The Nuggets ostensibly "new" owner Josh Kroenke made his press conference debut today at Pepsi Center. If the younger Kroenke is indeed in charge of all-things-Nuggets now, here are five tips I hope he takes to heart...
Listening to 104.3 The Fan's "Clough Talk" with Sandy Clough tonight, I caught about a minute-and-a-half of Josh Kroenke's Tuesday press conference during which he introduced new Nuggets general manager Masai Ujiri and fielded a lot of "what the hell is happening with Carmelo?" questions. As pointed out by Sandy, Josh didn't come across as well-prepared, confident and clear as we'd like to have seen/heard from our new owner. But given that Josh is just 30 years old and is being thrown to the wolves here, I'm going to cut him some slack. I remember when I first appeared on Sandy's show a few years back I wasn't nearly as comfortable as I am doing so today. If you haven't done a lot of public speaking it can take awhile to get the hang of it.
I've had the pleasure of meeting Josh Kroenke on a number of occasions. Most of our run-ins have taken place at Pepsi Center before or after Nuggets games and while they've all been brief, Josh is always cordial and gracious and I'm pretty sure he checks in on Denver Stiffs from time-to-time.
In some ways, I can relate to Josh. No, I don't have his good looks, his basketball skills or his astute ability to avoid a stop-and-chat. But like Josh, I'm in my early 30s, am basketball-obsessed, am working for my family business here in Denver and am taking on more and more responsibilities associated with it. So I'm fully aware of the opportunities, pressures and stigmas that are associated with working for a family business. And I don't have asshole bloggers like me criticizing my every move while doing it!
Like his father before him, Josh Kroenke has a golden opportunity to become a great sports owner and I believe he has the goods to deliver on that promise. He's basketball-obsessed, business-savvy and by all accounts a class act. He may just want to consider a few things as he takes over our beloved Nuggets...
1.) Make yourself and top Nuggets executives available to the media
Clearly sensitive to the articles written recently by the Post's Dave Krieger and Mark Kiszla criticizing the structure of the Nuggets organization, in Tuesday's presser Kroenke was quick to dismiss such talk. (I wish I could play the clip for Denver Stiffs readers but the Nuggets website nor NBA.com is showing Josh's portion of the press conference. Kudos again to Sandy for playing it tonight.) Kroenke basically bristled at the assertion that the Nuggets could be considered dysfunctional, saying that they have a sound organization at the top.
If Josh genuinely wants to shed this image of dysfunction that's persisted for years in Denver newspaper sports sections and on Denver sports talk radio, then why not make himself, GM Masai Ujiri and team adviser Bret Bearup available to the media on a regular basis? Why not let these guys speak on the record and set the record straight before the media puts words in their collective mouths?
I'm not expecting Josh to become the next Mark Cuban who tweets every thought that enters his mind. But a 30-year-old owner should have a young entrepreneur's approach to the media and embrace the information age rather than shun it. (And yes, he should have a Twitter account, too.)
And while we're at it, Denver Stiffs should get invited to press conferences and the occasional open practice. In the past 12 months I've had the privilege of attending a practice, the honor of attending George Karl's heart-wrenching cancer press conference and have met the upper brass of the Nuggets organization. In all instances I have comported myself respectfully and have never caused a ruckus. Denver Stiffs isn't to be feared.
2.) Hold an annual season-ticket holder forum
When I lived in Los Angeles, I remember hearing that Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak would hold an annual "meet the season-ticket holders" forum during which season-ticket holders could ask Kupchak any question, just like stockholders asking CEOs questions during a shareholders meeting or constituents asking politicians questions during a town hall meeting. The Lakers have also hosted open practices for season-ticket holders to attend and ask head coach Phil Jackson questions afterward.
Even though the Nuggets are a private company, I've always felt that season-ticket holders are essentially taxpayers or shareholders, if you will. Without us, there's no NBA team for Josh Kroenke to inherit. So why not have Josh, Ujiri and Karl sit down with their constituents every summer and discuss the direction of the team, how the previous season went, what to expect in the future, etc? Only positive things could come of this and it would engender a great deal of trust among die-hard, ticket-paying Nuggets fans.
3.) Get to know the fans, all the fans
Beyond season-ticket holders, I encourage Josh to get to know the fans...all the fans. Rather than sit behind the Nuggets bench as his dad does, Josh should schmooze with the crowd, shake hands, kiss babies and so on (and bring lots of Purell with him). Cuban has famously sat in the upper rafters at American Airlines Arena from time-to-time to show fans that there's no bad seat in the house. Josh should do the same.
Much of the skepticism and cynicism seen here and elsewhere from Nuggets fans comes from feeling far removed from the goings-on of the team. A little ingratiation by Josh will go a long way to diminish that cynicism and make for a better fan community.
4.) Sign George Karl to an extension
While I continue to be appreciative of the stability and competitiveness that the Kroenkes have brought to the Nuggets organization (hey, I survived the Peter Bynoe/Bertram Lee era), I've written previously that I'm not always enamored with how top executive and coaching contracts are run-out without indications of a renewal one way or the other until it's too late. This happened to Jeff Bzdelik, Kiki Vandeweghe, Jeff Weltman, David Fredman and, most recently, George Karl, Mark Warkentien and Rex Chapman. Unlike the others, Karl was granted a contract extension...but it was only for one year.
Karl has proven his detractors - me included - dead wrong over the past two seasons. And while Karl should probably give assistant coach Adrian Dantley a percentage of any new deal for making him look so good last season, re-upping Karl now is the right thing to do whether Carmelo Anthony stays or not. It sends a message that the Nuggets are a stable organization hell-bent on winning basketball games for years to come.
5.) Send the circus out of town
As I've written about in the past, the Pepsi Center experience often resembles the Barnum & Bailey Circus more than an NBA game. Thankfully, the Nuggets retired the male cheerleaders prior to last season. But I'd also retire the obnoxious DJs, the goofy and nonsensical time-out routines and anything that involves tossing crap into the stands (except the Nuggets Snuggies, of course). Why we don't get "This Night in Nuggets History" or NBA highlights or "Best Dunks of the Week" and so forth on the Pepsi Center scoreboard during timeouts befuddles me.
Josh has the opportunity to make basketball - you know, the sport we pay to watch - the focal point of the NBA experience once again. And this is an opportunity he should whole-heartedly embrace. The Pepsi Center experience is better for all when real basketball fans are in the stands.
So there you have it. Five simple tips to consider as Josh Kroenke takes over the operations of the Denver Nuggets. I sincerely wish Josh all the best with this new endeavor and am thrilled to have a basketball-playing, basketball-loving guy as our new owner.
And maybe our next stop-and-chat can last for a few minutes longer.