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The Browns on Thursday hired Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine as their new head coach "after 25 days, 10 candidates, a few phone interviews, a vacancy deemed 'radioactive' and at least two ribbings in Jay Leno's monologue," according to Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland PLAIN DEALER. Pettine was given a five-year deal, following "his third meeting with the Browns." Browns CEO Joe Banner, referring to a prior press conference in which he, Owner Jimmy Haslam and GM Mike Lombardi were compared to the Three Stooges, said, "I don’t know if you had a chance to meet Mike, but since (GM) Mike Lombardi and I are Moe and Larry, we set out to find Curly -- and we succeeded. ... I know we were exhaustive to the point that we caused people to question and wonder. It wasn't fun, and it was also hard to not be in position to respond to it." Pettine acknowledged that the Browns "are already lagging behind their counterparts in many ways." Pettine: "That’s not a perception, that’s absolute reality. We are behind. As far as hiring, I think we’re in pretty good shape. A lot of things are in place or close to being in place. It’s definitely a work in progress, but that needs to be addressed immediately" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 1/24).
NOT THE FIRST CHOICE: ESPN.com's Pat McManamon reported Pettine "was not on the Browns' original list of candidates, but he emerged as others either took themselves out of consideration or were hired elsewhere." Haslam: "Mike is the epitome of what we want the Browns to be -- tough, aggressive and innovative -- with a blue-collar, team-first mentality." The Browns "have not won more than five games in any of the previous six seasons, and fan unrest and impatience with the team has been strong" (ESPN.com, 1/23). Pettine: "There’s only 32 of these jobs in the world, and these opportunities don’t come along often. People ask me, ‘Why didn’t you wait? There will be chances next year.’ I don’t know if I believe in that. I looked at the situation as when you put all of the factors together, this franchise is in position, given the right leadership, to win" (AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 1/24).
CAREFUL WHAT YOU TWEET: ESPN.com's McManamon noted Pettine's daughter, Megan, on Jan. 16 "tweeted excitedly" about her father getting a second interview with the Browns. But she added, "Its the browns.. But hey, still pretty cool!" The tweet "was later deleted, and the account deactivated," but the incident "didn't help the Browns' already battered image." Pettine "was expecting" to be asked about the tweet, so he "didn't balk" when the question came up during his introductory press conference (ESPN.com, 1/23).
IMAGE IS EVERYTHING: In Akron, Marla Ridenour in a front-page piece notes a reporter "didn’t get the word radioactive out of his mouth" at the press conference before Haslam "jumped down his throat." Haslam: "That’s a perception that you all have generated. That’s not the perception among the candidates. That’s not the perception among football people that I’ve talked to around the country. They talk about the birthplace of football, great fan base, great cap space, young roster, five Pro Bowlers, 10 draft picks, three of the first 35. This perception that’s been created out there is not reality." Ridenour: "Obviously Haslam doesn’t like his team’s reputation being dragged through the mud." Perhaps Pettine "can turn the Browns around despite a flawed front office structure and a lack of personnel authority that scared off other candidates" (AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 1/24). In Cleveland, Tom Reed writes the "environment Pettine enters might not be 'toxic' or 'radioactive' as some pundits have suggested, but keeping a hazmat suit handy is advisable." He "must also prove he’s his own man and not a puppet" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 1/24).
HERE WE GO AGAIN: In Akron, Mark Price writes "every couple of years, hope springs eternal in Berea." Fans "can expect to hear Browns officials bestow high praise on the new guy," and in turn, the new coach "will declare unwavering optimism for the team’s future." It "all sounds so familiar" (AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 1/24). In Cleveland, Terry Pluto in a front-page piece writes now that Pettine has been hired, the "real pressure" is on the Browns' front office. Pettine "has to do a good job handling the players and preparing for games," but the "key people in any NFL franchise are those who pick the players." The "only way" Pettine reverses the organization's fortunes "is if the front office has one of the best off-seasons in team history, both in the draft and with free agency" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 1/24). ESPN.com's McManamon wrote there is "much that Pettine has to prove," just as Banner and Haslam "have much to prove, starting with showing that this search was not a wayward effort that simply wound up crashing to earth in Buffalo." At this point, there is "so much uncertainty and negativity swirling about the Browns that nothing they do short of bringing back" late Browns coach Paul Brown "would be welcomed with open arms" (ESPN.com, 1/23).
