The NBA announced Friday that Dick Parsons, former chairman of Citigroup and Time Warner, has been appointed interim CEO of the Los Angeles Clippers.
With owner Donald Sterling serving a lifetime ban from all team and league activities, the NBA installed a leader who could supervise operations and make decisions for the franchise until ownership of the team changes hands.
“I believe the hiring of Dick Parsons will bring extraordinary leadership and immediate stability to the Clippers organization,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. “Dick’s credentials as a proven chief executive speak for themselves and I am extremely grateful he accepted this responsibility.”
In addition to his leadership roles with Citigroup and Time Warner, Parsons was once a managing partner of the law firm of Patterson, Belknap, Webb & Tyler and chairman and CEO of Dime Bancorp, Inc. Parsons served as member of President Barack Obama's economic advisory team. He also played basketball for the University of Hawaii before earning his law degree from Albany Law School in 1971.
Earlier this week, the NBA announced that Clippers president Andy Roeser was put on indefinite leave. Parsons will step in to help the Clippers run smoothly in the wake of the departure of the team's two most prominent leaders -- a necessity given that the fight to compel Sterling to sell could get both ugly and legally complicated. Sterling has a vested interest in delaying the sale as long as possible, so at the very least Parsons will be helpful in establishing vaguely normal working conditions in the interim. Parsons said on Friday that he will entrust all basketball decisions to senior vice president and head coach Doc Rivers, according to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com:
"Here's what I spoke to Doc about," Parsons said in an interview with ESPN. "When he went out there, as he put it to me, one of the factors was that the then-management said, 'We don't know that much about basketball. You come, you run the basketball operations, we'll run the business.'
"So that's where I am in my head about it. It's still going to be a partnership. At the end of the day, somebody is going to have to sign off on all these decisions and that'll be me, because I'll be the CEO. But I plan to make him a full-fledged partner in this.
"I said this to Doc explicitly, 'I haven't the foggiest idea of what to do in the draft.' I'm going to be looking to him to figure that out, and we'll work on this as partners.'"
Sterling, 80, has owned the Clippers for 33 years. Two weeks ago, TMZ released audio of a conversation in which Sterling can allegedly be heard scolding a female friend, V. Stiviano, for bringing African-Americans to Clippers games and for posting photos of herself and African-Americans, including Lakers legend Magic Johnson, to her Instagram account. On April 29, Silver fined Sterling $2.5 million and banned him from attending NBA games, practices and the Clippers' facilities and making personnel decisions. Two days later, the NBA's 10-member advisory/finance committee voted unanimously to pursue Silver's plan to oust Sterling and complete an ownership change.
A three-quarters majority vote of the league’s owners -- 22 out of the other 29 -- is required to force out Sterling. Kings owner Vivek Ranadive said he expects unanimous support from his colleagues to oust Sterling.
Complicating matters further, Sterling's wife, Shelly, says she has no plans to sell the team and believes her husband's lifetime ban does not apply "to me or my family." She was consulted on and approved of Parsons' appointment, calling him "an ideal choice to run the franchise until the ownership issues are clarified," according to ESPN.com.
ESPNLA.com reported last week that Clippers coach Doc Rivers called a meeting of staff members, who were understandably shaken by Sterling's comments and the franchise's uncertain future.
"It was really hard to see them," Rivers said. "I didn't realize. Ticket people and marketing people, they're sitting there crying and I felt so bad for them. I was thinking, 'My gosh, we've been in this thing as players and as coaches but you forget these are the people that are on the front line.' They work for the organization, too. You just felt so bad for them today. You're sitting there and they were sharing some of the calls they had. They didn't know the story was breaking and when it broke, like we said, there's no playbook for this." Rivers has not committed to remaining with the Clippers next season, even though he is under contract as both a coach and front-office executive after arriving from the Celtics last summer.