SBJ/June 9 - 15, 2003/This Weeks Issue

Holt keeps Spurs riding high

The words "San Antonio Spurs" and "NBA elite" are rarely mentioned in the same breath, but under owner Peter Holt's guidance, the low-profile team has established itself as one of the NBA's top franchises both on and off the court. The Spurs are in the Finals for the second time in five years, sit $14 million under the NBA salary cap and play in a new arena that Holt says is driving record profits.

During the Spurs' shoot-around before Game 1 of the Finals last week, Holt spoke with staff writer John Lombardo about his team's quest for its second NBA crown.

SBJ: Winning the championship in 1999 helped win support for your new arena. What does this Finals appearance mean for the franchise?

Peter Holt is having a ball in San Antonio, where the Spurs have a new arena and a spot in the Finals.

Holt: If we win the championship this time around, it helps with the money end of the business. It's more sponsorship sales and more season tickets, and just as important is that it will help us attract other players to San Antonio because we are $14 million under the salary cap.

SBJ: What about the business side as it relates to the Finals? Will the team be profitable despite playing in an arena that's smaller than the Alamo-dome?

Holt: We are going to be dramatically profitable, better than expected. We broke even last year, and the two previous seasons we lost a lot of money. And I had to borrow a certain amount of money to build the arena, so this year we will knock the borrowing way down. When we do our pro forma financials, we figure on one round of the playoffs, never any more, so these later rounds have put a lot of money in our pockets. It's been a beautiful run from a financial point of view. We are a winning team, but we are also financially efficient.

SBJ: How does this year's Finals compare with 1999?

Holt: In 1999, we swept most of the series, and I was a newer owner and didn't understand how hard it was to get to the Finals. Now I understand, and I'm a lot more appreciative of where we are today than I was in 1999.

SBJ: There are three NBA teams in Texas, with the Mavericks having the highest profile, followed by the Rockets, who are seen as an up-and-coming team. Do you feel your team gets enough national recognition?

Holt: We always wish we would get more, as much for the community as for the team. But right now, some owners have told me that we are the envy of the NBA. We are in the Finals and we are $14 million under the salary cap.

SBJ: Your team isn't the Los Angeles Lakers, a team that the NBA and ABC would have loved to have in the Finals to help television ratings. Do you resent the sense outside of San Antonio that there is a lack of buzz around this year's Finals?

Holt: We also heard that in 1999 and we just don't worry about it anymore. We're not Los Angeles, Chicago or New York, but we've got a great group of players and we are well-positioned as an organization for the future.

SBJ: What's the biggest misperception that Americans have about San Antonio?

Holt: That we are just a small town. And people aren't really sure where San Antonio is. But we are the 10th biggest city in the nation.

SBJ: Could you envision a better basketball send-off for David Robinson? Do you plan to offer him a continued role with the Spurs?

Holt: To get David back in the Finals has given us an emotional lift that we haven't had. He's like a kid in the candy store, and that's been fun to watch. We'll talk about any future roles with the team after the playoffs. He told me that he just wants to finish his career. I have no idea if he has any interest, but we'd love to have him. It's up to him.

SBJ: Could an NBA Finals win propel any Spurs players to national marketing success?

Holt: It depends on who shows up and breaks through. Tim Duncan is already there, and beyond Tim, there is Tony Parker. Any player recognition is a plus to give us more national recognition.

SBJ: Speaking of Tony Parker, do you really think he is one of People's "Most Beautiful People"?

Holt: You're not going to get me on that one, but we do call him "Pretty Boy" in practice.

SBJ: How many old friends from high school and college have you heard from this week?

Holt: Let's just say that all of a sudden, I'm real popular again. It's like this: One of our coaches was telling me that he's had calls from guys that he's had to go back and look up in his high school yearbook. That's just what happens. I'm just floating and enjoying the hell out it. It's been a lot more of that this time around.

SBJ: Any superstitions or good luck charms?

Holt: I've got so many superstitions. It's always, What clothes will I wear? Will I go with my wife to the game or not? Will I wear the pair of boots that has the Spurs logo embossed on them, or will I wear the belt buckle that I got when we won in 1999? Here I am, a 50-year-old guy, and these superstitions drive me nuts, but that's also what's fun.

SBJ: Care to make any Finals predictions?

Holt: No, not from me. I'm too nervous and don't want to jinx myself. Just glad to be here.

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