FARMER STAYING PUT: The Browns said that team Assistant GM Ray Farmer "is staying with the team after withdrawing from consideration" for the job of Dolphins GM. Farmer "was interviewed by the Dolphins nearly two weeks ago and turned down their invitation for a second interview" (ESPN.com, 1/23).
Concerns over the Dolphins’ "front office power structure are very real, and apparently cost the team one of its leading candidates -- if not the front-runner altogether" -- for its GM vacancy, according to Adam Beasley of the MIAMI HERALD. Browns CEO Joe Banner on Thursday said that team Assistant GM Ray Farmer "will remain in Cleveland." Farmer's withdrawal represents "a remarkable turnaround in the course of 24 hours, when many believed he would end up" with the Dolphins. Fritz Pollard Alliance Foundation Chair John Wooten, whose firm promotes the hiring of minority coaches and GMs, said Farmer "has reservations about the structure of the Dolphins. He’s not certain who would be running things, whether it would be him or someone else." A source said that Farmer's main issue is "with the amount of power" team Owner Stephen Ross has granted team Exec VP/Football Administration Dawn Aponte. Multiple candidates for the GM job have "complained privately that they can’t get a straight answer that they wouldn’t have to report to Aponte." In addition, Aponte's "control over the budget could affect who the next general manager would be able to re-sign or target in free agency" (MIAMI HERALD, 1/24). In West Palm Beach, Andrew Abramson reports the remaining candidates for the job include Dolphins Assistant GM Brian Gaine, who is "respected around the league but also might have a stigma" because he was former GM Jeff Ireland’s right-hand man. Titans VP/Player Personnel Lake Dawson, who Wednesday was "reported to be out of the search," is now "expected to be a finalist." Buccaneers Dir of Player Personnel Dennis Hickey, who was "a surprise candidate," reportedly "impressed Dolphins officials in interviews." It is "unclear whether he will be granted another interview." A Dolphins spokesperson said that the team will "not release a list of finalists, but will announce when a candidate has completed his interview" (PALM BEACH POST, 1/24).
WHAT'S TAKING SO LONG? ESPN's Adam Schefter said it is "hard to imagine that there could be a search that's gone on longer than the Browns' head coaching search, but we have that in Miami with the general manager search." It is "hard to imagine that a search for one general manager can take this long, but this seems to be something that sometimes happens" with the Dolphins ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 1/24). In Miami, Armando Salguero asked, "Is the Dolphins' reputation around the NFL so soiled that even people working for the Browns -- the Browns! -- don't want more money, more power, and a chance to run the Dolphins front office? Somebody wake me, because this is a nightmare" (MIAMIHERALD.com, 1/23).
XX's & O's: In Ft. Lauderdale, Omar Kelly reports at this week's Senior Bowl, the question surrounding the Dolphins "wasn't who will get the vacant general manager job," but rather it "centered" on Aponte. One exec asked Wednesday, "Is a woman really running the show down there?" That question has "been echoed by men employed by four NFL teams this week." Kelly asks, "But should we need that question answered?" If Aponte "were a man ... would her status in the power structure be an issue? Would her role in the interview process be anyone's business?" Ross has "already gone on record saying the new GM will report to him, and only him to end speculation that any candidate would directly report to Aponte," but that "hasn't [stopped] some people from thinking Aponte's role, status and influence are issues" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 1/24).
