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SBD/September 27, 2013/FranchisesPrint All
The Knicks in an "unexpected move" Thursday announced Steve Mills, one of the "highest-ranking officials at Madison Square Garden before departing in June 2009, will replace" team Exec VP & GM Glen Grunwald, according to Taylor & Araton of the N.Y. TIMES. Grunwald, who "spent the past three seasons helping to transform the Knicks into a competitive team," will stay with the team as an adviser. Mills served as MSG Sports President from '03-08, a "period in which the Knicks were in disarray on and off the court." It was Mills who "recommended that Isiah Thomas be hired" as Knicks President in December '03. The move "came to haunt Mills when another team executive he had hired, Anucha Browne Sanders, sued Thomas and the Garden in January 2006, charging sexual harassment." A year after the trial, Mills "was replaced" by Scott O’Neil. Mills has never been a team GM, raising "questions about whom he will rely on for input when it comes to personnel decisions." There is "certain to be speculation that Thomas ... will have a major voice in the organization, advising Mills regardless of whether the Knicks give him a title." The decision to replace Grunwald with Mills "may be an effort by the Knicks to position themselves for the pursuit of stars." Knicks Owner and MSG Exec Chair James Dolan "may have concluded that Mills, who also worked a number of years for the NBA ... and who got to know a significant number of agents and top players as he vied in recent months for the union job, will be a good person to lead the team’s free-agent efforts." Mills most recently was working as the CEO & Founding Partner of Athletes & Entertainers Wealth Management (N.Y. TIMES, 9/27). On Long Island, Al Iannazzone notes Grunwald "helped assemble the team that went 54-28 last season and won its first Atlantic Division title in 19 years." He is considered to be "more of a basketball personnel guy and talent evaluator than Mills, whose background is business" (NEWSDAY, 9/27).
KISS AND MAKE UP: In N.Y., Frank Isola writes the return of Mills is "one of the more remarkable reconciliations in team history." The "stunning shakeup five days before the start of training camp leaves several questions unanswered, namely why make such a dramatic move?" Sources said Mills' deal "came together quickly." The fact that Dolan can "count on Mills to fall in line worked in Mills' favor." That MSG President & CEO Hank Ratner "signed off on the deal is somewhat remarkable since he held Mills accountable for hiring both" Thomas and Browne Sanders (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 9/27). Also in N.Y., Mike Vaccaro writes since Mills’ expertise "is mostly contained to the business side of sports we can safely assume the Knicks’ basketball responsibilities will be divided" among Assistant GM Allan Houston, Dir of Player Personnel Mark Warkentien and Dir of Pro Scouting & Free Agency John Gabriel. Houston is seen as the "likely heir to the GM’s chair." Dolan on Wednesday seemed "a few notes less than enthused" when asked to "assess his team’s chances." The Knicks were "outdone by the Nets in the offseason, passed by at least two or three others as well" (N.Y. POST, 9/27).
ATTENTION-GRABBING MOVE: In N.Y., Mike Lupica writes Mills is a "smart, personable Princeton guy," but he just "doesn't belong anywhere near a job like general manager of an NBA team." What the move shows is that Dolan "thinks he is the real general manager of the Knicks." Lupica: "You sort of can't make this stuff up, anywhere except 33rd and Seventh" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 9/27). WFAN-AM's Joe Benigno said, "If you're a Knicks fan, this is a disaster. ... This smacks of a typical Jim Dolan disaster. It looks like he's greasing the skid for Isiah Thomas. How do you let Grunwald go? This guy actually did a good job." SNY's Jonas Schwartz said, "It does feel like James Dolan is trying to stick it to everybody who he viewed was telling him how to run his organization. He's going back to one of his guys" ("Daily News Live," SNY, 9/26). SNY's Chris Carlin said of Grunwald, "When you're not a 'yes man' at Madison Square Garden, you're not going anywhere." SNY's Sal Licata called Mills a "puppet" of Dolan's ("Loud Mouths," SNY, 9/26). YAHOO SPORTS' Eric Freeman wrote the decision is "superficially peculiar." The years in which Mills oversaw MSG "were fairly despicable ones for the Knicks." This move "smacks of a team flying by the seat of its pants" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 9/26). In Newark, Alex Raskin wrote, "What the heck is going on here?" (NJ.com, 9/26). ESPN N.Y.'s Ian Begley wrote the move signals Dolan "could have been upset over the Nets winning the battle of the headlines this summer from the Knicks" (ESPNNY.com, 9/26). In N.Y., Marc Berman wrote, "Count on Mills being a lot more visible than Glen Grunwald ever was" (TWITTER.com, 9/26).
