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Ownership ineptitude Nets can only hope history News New Jersey Nets

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News » Ownership ineptitude Nets can only hope history

Ownership ineptitude Nets can only hope history

Ownership ineptitude Nets can only hope historyRoy Boe, the second man to own the Nets , made one of the most infamous decisions in sports history. He sold Dr. J to the 76ers, ushering in a dark era for his franchise.

Somehow, from an ownership perspective, things have only gone downhill from there.

This is the simple diagnosis for the Nets' situation, how a team first called the Americans might end up with a Russian in charge. Some franchises are blessed with smart, visionary owners who care about their team and -- more importantly -- the fans who love it.

Some teams are not. The pro Basketball franchise in the Meadowlands seems to have comically bad luck when it comes to the men paying the bills. If there is a pro sports franchise out there with a longer and whackier list of owners, please let us know, because we can't find one.

The Nets have counted trucking magnates, and strip-mall developers, and well-intentioned benefactors, and famous rap stars, and real estate moguls, and, perhaps soon, a hard-partying billionaire from Moscow, as their owners. You may notice one consistent theme.


"There have been a lot of issues over the years where everybody would love to have a mulligan," said Michael Rowe, who has worked as team president under several of the owners. "I have a few."

Rowe blames geography more than any individual, and wonders if the best owner in the world could have made money and built a winner in a bad arena with a notoriously disinterested fan base.

He has a point. But, of course, the Nets have never exactly had the best owner in the world, either.

This time, it is Mikhail Prokhorov, who arrives with $9.5 billion to spend and a goal: To expand the reach of the sport in his country and bring Russian coaches and officials here.

The goal is new, but having one is certainly not for this franchise. The Nets always seem to have some kind of mission beyond winning games, some noble sounding, some strictly business.

The YankeeNets needed the team to fill out winter programming on the YES Network.

Ray Chambers and his partners wanted to revitalize Newark and give back to the inner city kids.

Bruce Ratner wanted to make the team the centerpiece of a massive Brooklyn real estate deal.

On and on it goes. The Lakers have had one owner, Jerry Buss, for the past 30 years. And one mission, too.

Winning titles.

Novel pursuit, eh? Not that the Nets haven't had well-intentioned people at the helm. Boe sold the team to a partnership famously called the "Secaucus Seven" in 1978, a group that wanted nothing more than to win Basketball games but lacked the resources or savvy to do it.

"To an individual, they were honest, they loved Basketball, and they loved being part of that team," Rowe said. "They were not trying to flip the team or make a lot of money on a transaction."

But they had what Rowe called a "rigid cap" on player salaries, and the sport became too expensive for them. They sold to Chambers, a move that took the franchise in a completely different direction.

Chambers wanted to win, but certainly not at all costs. He created a "very collegiate approach to it," Rowe said, one that valued character and community along with championships.

"We weren't racing along with a single-minded focus on winning," Rowe said, but the team did reach its heyday after Chambers and Lewis Katz created the partnership with the Yankees.

There were two trips to the NBA Finals but, finally, no new home in Newark. Ratner is an easy target now, but it was Katz who ultimately sold the team to a developer who made his intentions clear from the beginning.

Now, it is Ratner struggling to complete his goal for the team, to turn the Brooklyn Nets into the linchpin for Atlantic Yards. Like nearly everyone else who has owned this team, he has lost hundreds of millions in the process.

Prokhorov is his bailout plan, and he'll only come aboard if the move to Brooklyn is complete. He has a history of spending whatever it takes to build a winner with his Basketball team in Russia, but can a man from eight time zones away really be the answer for this team?

"Your guess is as good as my mine," said David Gerstein, one of the Secaucus Seven who is still a small investor in the team. "I wish them luck. It could be a great thing for the team and the NBA."

It could be. Or it could be an unprecedented disaster that involves two continents, millions of rubles and whispers of involvement from the Kremlin. When it comes to Nets owners, the trend is usually down.

Steve Politi appears regularly in The Star-Ledger. He may be reached at, or follow him at

Author: Fox Sports
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Added: September 28, 2009


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