The Capitals are looking to Google Glass and the Skybox app to "give fans an immersive spectator experience," according to Neil Greenberg of the WASHINGTON POST. DC-based APX Labs, which "started building 'smart glasses' for the U.S. military before Google Glass was launched," has "adapted its technology" to create Skybox. The app is "aimed specifically at patrons of pro sporting events." APX Labs CEO Brian Ballard said, "When you look at the fan experience, a lot of the common complaints of going to the stadium is you miss out on a lot of things you can get in your living room. And when you go to the game, people are constantly caught looking at their phone, pulling up social media, pulling up game stats and kind of get disconnected from what’s going on. So we thought this was a great opportunity to counter that and give people that same level of data and experience they get at home at the game." Greenberg notes Google Glass and Skybox allow fans at Verizon Center to "access information such as stats, in-game highlights and instant replays from their seats in the arena -- all in real time -- without having to look away from the game." Greenberg notes the Capitals may decide to "include the glasses as part of a VIP package or make them available for rent, but right now the team is in the beta stage itself." The WiFi at Verizon Center also "must be improved before the glasses can be used throughout the arena." But even more "cutting edge than the stats and highlights package is how this could impact the game-watching experience for the hearing impaired." Ballard: "(Monumental) asked if we can broadcast closed captioning in any language in real time right to the fans, and we thought that’s a brilliant idea" (WASHINGTON POST, 1/24).
SEEING IS BELIEVING: In Sacramento, Matt Kawahara notes the NBA Kings will "outfit a handful of team personnel with Google Glass and broadcast live video taken with the futuristic glasses to fans in a variety of ways -- on the video board inside Sleep Train Arena," over Friday's local TV broadcast and "across social media." A team spokesperson said that among those wearing Google Glass will be "members of the Kings’ dance team, an announcer and mascot Slamson." All told, "about a dozen of the glasses will be deployed." Kings President Chris Granger said, "It’s about giving fans a unique perspective. We’d like our fans to be able to experience what it’s like to run through the tunnel like a player, what it’s like to be near the player huddle like a sideline reporter is, what it’s like to be a Kings dancer on the court." Kawahara notes CrowdOptic "employed the same technology the Kings will use" on Friday night at several Stanford Univ. athletic events in recent months. Stanford Senior Assistant AD/Communications Kurt Svoboda said that those included "a basketball game and a football game at which non-athletes wore the glasses on the field, in the press box and in postgame interview sessions, with the video then shown in-venue" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 1/24).
The Mariners "have decided to promote" team Exec VP/Finance & Ballpark Operations Kevin Mather to replace outgoing President & COO Chuck Armstrong, according to Ryan Divish of the SEATTLE TIMES. Mariners Senior VP/Communications Randy Adamack said, "We're not ready to announce anything." The move "comes as really no surprise and had been predicted by several people." Most Mariners fans "wanted the club to hire former Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa, who was linked to the job in a story a few weeks ago." Mather has "been a part of the organization" since coming to the Mariners from the Twins in '96. But to say that he "will be exactly the same as Armstrong or have no new ideas to bring to the positions seems a bit shortsighted" (SEATTLETIMES.com, 1/23). MLB.com's Hal Bodley wrote, "As Armstrong prepares for retirement, it's difficult to picture the Mariners without him," as he is "one of the most respected club presidents" in MLB. Armstrong is 71 and said that the "recent passing of three close friends told him it was time" to retire. He added, "It was a difficult decision for me, but the right one at the same time." Armstrong has "been president of the Mariners for more than 28 of their 37 years of existence, and for the past 21 seasons." He said, "I lament we've never been to the World Series." MLB Commissioner Bud Selig "is a huge Armstrong fan." Selig: "He is such a great baseball man. He was one of the key leaders who secured our national pastime's future in the Pacific Northwest. He guided the Mariners as they became a model franchise in a wonderful ballpark" (MLB.com, 1/23).
