Saints Owner TOM BENSON tops the New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE's list of the "most powerful and influential people on the South Louisiana sports scene" for the third consecutive year. In recent years, Benson "has silenced critics by putting a winning product on the field and becoming one of the leading local philanthropists." SMG Senior VP DOUG THORNTON ranks No. 2 on the list, up five spots from last year. SMG "manages the Superdome -- which just had more than $336 million in renovations since Hurricane Katrina wrecked it in 2005 -- the adjacent New Orleans Arena and several other local sports properties." Since joining the company in '97, Thornton "has become a vital cog in the Louisiana sports landscape" (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 7/17). Louisiana Stadium & Exposition District Chair RON FORMAN said Thornton is a "top asset for the state to have." Forman: "For Doug, this is not a job. It's just who Doug is. He lives sports. He goes 24 hours a day, full speed" (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 7/17).
MOST INFLUENTIAL SOUTH LOUISIANA SPORTS FIGURES
Saints Owner Tom Benson
SMG Senior VP Doug Thornton
Saints QB Drew Brees
Hornets G Chris Paul
Saints coach Sean Payton
Saints Exec VP & GM Mickey Loomis
LSU football coach Les Miles
Hornets Chair Jac Sperling
Cox Sports Television VP/Regional Sports Rod Mickler
Allstate Sugar Bowl CEO Paul Hoolahan
LSU AD Joe Alleva
Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation President & CEO Jay Cicero
Saints co-Owner & Exec VP Rita Benson LeBlanc
Saints Exec VP & CFO Dennis Lauscha
Hornets President Hugh Weber
Hornets GM Dell Demps
Hornets coach Monty Williams
LSED Chair Ron Forman
Tulane Univ. AD Rick Dickson
Tulane Dir of Sports Law Gabe Feldman
Fitness trainer Mackie Shilstone
Fitness trainer Duke Rousse
LSU Board of Supervisors Athletic Committee Chair Stanley Jacobs
LSU running backs coach and recruiting coordinator Frank Wilson
Maloof Sports & Entertainment and the NBA Kings promoted JOHN RINEHART to Exec VP/Business Operations and CRAIGAMAZEEN to Senior VP/Broadcasting & Brand Development. Also, the Kings have hired NBA Senior Dir of Business Development JEFF DAVID as Senior VP/Sales & Marketing (MSE).
EXECS: The MLS Crew named Rays Senior Dir of Group & Suite Sales CLARK BEACOM VP/Ticket Sales (Crew)....VF Licensed Sports Group has promoted KEN WOOD and MIKE PARDINI to VP/Sales (VF Licensed Sports Group)....The Texans promoted Assistant Dir of College Scouting MIKE MACCAGNAN to Dir of College Scouting (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 7/19)....NASCAR Media Group named EVAN PARKER Dir of Entertainment Integration Development (NASCAR)....The MLL Ohio Machine named MEGAN DANNER PR & Operations Dir (THE DAILY)....The Duquesne Univ. athletics department named NICOLE IMBROGNO Assistant Dir of Marketing & Promotions (Duquesne)....Illinois Gov. PAT QUINN has appointed four new members to the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority BOD: Former Chicago Federation of Labor President DENNIS GANNON; Former Illinois Gaming Chair ELZIE HIGGINBOTTOM; former state Senate President EMIL JONES JR. and attorney MANUEL SANCHEZ (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 7/19).
MLB Rangers President & CEO NOLAN RYAN was "released from a Houston hospital this morning" (DALLASNEWS.com, 7/19). Ryan had been in the hospital since Sunday "after experiencing what is believed to be a recurrence of the heart condition for which he has previously been treated." Ryan "experienced discomfort Sunday morning at his home." A series of heart-related tests yesterday "showed no new problems, and Ryan will continue to be treated medically" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 7/19). Ryan "had a double-bypass operation in 2000 and has a family history of heart disease" (ESPNDALLAS.com, 7/18).
ILLEGAL DEFENSE: U.S. District Court Judge SIDNEY FITZWATER yesterday ruled that Mavericks Owner MARK CUBAN "can't argue that a Securities and Exchange Commission insider-trading lawsuit against him should be blocked because of what he calls government misconduct." Fitzwater "granted the SEC's motion to strike Cuban's 'unclean hands' defense," saying that it is "available 'only in strictly limited circumstances,' and Cuban hadn't met an 'exacting standard' for it to be applied." LYLE ROBERTS, Cuban's attorney, called the issue "a minor legal skirmish" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 7/19).
HOCKEY HANDICAPPERS: The NATIONAL POST's Sean Fitz-Gerald profiled BRAD LEEB, who has "invested thousands in his website, betonhockey.com, with the hope it becomes a destination for sports bettors seeking handicapping for professional hockey games." The site "does not accept bets, but it does provide links to several sports books." Leeb and former NHLer JIMMY WAITE are "among those providing counsel, and breaking down matchups" (NATIONAL POST, 7/16).
NAMES: Former boxer PETER BUCKLEY will be the subject of the forthcoming film, "THE UNTITLED PETER BUCKLEY PROJECT."Buckley, who "refused to quit despite losing 256 of his 300 career fights, a record that earned him the dubious distinction as 'the worst boxer of all time,'" retired in '08 "with a victory in his 300th career fight." ALEX DAVIDSON is "currently writing the script" for the film (VARIETY.com, 7/18)....The NHL is a finalist for the '11 Beyond Sport Awards in the categories of Sport for Environment and Federation of the Year (NHL)....The John McEnroe Tennis Academy announced that more than $300,000 was raised from last Thursday’s World TeamTennis match between the New York Sportimes and Philadelphia Freedoms, which included a singles matchup between McEnroe and BJORN BORG. The funds will benefit the Johnny Mac Tennis Project (WTT)….MLB Cardinals GM JOHN MOZELIAK since mid-October has “dropped 32 pounds, from 227 to 195.” Mozeliak “hits the gym on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays for 60 minutes." He said, ”I was stuck in neutral. As you get older, neutral is backwards” (ST. LOUIS BUSINESS JOURNAL, 7/15 issue).