 2/18)….Ravens RB RAY RICE recently dined at Philippe Chow in N.Y. (N.Y. POST, 2/17).
IN MEMORY: Former Phillies scout EDITH HOUGHTON died on Feb. 2 in Sarasota at the age of 100. Houghton was “the first woman hired as a major league scout on her own.” In addition to being “one of the first female scouts in baseball,” she was “apparently also the last” (N.Y. TIMES, 2/16)….Former NHLers SERGE SAVARD, YVAN COURNOYER and REJEAN HOULE, among other “hockey greats and political leaders,” attended a memorial service on Saturday for former Radio-Canada broadcaster RICHARD GARNEAU, who died in January at the age of 82 (GLOBE & MAIL, 2/17)….Former Tulane Univ. athlete and “baseball stadium namesake” ROBERT TURCHIN, SR. died on Thursday at the age of 90 (NOLA.com, 2/16)….Former Cowboys Equipment Manager JACK ESKRIDGE, who created the team’s blue star logo, died last Monday in Valley Falls, Kan., at the age of 89 (AP, 2/15).