The Buccaneers on Thursday said that they will "make sure their seven remaining home games air on local television," according to Greg Auman of the TAMPA BAY TIMES. It is a "change in policy for a team that saw just five of 24 home games from 2010-12 shown locally because of NFL blackout rules designed to encourage home attendance." If fewer than 85% of "nonpremium seats -- the NFL's threshold -- are sold, the Bucs will write a check to the league to keep games in local living rooms." The Bucs said the majority of the seven remaining games at Raymond James Stadium are "projected to surpass" the blackout threshold. However, Auman notes Sunday's game against the Cardinals "is well short." Teams can "avoid blackouts by buying unsold seats," and that burden will "fall on the Bucs and not local TV stations or their sponsors." Team officials had "been encouraged about improved attendance" in '13. The home opener against the Saints on Sept. 15, carried on local TV, drew "an announced 60,870, not far from the stadium's listed capacity of 65,890" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 9/27).
GETTING THE ALL-CLEAR: In San Diego, Tom Krasovic noted the Chargers have sold enough tickets for Sunday's game against the Cowboys "to lift the blackout" in the local market. The team has sold out both games at Qualcomm Stadium this season after having "half of their eight home games ... blacked out because not enough tickets were sold" in '12 (UTSANDIEGO.com, 9/26). PRO FOOTBALL TALK's Mike Florio noted through four weeks, "all 63 regular-season games will have been televised in the home team’s local market." The league office said that this is "only the third time the NFL has made it through four weeks of the regular-season without a single blackout" (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 9/26).
Dodgers P Brian Wilson, reportedly "steamed that he still hasn't received" his '12 World Series ring from the Giants, on Thursday "took the extraordinary step of walking across the field after the Giants' 3-2 victory, leaning over the railing and shouting" at Giants President & CEO Larry Baer, according to Andrew Baggarly of CSNBAYAREA.com. Wilson was "letting Baer know he wasn't happy" that he has yet to receive the ring. Giants Senior VP/Communications & Senior Advisor to the CEO Staci Slaughter said that Wilson's ring was "made in time for the ring ceremony in April, but he declined an invitation." She added that "several members of the organization," including Baer, manager Bruce Bochy and VP & Assistant GM Bobby Evans, have "tried over the last seven months to arrange a meeting with Wilson but their calls weren't returned." The Giants "finally gave the ring to a Dodgers official on Thursday and asked that it be passed along to Wilson." Slaughter: "This organization really has tried to do the right thing and I don't know where this is coming from." Wilson after the game "wouldn't elaborate on his meeting with Baer, but confirmed that it wasn't about any security issue with fans who appeared to heckle him as he warmed up Thursday night" (CSNBAYAREA.com, 9/26). In S.F., Henry Schulman wrote the confrontation was "one of the oddest scenes you'll ever see after a game." Wilson's actions "stunned Baer and Giants officials." Slaughter said, "I don't know why he decided to make a show of it and air his grievance tonight" (SFGATE.com, 9/26). In San Jose, Alex Pavlovic notes Giants players "stared in disbelief as Wilson walked over and yelled at Baer" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 9/27).
GAMMONSDAILY.com's Scott Butler noted the Phillies drew over 3 million fans this season, but "dropped from 1st to 8th" in MLB attendance. Average attendance "dropped from 38,522 through 60 home games to 32,834 in the last 20," a 15% decrease. The Phillies will have their first losing season since '02, and earlier this year began "slowly losing the fan base they built over the last decade." As the club "drifted further and further from contention, fans began avoiding the stands." With a "couple savvy moves" by team GM Ruben Amaro Jr., combined with improved play "from the youngsters, and improved performance from the veterans, fans will show their support" for the team in the coming seasons. However, if Amaro "has another poor off season, history shows that attendance will continue to decline and the Phillies will lose the advantage they have enjoyed for almost a decade" (GAMMONSDAILY.com, 9/25).
RAYS CONTINUE TO STRUGGLE: MLB Commissioner Bud Selig noted the Rays have "been a great organization," but the attendance figures at Tropicana Field are "just not acceptable." Selig noted he has indicated if the team "doesn't make progress, I'm going to send somebody down there and we're going to have to do something about it." The Rays are on the verge of clinching their fourth postseason berth in six seasons, and Selig said, "Their attendance is the second-lowest in the big leagues today and that's disgraceful. I don’t know how much more blunter I can be than that" ("The John Feinstein Show," CBS Sports Radio, 9/25).
INDIANS LOOKING TO TREND UPWARD: The Indians averaged 22,453 fans over their final six home games, and in Cleveland, Terry Pluto wrote, "That could be a reasonable goal for 2014, which would bring them to at least 1.8 million." A "good sign was their 'no-show' rate for games this season was well under" MLB's average of 20%. Pluto: "I believe the attendance will go up if they can actually have back-to-back winning seasons" (CLEVELAND.com, 9/26).
NOTES: Thursday's crowd of 21,393 at Petco Park pushed the Padres' season attendance total to 2,166,691 -- the most since 2,427,535 in '08 (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 9/27)....The Yankees ended their '13 home schedule with a final attendance of 3,279,589, down 7.4% from last year and the team's third straight decline (Eric Fisher, Staff Writer).