Dick Parsons, the interim CEO of the Los Angeles Clippers, arrived in Los Angeles today and held a press conference concerning his role with the team. To restate what you already know, but just in case someone reading Clips Nation has been in a coma for the last few weeks, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver named Parsons to run the business operations of the team in the aftermath of the scandal that resulted in the lifetime ban of Clippers owner Donald Sterling. After Sterling's ban was handed down, club president Andy Roeser (Sterling's longtime right hand man) was placed on indefinite leave of absence by the league, leaving the business side of the team without anyone in charge.
Parsons mentioned one item on his impressive resume that I had forgotten previously: he was CEO of Time Warner when that company owned the Atlanta Hawks, making him essentially a former NBA owner. Time Warner didn't buy the Hawks outright -- they did buy Ted Turner's networks, and Turner owned the Hawks at the time. So Parsons has already been involved in NBA ownership in his career -- just one more reason that he's a good choice.
Parsons handled the press conference with aplomb as you would expect. At one point he said he was here to "Turn some of the burners off under the situation, not to turn the heat higher" -- and he seems determined to live by those words. He handled questions of Donald and Shelly Sterling diplomatically, while at the same time leaving little doubt that he fully expects the NBA to prevail in their course of action and that there will be a change in ownership.
He stated that he felt that legal action was in no one's interests. He's right of course -- if either Sterling decides to take the NBA to court, they will almost certainly lose, and it will cost them a lot of money and cause further damage to their reputations. I have serious doubts as to whether any of that matters to DTS: his lack of self-awareness is awe-inspiring and it's not as if his reputation can suffer that much more anyway. If he does not sue I'll be pleased -- but also shocked.
Shelly Sterling on the other hand is in an interesting position. Parsons repeated the NBA's position that Donald Sterling and "anyone associated with him" would be forced out. He also stated an obvious point: NBA teams frequently have "lots of owners" and if the Board of Governors pursues action against the primary owner, they should not have to pursue the action against everyone in the ownership group. To the NBA, Donald Sterling is the owner and forcing him out of the league means a full change of ownership.
So Shelly will certainly not be allowed to remain an owner without a fight. She is no saint, but nor is she Donald Sterling. If she were to handle this well -- to back away, take her massive profits from a sale and continue to attend games as a long time fan, she might actually be embraced by the community of Clippers fans. If she decides to try to fight this in court, she'll lose -- and in the process make herself as hated as her husband. Hopefully she's smarter than that.
Parsons tried to clear up some questions about his role. He used the term "proxy owner" as an alternative to "interim CEO" at one point. The implication being that he will behave as the owner until the sale, given that the existing owner is banned. He explained that the NBA, not the Clippers, is paying his salary. He also said somewhat facetiously that half of him reports to the other half -- his CEO role will essentially report to his owner role. The situation of running a franchise for a banned owner is unprecedented, so obviously there are going to be some things that need to be worked out. It's a strange situation, but Parsons seems fully equipped to handle it. He is who we thought he was: he's a heavy hitter in the world of top flight executives, he knows a LOT of people (including, according to him, all of the parties who have been rumored to have interest in buying the team), and this isn't his first rodeo. The Clippers and the NBA a lucky that he was available and willing to take on this task.
Parsons has said that he will only be involved in the business side of the team and will leave all basketball decisions to Doc Rivers and his staff, but when asked what will happen in those situations where the business side and the basketball side overlap (most notably at the luxury tax line) he did not provide a specific answer. The short answer is that he wants to let Rivers do his job, and that's a good impulse -- but will Doc have carte blanche to venture deep into the luxury tax next season, if that's what he chooses to do? We just don't know the answer at this point.
Pointing out how the country loves a redemption story, Parsons wondered aloud if the Clippers might become "America's team if we get this right." It's an interesting thought -- one entirely inconceivable three years or even three months ago.