Disconnect Between Pacers and Indianapolis Is Widening by kentsterling
September 16, 2010, 4:06 pm
Filed under: Indiana Pacers, Kent Sterling | Tags: , , , ,

by Kent Sterling

An interview in today’s Indianapolis Star with Clark Kellogg contained a quote that taken out of context would bother the newest Pacers vice president (of player relations). He said, “He’s 20 years old, taking that into consideration. You try to help these guys deal with the bumps they run into because of poor choices and other issues.”

The only bumps belong to Stephenson’s girlfriend, and they are on her head after allegedly having it tossed down a flight of ten stairs and then – again allegedly – wrapping her head into the bottom step.

That is violence against a woman, and I don’t give a shit how much of Herb Simon’s money Pacers president Larry Bird has promised this kid, who currently leads all NBA players in felony charges compiled per year of life.

The Pacers, according to Kellogg, have required Stephenson to attend therapy sessions. That’s quite a statement about one of their employees who by the grace of God didn’t paralyze or kill his girlfriend.

At the end of the interview, Kellogg said, “As some of the folks around the office said, ‘Welcome Tao public relations.”. Is that was Kellogg’s job is? I thought his title was director of player relations, meaning that it’s Kellogg’s job to help the players deal with the challenges a sudden infusion of cash and status bring to those who never had either.

The Pacers do new players a total disservice when they come to the team by setting them up with their apartmentsand all related housekeeping issues – electricity, phone, cable, etc… When the players leave basketball, they have never done anything for themselves and are completely incapable of running their own lives.

When Austin Croshere was drafted and met with the Pacers for the first time, he and his dad were told that the Pacers would take care of all that stuff – finding an apartment and the rest. Croshere’s dad spoke up, “No, my son will take care of all that for himself.”

How can a kid become an adult if everything is done for him? How about someone from the front office teaching the rookies to look for a place, call the electric company, DirecTV, gas, and water. Call the electric company for a boy, he can read tonight. Teach him to call for himself and he can read at night forever.

With guaranteed contracts and the constant coddling of young players, the NBA has created a culture of fools who have no idea how to live their lives. They are no held emotionally accountable for their errors in judgment, that occasionally have casualties.

How Kellogg will have a profound effect on the lives of the Pacers players is anyone’s guess as he lives three hours to the east in Columbus, but as long as this is PR and not mentoring, I suppose it doesn’t matter. Kellogg is a genuinely good guy whose heart is in the right place, even if that is 170 miles and a state away.

This isn’t a Kellogg issue. It’s management, or a lack thereof. Throwing money at problems seems to be the only arrow in the Pacers’ quiver. Problem = hire a vice president. That way everyone can point to the new guy as the solution.

My personal solution is the same as a fellow with whom I had lunch today, just stay the hell out of Conseco Fieldhouse until the challenges of dealing with an employee who throws a woman down a flight of stairs are met with serious repercussions and consequences enacted by a serious man. Clearly, he isn’t on the payroll yet.

That’s a promise I’ll keep.

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Indiana Pacers – What Is the “Promise”? by kentsterling

by Kent Sterling

Like clubbing a baby seal, being cynical about the Indiana Pacers isn’t a lot of fun.  Remembering a time when listening or watching a Pacers game was an appointment worth making is like reminiscing about a suddenly slowing grandparent.

Each year, the Pacers trot out a marketing campaign designed to convince fans that this year will be different.  A couple of years ago, I think, it was “Believe”.  Well, anyone who brought in didn’t for too long.  This year, the billboards read “Passion. Pride. New Promise”.

The first rule of marketing is to tell the truth, but that goes out the window if the product is not so good.  No one throws up a billboard that reads, “New Year, Same Shit!”  While that would be funny, and the advertiser would earn points for honesty, it probably wouldn’t prompt people to use the product.

Digging deeper into the Pacers new marketing campaign on their website, there is another slogan, “Protect the Promise”.  There are pictures of five Pacers – Paul George, Danny Granger, Roy Hibbert, Tyler Hansbrough, and Darren Collison – and upon clicking their image, you get to read their promise.  I would prefer to see a video of them making their promise, because frankly, I don’t believe these promises were made by anyone other than a guy or girl in the Pacers marketing department.

Hibbert and Hansbrough’s promises are eerily similar.  Hibbert’s in part is, “…we’re ready to protect the promise to our fans of making every game a great experience.”  Hansbrough, “I’m excited to protect the promise by giving Pacers fans a great experience every game.”  Maybe Roy and Tyler collaborated on their answer.

