SBJ/November 10 - 16, 2003/One On One

One-on-One with Andy Dolich, president of business operations, Memphis Grizzlies

Andy Dolich has been an exec in three of the four major team sports.
Sports-biz vet in the land of Graceland
During his 32-year career, Andy Dolich has held executive positions with the NBA, NHL, Major League Baseball and an America’s Cup challenger. Dolich, who began his career with the Philadelphia 76ers in 1971 and is former president and COO of the Golden State Warriors, is perhaps best known for his work with the A’s, where he helped develop the award-winning “BillyBall” marketing campaign, featuring manager Billy Martin. During Dolich’s tenure, the A’s increased season-ticket sales from 400 to 16,000 and annual attendance from 800,000 to 2.9 million. Dolich now is president of business operations for the Memphis Grizzlies and led the team’s relocation from Vancouver. He recently spent time with The Sports Business Daily’s assistant managing editor, Schuyler Baehman.

Assuming the Grizzlies are out of town, what should I do in Memphis?
Dolich: Beale Street — so that you can see FedEx Forum turning into reality. You can also eat, drink and have one heck of a good time. The next day, when you get up at 11 o'clock, you should go to the National Civil Rights Museum, which is also downtown. When you're done there, go over to AutoZone Park. Many people view it as the finest minor league park in the country. However, having had experience in baseball, I think it is not that, it's a spectacular miniature major league park. You should get down to The Peabody [Hotel] to see the famous Peabody ducks.

What is your favorite TV show?
Dolich: "The Sopranos," without question. "NYPD Blue" is No. 2. I'm a big ESPN and HBO kind of guy.

“The Sopranos” top Dolich’s TV menu.

Are you watching "Playmakers"?
Dolich: Yes, I am (laughs).

Does it have you hooked?
Dolich: I don't know. I'm still looking for an episode that's actually different than the episode before it. I haven't quite seen that yet. It seems to be a story that is told repetitively, but they're not going in any kind of new, different direction. It's an incredible hyperbole on the business, which I guess you have to understand. I think that there is so much hyperbole, that it is losing its clout, or touch, or grasp of reality.

What CDs are in your car right now?

Not the former Chiefs receiver
Dolich: The Rippingtons, Anita Baker, Marc Anthony, Otis Taylor, not the receiver, the blues singer. I'm a big music lover, and in this marketplace it's great.

Have any thoughts on the Expos possibly relocating to Washington, D.C.?
Dolich: I'm having a difficult time understanding what the international strategy is between the Montreal-San Juan Expos, when it is clear that there is a very, very strong, untapped marketplace big enough for both teams in the Washington-Baltimore metro. It should have happened a long time ago. I still stay involved in Washington. I went to school there. I worked for Abe Pollin at the Cap Center. ... I have a difficult time understanding why it isn't "play ball" in Washington because it is the most logical place for baseball to be.

Were you a fan of sailing before you got involved in AmericaOne's America's Cup effort in 2000?
Dolich: I am a fan of anything that's on the water, or in the water, or under the water. I can't say that I sailed with Sir Thomas Lipton, or Ted Turner (laughs) or Dennis Conner, but I was really impressed by [CEO and skipper] Paul Cayard and his vision of what the America's Cup could be in San Francisco Bay. It was really a marketing vision for sailing, which I thought highly of, and still do. ... I'm much more of an ocean fisherman than I am a sailor.

What is your best catch?
Dolich: I fish in Mexico, a place called Rancho Buena Vista in Cabo. My largest catch there is a 200-pound yellowfin tuna. When I was in Vancouver, I caught a 275-pound sturgeon in the Fraser River. I'm a catch-and-release guy unless I'm going to eat it.

Besides your own, what marketing efforts out there right now impress you, sports or non-sports?
Dolich: Consistency, quality, humor and reality are what is most important to me, and I've been a big fan of what Nike has done over the years. I have great respect for how ESPN has built all their multiple brands. Taking sport as part of our life, and not totally defining our life. And although I couldn't give you a specific example, I love watching the ad reels of the international Addys for what companies are doing in Asia and Europe because their view is if it ain't broke, break it. A lot of what we see here is so formularized that it becomes mind-numbing.

What is one piece of advice you would give to an executive in charge of relocating a franchise?
Dolich: Be a stockholder in Valium (laughs). You have to think in a 360-degree plane at all times. You're going to be focusing on a particular market, but you can't necessarily fall in love with what you're doing at that time if you have multiple opportunities. Try to think with your head and not your heart. Look at as much hard research as you can, but, more importantly, be in that market, get to know that market, talk to people in that market. That doesn't mean walking down Main Street with four camera crews, that means getting in your car and driving 80 miles out of the marketplace and see if anybody knows anything about your sport, or a building, or what you're trying to do, or what's important to them.

What are you most looking forward to in the new arena?
Dolich: What I've always looked for in sports, and I think what has always been my ultimate attraction to the business, is families, all different types of families in today's world — which are defined more complicated than ever before; it's not Ozzie and Harriet and David and Ricky. Professional sports and new stadiums and arenas, to me, represent a last town square left in our society. It will be a place where people of all backgrounds, economic strata, all age groups can actually be in one place and sort of speak the same language. Where else in modern society can you sit 15 rows in, buy $22.50 worth of food, hand $40 worth of bills down, get perfect change, and everybody says "please" and "thank you"? Where would that ever happen in society?

When in Memphis, don’t miss the ducks.

Have any advice for a young sports exec?
Dolich: Look for disaster. In that, I mean that most people that I talk to that are coming out of these sports management programs that I was a graduate of, they write letters to teams or entities that have just won a championship or just been on the cover of some magazine. Find out where there is chaos. Find out where people are getting canned. Find out where people are running away from. That's where you want to go. A place that I call a human Cuisinart. That will give you the opportunity to do many things as opposed to saying, "Wow, I'm the third administrative assistant to the CEO of a team that's won three back-to-back championships." You're never going to get any responsibility except for putting a stamp on an envelope. Look for disaster, find chaos, have a great sense of humor and be a generalist, don't be somebody that's focused on the salary cap or just a writing ability, or that you want to be a broadcaster. If you can generate revenue in this business today, you will find a career.

For our complete discussion with Andy Dolich, visit our sister publication, The Sports Business Daily, at www.sportsbusinessdaily.com.

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