Thursday, December 10, 2009

Hands On Ownership

Mike DiMauro of the out of New London, Connecticut writes that the problem with the Sacramento Monarchs was its absentee ownership:

The WNBA did not - and does not - need owners who feign interest in their franchises. It's still a problem. Some owners supported shrinking roster sizes from 13 to 11 last season, a move that crippled teams beset with injuries.

Some owners are responsible for the recent decision, as reported in the Seattle Times, to limit coaching staffs to one head coach and one assistant.

Let's be clear on this: Owners who spend more time cutting jobs than finding new and creative revenue streams (as some franchises did last summer) should get rid of their franchises forthwith. No, really. Get out. It's OK. Clearly, you tolerate your teams at best. So dump them. And then don't let the doorknob leave a lasting impression.

I don't know if I'm willing to throw out all co-owners of NBA and WNBA teams from the WNBA just yet, but I can see DiMauro's point.

I've been reading Terry Pluto's "Loose Balls" - the history of the old American Basketball Association - and I recommend it strongly to anyone who loves the WNBA. The problems of "marginal sports" are many, and the ABA was definitely a marginal sport despite all the money poured into it. Teams faced a bevy of problems that had to be immediately dealt with.

The advantage of having an involved owner is that these problems can be dealt with promptly. Unless the owner has devolved his or her entire authority to the general manager, major decisions have to always go "one step up" and the subordinates are forced to wait for an answer from on-high. With involved owners, the answer comes back right away; with uninvolved owners, it might take a while to get permission or authority or whatever is needed. It's the difference between changing customer policy at Bob's Copy Shop and changing customer policy at a Kinko's franchise.

It wouldn't surprise me that the Maloofs were so uninvolved as WNBA owners that they didn't know that folding the franchise in December would cause a serious problem. And since they didn't care about the WNBA that much anyway, they didn't care about the consequences of their actions. In which case - yes, it is better that that Maloofs are no longer involved. The Maloofs are making some noise about owning a WNBA franchise again if the Great Recession lifts; let's hope that's just thunder without lightning.

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