The Trail Blazers on Saturday announced that President Larry Miller has resigned. With his departure, basketball operations will report through GM Neil Olshey and business operations will report through COO Sarah Mensah. The search for Miller's replacement will begin immediately (Trail Blazers). In Portland, Jason Quick noted Miller "had two years remaining on his contract with the Blazers." He will "rejoin Nike later this summer as president" of Jordan Brand, the same title he held from '99-06. Miller was an "understated leader who preferred to stay out of the limelight while allowing his employees to do their jobs." His style "improved morale and bridged a divide between the front office and fan base after the rigid and confrontational reign of Steve Patterson, his predecessor." Miller also "served on the NBA board of governors in owner Paul Allen's stead, and was on the labor committee during the negotiations for the league's new collective bargaining agreement." He drew "criticism in the past year when his role was expanded to include more say in the basketball operations of the franchise in the wake of the firing" of GM Rich Cho. During the GM vacancy, Miller "became the voice of the franchise, a role with which he was uncomfortable." His specialty "was numbers and finance ... and during his tenure, the Blazers books became stabilized" (OREGONLIVE.com, 7/7). NBA.com's David Aldridge notes Miller "came to Portland at a time of great financial turmoil for the franchise, and helped to get that stopped." However, he also "was in the middle of internal conflicts between the team's ownership group and the basketball people, and that never really stopped." Aldridge: "The handwriting was on the wall when the Blazers hired Neil Olshey from the Clippers to run the basketball side; he wasn't Miller's choice. But Larry is a good guy who probably will do better back at Nike than having to be the public face of a sports franchise" (NBA.com, 7/9).
BACK TO BASICS:In Portland, John Canzano wrote since Bob Whitsitt left the job of president and GM in '03, the Blazers "have not been about basketball." The Blazers have "been first about marketing, ticket sales and sponsorships," and "ideally, you get those things." Canzano: "But when you allow the business to drive the basketball instead of the other way around, we've learned, you don't have the chance to meet potential." Successful sports franchises "are smart enough to understand that business has its place, and that spot is trailing comfortably in the wake of a winning basketball team that plows deep into the hearts of a community, opening doors and paving opportunities." Olshey is "a basketball-first guy." It is "incumbent upon Allen to find a president who is also a basketball-first person." Canzano: "Let the basketball drive the business again" (Portland OREGONIAN, 7/8).
Padres Chair John Moores has selected the O’Malley family "to purchase the club," according to a source cited by Ken Rosenthal of FOXSPORTS.com. The source said that the deal -- valued at $800M, including $200M "for a portion of the team’s equity stake in FOX Sports San Diego -- is pending approval by baseball and completion of contractual terms within the next two weeks." Liquid Investments Chair & CEO Ron Fowler "will be the point man for the group at the request" of Peter O’Malley’s nephew, Peter Seidler. Seidler and his brother Tom "will be members of the group," along with O’Malley’s sons, Kevin and Brian. Golfer Phil Mickelson "also will be an investor" (FOXSPORTS.com, 7/7). In San Diego, Bill Center cited sources as saying Friday that the O'Malley group "continues to negotiate the purchase of the Padres, although no agreement will be reached before the end of the All-Star break." A source said, "The sale is advancing, but it’s nowhere close to being completed. Some details of the negotiations have slid backwards. But overall, there continues to be progress toward an agreement in a very complicated transaction." One source said that an agreement "looked imminent" early last week but "could be at least 10 days away now." The negotiations are "complicated" by Moores "being out of the country on vacation." Moores owns 50.68% of the team, while the minority group put together by Vice Chair Jeff Moorad in '09 to purchase the Padres owns 49.32% percent. When the sale is completed, "some of the minority partners will be joining the O’Malley Group" (UTSANDIEGO.com, 7/6).
NEW INVESTMENT: Also in San Diego, Kevin Acee wrote when the sale is completed, "we’ll still have questions regarding what the O’Malleys are all about," but fans will "know we have an engaged ownership group." Padres RF Mark Kotsay said, "You know what you're getting from the O'Malleys. It brings to rest the uncertainty and questions. We can get a clearer picture now." Kotsay is the "only Padre who was in the majors when the O’Malley brothers’ father and Peter and Tom Seidler’s mother" sold the Dodgers in '97. Padres P Huston Street said, "Everyone wants someone committed to winning. You see that in signings -- or not." Acee wrote, "The players are not saying Moores was not engaged. But I will. I haven't talked to the man in more than 10 years, and there weren't many words, at that. The only evidence I need is his lack of investment, a team that has the lowest payroll in baseball and has been in the bottom four for four straight years" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 7/7).
