Tuesday, September 25, 2007

New Gameshow: Name that Owner!

As Chip, Zack and myself were wrapping up our roundtable discussion on our predictions for the NBA and the Grizzlies (coming soon to a blog post near you), an interesting topic came up. Through a roundabout way, we began questioning why it was that owners who are in the news are typically the "bad owners" in the NBA. There are some exceptions, with Mark Cuban (Mavericks) and the Maloofs (Kings) being the two most obvious examples, but by and large, if people know the name of your owner, chances are he's not in the upper echelon of ownership rankings. Who are the owners of the Spurs, Suns or Pistons? Anyone know? Bueller?

Let's take a look at the owners most serious NBA fans can name right off the bat, excluding the two we already mentioned. George Shinn (Hornets), Donald Sterling (Clippers), Clay Bennett (Sonics), James Dolan (Knicks), Jerry Buss (Lakers), Herb Kohl (Bucks), Glen Taylor (T'Wolves), Michael Heisley (Grizzlies), Jerry Reinsdorf (Bulls), Larry Miller (Jazz) and Paul Allen (Blazers). For a full list of NBA owners, go to the list compiled by the always helpful Hoopshype. Of the guys on that list, which ones own teams that (1) belong in the upper half of the NBA, (2) haven't allowed incompetence to remain in their organization and (3) haven't suffered as a result of the owner's insistence in either meddling in basketball issues or being in the news for the wrong reason? Well, by my count, we can take Herb Kohl, Larry Miller, Paul Allen and Jerry Reinsdorf off that list using that criteria, although Reinsdorf only gets a pass because Jerry Krause is perceived to be at fault for the dismal years the Bulls suffered through after their dismantling following the second three-peat. Ok, so now we have a list we can dissect.

George Shinn (New Orleans Hornets) -- #1 on my list because he has worked hard to set the bar high in alienating fans in not just one, but two cities. He's willing to spend money, which is something others won't do, but he's also a thorn in commissioner David Stern's side, having forced a move from Charlotte after doing his best to convince fans not to show up to support the hometown team. He's the poster boy for Bad Owners.

Donald Sterling (L.A. Clippers) -- He's finally decided to start spending some money on his team, after decades of feeding off the fact that not all of the actors/actresses, agents, power brokers, wannabe's in Los Angeles could score tickets to the Lakers and partook of the Clip Joint in order to see the NBA in action. It's hard to feel too sorry for Clippers' fan, with it being so blatantly obvious that Sterling was a cheapskate, but that doesn't exonerate him from being a bad owner. Especially when he commits the cardinal sin of becoming newsworthy in a tabloid sense.

James Dolan (N.Y. Knicks) -- You know what, just read this...and this...and this...and this. David Stern would love to throw this guy out of the league for all of eternity -- I can guarantee that. That doesn't even cover the incompetence he's allowed by his last two GM's either. Wonder if he'll manage to outlast Isiah in New York?

Clay Bennett (Seattle Supersonics) -- Has shot near the top of the "Bad Owners" rankings with his abrupt about-face concerning the Sonics' remaining in the Pacific Northwest. It went from a statement of hope last September to the current turmoil of a possible move to Las Vegas, Oklahoma City or who knows what other location he might come up with. Nothing like lying to an entire region with a straight face to cement your place among the most reviled in NBA ownership.

Jerry Buss (L.A. Lakers) -- So far, he has meddled in team affairs and been featured in the news for bad behavior. But, unfortunately, it would be impossible for him to alienate his fanbase, so we'll have to settle for two out of three, I guess. I don't know that he's a bad owner, per se, but he's been visible for all the wrong reasons, which is bad for an organization.

Glen Taylor (Minnesota Timberwolves) -- He doesn't make the gossip sheets and he stays out of team affairs as much as possible, so he's this close to being a good owner. But, alas, he continues to allow Kevin McHale to run basketball operations, which has been steadily dragging this franchise down, eventually costing the team its star player -- and subsequently its drawing power -- this past offseason with the trade of Kevin Garnett to Boston. McHale should have been fired long ago, after the Joe Smith fiasco, but Taylor continues to employ him, allowing his incompetence to flourish, because he doesn't think there is someone better out there. That's unfortunate for the fans in Minnesota, who deserve more than the mediocrity they have been given for the majority of their existence.

Michael Heisley (Memphis Grizzlies) -- If you're reading this blog, you were probably waiting for this entry in particular. Heisley used to say and do all the right things, from being visible at the games in his courtside seat to allowing his basketball personnel to make decisions and spend money where necessary. However, when he decided to limit Jerry West's authority in terms of player acquisitions and trades, he stepped over the line that owners should recognize as a necessary boundary. Then he announced the team was for sale and allowed a farcical offer to seem legitimate before allowing the NBA to shoot it down, throwing a wet blanket over an already dismal season. He has faded to the background for now, but something tells me that once the team shows some success again, he'll announce the team is on the market again, creating uncertainty throughout the organization for another season. I hope that is not the case, but experience tells me to expect something along those lines.

I would have added in the Atlanta ownership group, but their fans have suffered through enough horrors without me detailing it, so for once, I'll pull a punch. I think we've been able to illustrate that well-known owners are far-too-often known for the wrong reasons in today's NBA. If you're a fan of one of the teams I've listed above, just know that I feel your pain. If your team wasn't listed above, consider yourself one of the lucky ones, as you don't have to deal with the issues the rest of us face as fans of teams with bad owners. Count your blessings and hope that your owner remains in the background, signing the checks, but allowing his basketball people to make the decisions he pays them to while keeping them in line, and doing his best to stay out of the news and off of Sportscenter.

1 comment:

Ryan Schwan said...

As a Hornets fan, I wish I could argue with you about Shinn - but I can't. He's laughably inept at times.

I will point out that though you have Glen Taylor on your list, you've missed the number one reason he should be on the list - and probably #1 overall. His name was on the illegal contract given to Joe Smith - the contract that cost the Timberwolves 4 first round draft picks and made it near impossible to surround KG with young talent.

I'm sorry - giving someone an illegal contract is bad, but putting it on paper and signing it?