Then, the Pacers did something very smart.  Instead of allowing fans the freedom to craft their own promise, which might have resulted in some more creative, but decidedly less positive free-form promise of their own, fans are encouraged to select promises written by a franchise hoping to sell a few extra tickets like, “Bring my kids to a few games per month”, “Paint my face every game”, “Bring a friend to a Pacers game who has never attended a game”, “Bring a date to a game after dinner” (why it needs to be after dinner is anyone’s guess), “Attend more than ten games this season”, “I will watch every away game on TV”, “Hold one office outing at a Pacers game”, “Wear my Pacers jersey to work on Fridays” (presumably over their Colts jersey), “Take a client to a Pacers game once per month”, and “Bring my church/youth/scout group to a game”.

Throwing in the towel and telling fans to stay home until they start winning would get a lot of people fired, so that’s not an option, but this effort to make fans promise to pony up to watch what has been a substandard product for several years is the sort of ‘anything goes’ craziness that sent Andy Kaufman to a faith healer in the Philippines.

The Indiana Pacers are a major league franchise, for God’s sake.  Regardless of making fans vow through a Pacers-speak drop-down menu to support what has been an underperforming team, people are going to stay away until the on-court effort and results improve.  Winning = ticket sales.  Losing = empty seats.  That formula is immutable, except on the north side of Chicago where losing has become so intractable over 102 years that it’s become part of the charm of Cubs baseball.

It’s interesting to see those not on the website and billboards.  No Jeff Foster, Mike Dunleavy, T.J. Ford, and obviously no Brandon Rush, whose promise hopefully includes 12-steps and sobriety.  There is also no promise from coach Jim O’Brien or one of several presidents Larry Bird – both heading into the final year of their respective contracts.

The Pacers could make the promise with a straight face that they are going to be better.  Darren Collison and to a lesser degree James Posey are going to help.  A true point guard is a necessary piece of the puzzle for NBA success, and Collison showed great potential last year.  Hibbert has been working his ass off with Bill Walton.  He’s a solid offensive center who has hopefully developed a couple of tools that will allow him to defend without picking up fouls.

My promise is that I will give the Pacers a chance, like I do every year, to show me something.  I want to like them.  I want them to win.  And I want to be excited about going to games.  The people I know inside the front office are good people who work really hard.  I want the Pacers to win for them, so this eternal hell of trying to sell tickets to people who have no interest in buying them comes to an end.



Here We Go – Football Is Back by kentsterling

by Kent Sterling

Seasons change and so do I, you need not wonder why. no time for revolving doors … no time left for you,” the Guess Who.

What revolving doors have to do with the constant of time forging ahead is anyone’s guess, but Labor Day is when the sports season rolls over and watching TV on the weekends gets interesting again.  Pro and college football are back, camps for NBA teams will open before the end of the month, baseball gets interesting, and college hoops are right around the corner.

The Indianapolis Colts are trying to extend their record for consecutive 12-win seasons to an amazing eight, and their run of playoff appearances to nine straight.  Peyton Manning shoots for his fifth NFL MVP Award as the Colts return virtually everyone.  Going against them is a fallacy of the so-called Super Bowl curse – the loser has missed the playoffs the following year more often than not over the past decade – and the inevitability of age and bad breaks catching up with the Colts.

First up is a stiff test on the road against the Houston Texans next Sunday at 1 p.m.  Gary Kubiak’s squad seems each year to edge closer to excellence, but losses to the Colts have been a part of their routine since joining the NFL.

The Indiana Hoosiers are trying to take the next step toward earning a bowl berth more than once every 17 seasons.  They’ve closed the end zone and filled it with a weight room that is the largest in college athletics.  The scoreboard in the south end zone is huge, and coach Bill Lynch is hoping that his young defense develops quickly enough to keep opponents from filling it with scoring plays.

They soundly beat Towson, but even the Hoosiers should expect to crush them.  This week, they’re off, and then it’s on to Western Kentucky to battle the woeful Hilltoppers.  Then they host Akron before opening Big Ten play at home against Michigan at Memorial Stadium.  Four certain wins should bring a bowl berth within reach.  The bad thing about scheduling patsies in the four non-conference games is that a loss is crippling.  If the Hoosiers find a way to lose any of the remaining three, it would be almost certain career suicide for Lynch.

The Hoosiers need to fill that stadium, and fans aren’t going to brave the construction traffic on State Road 46 to watch a team that loses to Western, Akron, or Arkansas State.

Purdue is trying to find a way to creep into the upper-echelon of the Big Ten with Robert Marve – former Mr.Football in Florida.  Things didn’t get off to a great start Saturday as they were the first victim of Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly.  While the Fighting Irish are an outstanding opponent, the Boilermakers enter the patsy zone of their schedule this week as they host Western Illinois, Ball State, and Toledo over the next three weeks.

The Indiana Pacers are three weeks from opening camp, and with shiny new point guard Darren Collison, they have reason for a little optimism.  After winning only 32 games last year, the Pacers are ready to take a few chances with their roster.  Fans and the franchise have had next season circled for a few years because of the tonnage of contracts scheduled to expire after this season, but Larry Bird looks like, entering the final year of his contract, he is going to make moves to try to get the roster straightened out.