Demand for Reds season tickets is "on the rise, causing the team to change what it considers a season-ticket holder," according to Steve Watkins of the CINCINNATI BUSINESS COURIER. The Reds "reconfigured their ticket plans and now require fans to buy packages of at least 20 games to meet the 'season ticket' criteria." That designation "means several things, not least of which is that season-ticket holders get first crack at Opening Day tickets." Last year, fans "who bought a 10-game plan received an Opening Day seat as part of the package." Season-ticket plans for the '14 season "start at $9 a game, while mini plans begin at $12 a game." Reds Senior Dir of Ticket Sales & Service Mark Schueler "didn’t say how many season-ticket packages the Reds have sold." But he said that those packages "rose last season." Schueler said that some ticket prices "have increased." Some season tickets "rose by 44 cents a seat, with others climbing a dollar or two per ticket." Season packs were "variably priced last year, but the Reds have priced each game in season ticket packages the same this year." They also "lowered pricing" for 11% of Great American Ball Park's seats. Watkins noted the Reds in '13 had "record-breaking attendance" that saw the team draw 2.49 million fans. Schueler said that this year, the Reds are "shooting for 2.6 million, a 4-plus percent increase" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 1/22).
IF THE SCHU FITS: In Cincinnati, John Fay writes it has been "a quiet offseason for the Reds." The club "hasn't made a move since signing" 2B Skip Schumaker in December. That "seemingly doesn't give the club a lot to sell as the Winter Caravan began." Team Owner Bob Castellini said that there is "plenty to market when you look beyond additions to the roster." Castellini thinks the change in manager "will make a difference" (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, 1/24).
The average NBA franchise is worth $634M, “up 25% over last year,” and collectively the league’s 30 teams are worth $19B compared to $400M in ‘84 "when there were 23 teams," according to Kurt Badenhausen of FORBES. Once a “struggling also-ran to other professional sports,” the NBA is now a “global money machine.” This is “in large part” due to Commissioner David Stern’s “leadership on labor relations, drug testing, team expansion and other issues.” NBA revenues, which were $118M for the ’82-83 season, hit $4.6B "for the league’s 30 teams last year.” The Knicks are the NBA’s “most valuable team for a second straight year,” as the franchise is now worth $1.4B, “up 27% from a year ago.” A three-year, $1B renovation of Madison Square Garden “pushed the Knicks’ revenue" to $287M, "net of revenue sharing.” The Knicks’ playoff run and arena renovation helped the franchise generate operating income of $96M -- “a record for an NBA franchise.” Profitability was “up across the board in the NBA’s first full season” since the lockout was settled. Operating income “doubled to an average” of $23.7M, the “highest since Forbes began calculating NBA valuations” in ’98. The CBA also “boosted revenue sharing from the NBA’s haves to have-nots.” Former “perennial money losers” such as the Bobcats, Bucks and Grizzlies “all turned a profit last season” thanks to at least $10M each in revenue sharing. Only four teams "lost money on an operating basis” (FORBES.com, 1/22).
FORBES NBA TEAM VALUATIONSRANKTEAMVALUERANKTEAMVALUE1Knicks$1.4B16Kings$550M2Lakers$1.35B17Jazz$525M3Bulls$1B18Raptors$520M4Celtics$875M19Cavaliers$515M5Nets$780M20Nuggets$495M6Rockets$775M21Wizards$485M7Heat$770M22Pacers$475M8Mavericks$765M2376ers$469M9Warriors$750M24Grizzlies$453M10Spurs$660M25Pistons$450M11Thunder$590M26T'Wolves$430M12Trail Blazers
AROUND THE LEAGUE: In L.A., Mike Bresnahan noted the Lakers are “losers in the standings but financial winners in a big way” with the franchise valued at $1.35B, which is “up 35% from the previous year, thanks mainly to their new television contract with Time Warner Cable.” Forbes’ data showed that the Lakers earned $122M last season from TWC, “more than 20 times” what the Bobcats and Bucks received from their TV partners (L.A. TIMES, 1/23). In Dallas, Eddie Sefko noted Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban thinks his team's $765M valuation is "a low-ball number." Cuban said, "We’re worth well over a billion. I think within the next five years, and this is just a guess, if the economy continues to get a little better and sports still stays in demand, every NBA franchise will be worth at least a billion dollars” (DALLASNEWS.com, 1/22). In Charlotte, Rick Bonnell noted the Bobcats are “worth 30 percent more than they were a year ago.” If the Bobcats are “now in the black, that probably has a lot to do with the new collective bargaining agreement, which includes a more aggressive revenue-sharing system between big-market and small-market teams.” It “can’t be a coincidence Forbes raised the value” of the Bobcats and Bucks by 30% each (CHARLOTTEOBSERVER.com, 1/22). In Detroit, Brian Manzullo noted being ranked the No. 25on Forbes' list “isn’t exactly a good look” for the Pistons. Manzullo: “Then again, it hasn’t been for a while” (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 1/22).
