Lakers Exec VP/Business Operations Jeanie Buss in her first comments since the passing of late team Owner Jerry Buss four months ago "provided several revealing tidbits on the state of the Lakers' franchise," according to Mark Medina of the L.A. DAILY NEWS. Buss said of her fiancé Basketball HOFer Phil Jackson, "My message to Lakers fans is Phil is a part of the organization because of me." Buss when asked if she wanted Jackson to have an official position with the team said, "I think we're in good hands with our front office." She added of Lakers Exec VP/Player Personnel Jim Buss and GM Mitch Kupchak, "Jim and Mitch know Phil is a phone call away." Kupchak "confirmed Jackson's revelation that they talked 'in the past couple of weeks' about unspecified issues concerning the Lakers." Jackson has said that he "would've had a front office role had Seattle investor Chris Hansen successfully brokered a deal to buy" the Kings (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 6/20). ESPN L.A.'s Arash Markazi reported Kupchak "did not rule out the possibility of Jackson's having a more official role with the team moving forward after Jackson has passed up several opportunities with other teams." Jim Buss and Kupchak "handle the basketball decisions of the Lakers, which was the wish" of Jerry Buss "before he died." There had been "some feeling that it would be hard for Jackson to work with Jim Buss." But Jackson said that is "not the case and he has no issues with Buss but admitted he doesn't have much of a relationship with his future brother-in-law" (ESPNLA.com, 6/19).
WNBA Sky Owner Michael Alter has "rarely experienced failure" in his business and philanthropic endeavors, but owning the team has "given him a taste of it," according to Keith Griffith of CHICAGOGRID.com. The franchise, which he founded in '05, "is the only WNBA team that’s never made the playoffs." Although attendance has "inched upward each year, last year’s average crowd of 5,500 ranked third-to-last in the WNBA." He said, "It’s been a lot harder than I thought it was going to be. I feel determined to make it successful, but I haven’t yet in the major measures -- we haven’t been successful on the court, and we haven’t been profitable yet." Part of the Sky's trouble "emanates from its struggles on the court -- the team has yet to finish a season above .500." Alter before this season can "only recall one local sports columnist attending a Sky game in seven years." Alter "hadn’t heard of the league until 2004, when he attended the NBA’s All-Star Game" in L.A. as a guest of NBA Deputy Commissioner & COO Adam Silver. Alter "sees the Sky as a business, but also as a way to engage the community." He said, "I want to demonstrate that you can take something that has civic importance and make a successful business out of it." Alter has "made significant strides toward achieving that goal this season." Attendance through the first five games is "up 15 percent and sponsorship revenue is up 20 percent." At the "center of the uptick" is interest in Sky F Elena Delle Donne. Team President & CEO Adam Fox believes that growth will "beget more growth." He said, "This is something that’s going to get built over time." Alter's team expenses compared to those of his NBA counterparts "aren't eye-popping." WNBA payroll is "capped at $900,000," and his non-basketball staff is "lean, at around 20." Alter: "I feel really good about where we're at" (CHICAGOGRID.com, 6/20).
ONE OF A KIND: USA TODAY's Scott Gleeson wrote Mercury C Brittney Griner's "formula of openness gives the league, in many ways still seeking an identity with the American public, a star who's highly unpredictable yet uniquely marketable." Mercury Owner Robert Sarver said, "I think you're seeing more guys who are basketball fans purchasing tickets and watching WNBA games because of Brittney." Former WNBA President Val Ackerman said, "She's certainly a once-in-a-generation type of player, and she has the opportunity to elevate the visibility of the WNBA in a completely new way" (USATODAY.com, 6/17).
The GLOBE & MAIL's David Shoalts writes Renaissance Sports & Entertainment's proposed deal with the NHL to buy the Coyotes "hinges on an arena lease, but it does look like the deal will not be ready in time for a council vote at its next public meeting on June 25." Glendale "needs to finalize its 2013-14 budget by July 1, and the NHL needs to get its 2013-14 schedule out around the same time." Neither has "issued a deadline but realistically cannot let things drag out much past the first week in July." If the Coyotes "need to be moved quickly, then Seattle and Quebec City are the only possible locations" (GLOBE & MAIL, 6/20).
LOYAL TO A FAULT? In Buffalo, Jerry Sullivan writes it "had to be tough for disillusioned fans" of the Sabres, the "ones who believe [GM Darcy Regier] should be replaced, to hear that [Owner Terry Pegula] still has an unqualified belief in his GM." Pegula "doesn't see Regier as the problem but as the perfect man to lead the Sabres out of the wilderness." Pegula "tries to come off as some folksy regular guy." Sullivan: "But what I've detected lately is an aloof arrogance, a disdain for anyone who dares question how he runs his hockey team. It's not Regier who is the problem, it's the nasty media that keeps poking holes in the operation. I'm convinced that one of the reasons Pegula has dug in on Regier is he doesn't want the critics to be right" (BUFFALO NEWS, 6/20).
FEATHERING THEIR NEST: In Philadelphia, Les Bowen cites an Eagles spokesperson as saying that "about 130,000 free tickets to the five training camp dates at Lincoln Financial Field have been distributed in the first 2 days since they became available." Originally, only the lower bowl "was designated, but today the team made 6,500 upper-bowl seats available, and said it will continue opening up sections as needed" in the 69,144-seat venue (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 6/20).
SKY BALKER: Triple-A PCL Colorado Springs Sky Sox President & GM Tony Ensor said that the team "is not leaving the city." Ensor yesterday said, "There is definitely no chance the Sky Sox will leave Colorado Springs." In Colorado, Joe Paisley reports Ensor's comments came "in response to a statement" by Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach on Tuesday "when he said he thought the city is in danger of losing the franchise without a new stadium." Bach has "led the charge for a new multiuse downtown building" (Colorado Springs GAZETTE, 6/20).