They still lack the superstar necessary to compete for a championship, but a trip to the playoffs is within reach, and that would bring some much-needed positive momentum for a fanbase that has largely moved on to attending events other than Pacers games.

Lance Stephenson and Brandon Rush have not helped matters through their foolish decisions.  Rush tested positive for pot a third time, and now faces a 10-game suspension.  Stephenson’s girlfriend wound up at the bottom of a staircase – either by falling or being shoved by Stephenson – and then allegedly had her head banged into a step by the very talented kid who turned 20 yesterday.  If convicted of the felony charges he faces, jail time is a virtual certainty.

If Tyler Hansbrough can battle back from whatever has caused his vertigo, that would help compensate for Rush and Stephenson’s prolonged absences.

Regardless of the successes and failures of the Indiana area teams, it’s going to be a hell of a lot more fun to watch than the endless meaningless and passionless Cubs games that have made this summer one of their worst in recent memory.  The Colts, Hoosiers, Boilers, and Pacers are going to make this an interesting fall, and I’m ready to enjoy some relevant competition.



Top Three Items on the Indiana Pacers To-Do List to Rebuild a Passionate Fan Base by kentsterling

by Kent Sterling

I like writing, but it’s hard when I am certain no one will read a post before I even start banging on a keyboard.  People seek out information they crave about brands meaningful in their lives.  The Pacers stopped being a member of that club in 2000.  But just as a lawyer might take a case pro bono, I will share an external an unbiased viewpoint to help them move forward.

It’s a shame that in this city filled with basketball lovers, people are completely bereft of passion for the Pacers.  Fortunately, sports fans are a fickle bunch, and what they are indifferent about today, they will embrace as their own tomorrow.  The Pacers front office has figured out it works the other way too.

There are ways out of the wilderness, and I would like to add that they must act quickly just to include some urgency, but it’s not true.  They can coast along clinging to the status quo for years if they like.  The Pacers will continue to sell tickets at a 14K per game clip because people in Indianapolis are proud and want to support their teams.  That few people use those tickets is an issue, but it won’t get worse anytime soon unless “Bang Bang” Tinsley and Jerwhine O’Neal come back to town.

The Pacers might as well as well start moving in the right direction though – it has to be more fun than standing pat.  Here are three moves they can make to start the process:

3 – Clean up the front office. In a counrty that only needs one president and vice president, the Pacers staff directory lists one CEO, two presidents, a COO, a CFO, a general manager, 13 vice presidents and 20 directors of various departments.  They list a total of 161 employees (including those managers listed above).  That’s one VP/Director or higher for every 3.1 employees.  Wowsers!  That’s a hell of a lot of chiefs, and not so many Indians.

I don’t want to get between anyone and Herb Simon’s money, but what kind of operation of 161 people has 13 VPs?  We all make mistakes, but Sam Perkins is still listed on pacers.com as the vice president in charge of player relations, and I know that he was fired months ago and replaced recently by Clark Kellogg, who should be perfect for the job.  Maybe they have already pared down the list of VPs as they have clearly not updated that directory in several months.

A spot check of those teams who list staff directories showed a maximum of six VPs.  The Bulls had a tremendous numbers of managers and directors.

Clearly, some form of front office restructuring is a good idea.

2 – Enjoy yourselves – This is a small issue, but back 10 or 12 years ago, the Pacers staff at Conseco really seemed to enjoy themselves.  They were always smiling and during the Pacers Foundation Golf Outing, everyone seemed to like each other and have a good time.  Now, the vibe is 180-degrees different.  I always envied their happiness. Now, I hope they hurry up and pay off their mortgages so they can reire because they look miserable.  Somehow, someway, the Pacers need to understand that what they do professionally needs to be enjoyable too.

1 – Go get a star. If you are a Pacers fan, whose jersey are you going to buy?  If your son loves basketball, who is their favorite players?  Danny Granger is a really nice guy, but people are not and will not flock to the gift store to buy Danny Granger jerseys.  The NBA, for better of worse, is a star-based universe and if you don’t have one, your franchise is on the outside looking in.

Actor and First Rate Wing-Man Richard Kind

This is the reason I would look for some kind of adjustment in the collective bargaining agreement to help keep stars from flocking to the same city.  No one has ever bought a ticket to see Chris Bosh, so let’s not pretend that the big three in Miami is anything more than the Big Two with a really tall wing-man.  LeBron and Dwyane are George Clooney and Brad Pitt in a singles bar, and Bosh is Richard Kind who gets to keep the fat girl company while they take the two pretty girls back to the room.  But I disgress.  With two superstars on the same team, there in one less star for another team, and one less road game with a personality big enough to fill an arena.