Expansion USL Pro club Sacramento Republic FC has "dreams of growing" into an MLS franchise, and it "took another step in that direction Thursday by joining forces" with the MLS Earthquakes and Timbers, according to Marcos Breton of the SACRAMENTO BEE. When Republic FC "kicks off its initial season in the USL Pro league, it will do so as the shared affiliate of the Earthquakes and Timbers." By partnering with the Earthquakes, Republic FC "is laying the groundwork for what could be a fantastic future regional rivalry in MLS with San Jose -- a franchise steeped in MLS success." By partnering with the Timbers, Republic FC "will be affiliated with a model MLS franchise to emulate." Republic FC President & Founder Warren Smith "will need Sacramento to rally behind soccer and buy tickets in a big way." The team "has received just under 4,000 season ticket deposits -- with the goal of selling out an 8,000-seat stadium they hope to erect at Cal Expo." Timbers GM Galvin Wilkinson said of whether it is realistic for Republic FC to land an MLS franchise, "It’s very hard to say right now. You have to create a recognizable brand. It needs the backing of the community and the business community. ... But people in MLS are well aware of what Sacramento is doing." Earthquakes President David Kaval said that Republic FC "will get on the MLS radar by selling a lot of tickets this season and landing a major investor to help develop a stadium plan suitable for MLS" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 1/24).
In Miami, Barry Jackson notes Marlins Owner Jeffrey Loria “has such faith in his executives that for the first time, he has been deferring to them on baseball decisions.” Loria has “ordered many moves in the past.” However, a source said that Loria “hasn’t demanded anything this offseason.” Jackson notes Loria “still sits in the meetings and gives opinions but has apparently concluded, at least so far, that he needs to let his baseball people do their jobs.” The staff is “now headed” up by President of Baseball Operations Michael Hill, GM Dan Jennings and three new hires. The question is whether Loria “will be tempted to start meddling again when the season starts or as soon as something goes wrong” (MIAMIHERALD.com, 1/24).
THE BUCS STOP HERE? In Pittsburgh, Bob Smizik wonders why people “aren’t upset” that the Pirates' payroll currently stands at about $76M, a “clear violation of the spirit” team President Frank Coonelly's statement that when attendance increased, the payroll would follow. Smizik: “Yes, payroll has gone up. But $76 million is not typically the payroll of a team that really wants to win now.” This is “no suggestion that the Pirates should go on some crazy spending spree,” but they “do have money to spend” (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 1/24). Also in Pittsburgh, Dejan Kovacevic writes of the Pirates’ projected payroll, “If it holds, it's a $3.4 million increase. Which would be pitiful.” By season's end, “there's no excuse” for payroll to wind up below $90M at a “bare minimum” (PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 1/24).
SPENDING ON THE FLY: Orioles Exec VP/Baseball Operations Dan Duquette said that the team has perhaps as much as $17M to spend for the ‘14 season and are “still looking to do so.” Duquette: “We have resources to extend our payroll. Our payroll is going to be closer to $100 million this year. ... Over the course of four years, we have been expanding our payroll. But we are going to stay within the resources of the market” (Baltimore SUN, 1/23).
EARNING THEIR KEEP: In Chicago, Colleen Kane noted the White Sox “slowly are assembling a young group of players they hope will revive the team and fan interest,” and P Erik Johnson and 3B Marcus Semien “want to be a part of it.” The pair came to Chicago from Northern California the “day before the opening of SoxFest” to sit at desks in the team’s offices at U.S. Cellular Field on Thursday “making phone calls to Sox season ticket holders” (CHICAGOTRIBUNE.com, 1/23).