MLS Impact President Joey Saputo “admitted Friday that the team miscalculated the market when it established ticket prices for the team’s inaugural MLS season,” according to Pat Hickey of the Montreal GAZETTE. As a result, Saputo said that the Impact was “introducing a series of special promotions to boost the team’s sagging attendance.” Saputo: “My main concern is protecting the image of the team.” He said that high ticket prices "were one of the factors cited as a negative when the team canvassed its fans.” Saputo: “We’re targeting the 18-35 age group and there aren’t too many in that group who are going to pay $57 plus tax and the service charge which bring it up to $65.” Hickey wrote, “The Impact is hoping to lure fans with a variety of packages aimed at families and groups." Saputo said that “all the category 1-4 tickets for the July 24 international against Olympique Lyonnais will be priced at [C]$25 tax included.” Fans who have “already purchased tickets at a higher price will be credited for the difference.” There have been “fewer than 15,000 for three of their four games in the 20,000-seat Saputo Stadium” (Montreal GAZETTE, 7/6).
EXPANSION PROSPECT? In N.Y., Jack Bell wrote the North American Soccer League’s San Antonio Scorpions, owned by former real estate developer Gordon Hartman, are “drawing an average of 8,000 fans a game to Heroes Stadium while Hartman’s privately financed soccer facility is being built.” The new stadium “will be ready for the 2013 NASL season.” Hartman said, “I have not talked to [MLS Commissioner] Don Garber, but I am building a soccer stadium. ... I believe you have to do it in a crawl-walk-run approach. The Saputos put in the money up in Montreal but did not do it in one year. Neither should we. We will continue to build our fan base and hope it leads to MLS. But there’s no way it’s set in our expectations” (N.Y. TIMES, 7/7).
Marlins President David Samson before yesterday's Cardinals-Marlins game spoke about the team's '12 attendance, the "disappointment of not having a Marlin named to the All-Star team to replace injured [RF] Giancarlo Stanton as well as frustration with the inconsistency of the team throughout the first half of the season," according to Craig Davis of the South Florida SUN-SENTINEL. Samson said of the team's attendance during its first year at Marlins Park, "It’s hard not to be happy averaging over 28,000 people, but we’d rather be at 32,000 to 35,000 people. I think the team did not help in that regard. ... It will respond based on performance, and right now our performance is just to the left of mediocre." He also "addressed issues such as problems with the grass at Marlins Park, attendance and the upcoming reality TV series 'The Franchise' featuring the Marlins that will debut Wednesday night on Showtime." Samson said of the Showtime series, "We promised to give them access to everything. We did that. They’re everywhere. When we did the trade for [1B] Carlos Lee, they’re there, when we sent players down, they’re there. They’re there when we trade players, when [we] talk about players." Nationals RF Bryce Harper will replace Stanton on the NL's All-Star Game roster, and Samson said, "I think there were a lot of different ways that Tony (La Russa) and MLB could have gone. I think it’s unfortunate. I think that every team should be represented on the line in an All-Star Game. ... Obviously MLB or Tony or whoever makes the decision had their own view of it, and it's certainly disappointing." Meanwhile, Samson said of the problems with the grass at Marlins Park, "The grass sort of reflects our season. It’s brown right now but getting greener. We’ve called agronomists, we’ve called voodoo people, we’ve called agriculturalists, we’ve called grounds crew people, we’ve called grass growers, we’ve called them all" (SUN-SENTINEL.com, 7/8).
SWIMMING ALONE: MLB.com's Joe Frisaro noted Samson "spoke with an MLB representative about the decision to not take another Miami player as a replacement." MLB "had no comment on Samson's remarks." When asked if he was given a reason why no Marlins replacement was selected, Samson replied, "I can't say that I had one" (MLB.com, 7/8). In West Palm Beach, Joe Capozzi noted the "shutout is shocking because the Marlins’ roster includes players with a combined 24 All Star nods." Samson said, “Listen, there’s nothing you can do about it except to say that I wish our guys would have ... I wish our first half would have gone differently, obviously" (PALMBEACHPOST.com, 7/8).