The Pacers need a face other than Larry Bird for the franchise.  There are a lot of people expressing dissatisfaction with Bird as a GM.  I read one article today ranking him 30th among the 30 NBA GMs.  I’m not sold on Bird being a problem.  He has a lot of work to do over the next year to prove that he has a long term vision for the franchise.  The cap problems are a valid excuse for the Pacers mediocre to poor seasons since The Brawl, but those problems will be gone as Troy Murphy, Mike Dunleavy, T.J. Ford, and Jeff Foster come off the books.

Bad contracts can kill a team’s chance to compete for years, and so the deals left undone are sometimes as important as the deals that get done.  Bird hasn’t done many, but that may allow him to use the next year to get things right and return the Pacers to a competitive level.

I keep hoping, but with each passing day, I feel illier for harboring that hope.



Sports From the Couch–Why Wait, Fire Bird Now by jshowal2

By Jeff Showalter

Your Indiana Pacers have been in complete and utter shambles for four straight years. Most observers claim the downfall of the blue and gold was the Malice in the Palace. That isn’t correct. The Pacers went into the following season as one of the favorites to win the NBA’s Eastern Conference despite losing Reggie Miller to retirement. The Pacers doom was created when Larry Bird was dumb enough to sit for a Sports Illustrated shoot with Ron Artest and having Rick Carlisle as head coach. Early in the year, Artest, flustered by the restrictive offense that cost Carlisle his job in Detroit, lashed out and asked to be traded. Bird suspended Artest until a trade could be attained. That trade led to the death of the Pacers. Bird’s wilting to an angry fan base and dealing difficult attitudes for choir boys has done nothing but make the resurrection of the once proud franchise almost impossible. Terrible draft choices in James White, Tyler Hansbrough and Shawne Williams has made it impossible for Bird’s team to gain any traction. Add in a head coach with a poor coaching resume in Jim O’Brien and you have the ingredients for a basketball team that is D.O.A.

There is only one way to fix the Pacers fortunes and the opportunity to fix the franchise opened itself up this week. Portlandowner, Paul Allen, in a decision that can only be seen as dumbfounding, fired GM Kevin Pritchard. All Pritchard did as GM was take a franchise destroyed by poor choices and bad attitudes, and return it to one of the elite franchises in the Western Conference. Well guess what? The Pacers have taken over the crown of once fabulously ran franchise that has fallen on difficult times and undermined by pathetic choices. It is time for the Pacers to get rid of Larry Bird and hire Kevin Pritchard as head of basketball operations. It is time for Larry Legend to go. NOW!

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Sports From the Couch: Views From the Couch by jshowal2

By Jeff Showalter

The NBA Draft is Thursday and that means another disaster by Larry Bird. The Pacers President of Basketball Operations said in a presser today that Pacers want to win now. That’s great and all but I have two really good questions. 1)Weren’t you trying to “win now” last year, or hell maybe the last few years. How’d that work out for you? 2) Exactly what moves have you made since being in charge leads anyone to believe you can make the moves to become a winner now? Now that Bird has decided the Pacers should win now, how does he go about it? Short of signing LeBron or D. Wade, there is ZERO chance of the Pacers being a winner in the 2010-11 season. In the words of that famous philosopher Butt-Head: You can’t polish a turd. The Pacers are a turd.

Golden State just dealt Corey Maggette to his God I don’t know nth team, Milwaukee for a couple of has beens. Guess who the Warriors are going to pick 6th? Gordon, I’d get ready for the high prices of the bay area housing market. Hayward will go in the top 9 for sure. If Golden State goes with Babbitt then Hayward goes 9th to Utah. That is good for the Pacers because Bird now will not have to listen to everyone when Gordon blows up next year because Bird can say Gordon wasn’t there at 10.

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Sports From the Couch–Views From the Couch by jshowal2

By Jeff Showalter

It’s another Tuesday edition of Views From the Couch and before we get started we want to tell Marlin Jackson, former Colt and new safety for the Philadelphia Eagles, to keep his head up and keep bangin’ away. Jackson blew his achilles out today in practice and is out for the season. This will be Marlin’s third season basically ruined in a row.

This weeks Babe on the Couch was in Indianapolis for the 500. Jennifer Morrison plays Dr. Cameron on the Fox hit “House”.  Morrison also played one of Angelina Jolie’s associates in the action packed Mr & Mrs. Smith. She can be an associate of the Couch anytime she wants.

I know there was an estimated three hundred thousand people at the Indianapolis 500 but there were plenty of empty seats showing up on the Cincinnati feed of the race. The Couch watched the race on WCPO channel 9 from Franklin County, Indiana. I forgot how much fun it is too have a drink and watch the race on the television as it is actually going on. In fact, if you want to see the exact location from which the Couch watched the Biggest Spectacle in Racing, then check out this video from WLWT.com.

Franklin County Floods from 2009