By Mike Sherman
Confession time. Sometimes I go a little overboard on the bracket thing.
When OU went looking for Kelvin Sampson’s replacement in 2006 I hatched the idea for Berry Tramel to do a 64-coach bracket, seeding a field of possible replacements. Then we let the Joe Castiglione Invitational play out in The Oklahoman in NewsOK for three days before we declared a winner. The regionals were named after Sooner basketball greats. We had some upsets. It was all great fun, and the feedback we got from readers and the buzz on the airways was positive, except for the part of us leaving the guy OU eventually hired as its men’s basketball coach — Jeff Capel — COMPLETELY OFF THE BRACKET.
We did the bracket thing again a couple weeks ago when OSU was searching for its next basketball coach. Once again, Berry did the seeding and declared the winners for the three-day Mike Holder Invitational. We didn’t pick the right winner — we had Southern Illinois’ Chris Lowery — but at least we got the eventual hire — former UMass coach Travis Ford — on the bracket as a No. 10 seed. Ford lost to second-seeded Mike Brey of Notre Dame in the second round.
Well, we’re going to trot another bracket out there for readers this Monday. Not quite sure what we’re going to call it, but the Clay Bennett Invitational is certainly under consideration. We’re going to seed the field of 64 potential names for an Oklahoma City NBA franchise, only this time we’re going to let readers vote for their favorites on NewsOK.
We’re doing this with the knowledge that:
a) The current franchise that has been approved for a move to Oklahoma City has more pressing business these days than thinking up possible names.
b) The mere fact that we’re conducting such an exercise might put me in breach of a good-faith promise I made with Brackets Anonymous to dial it back a few notches on the bracket thing.
c) We run the risk of being sued by Howard Schultz, Greg Nickles, Slade Gorton, Save Our Sonics, Pike Place Fish Market Inc. and the Muckleshoots.
d) Howard wins his lawsuit against Clay Bennett and Co. and what we’re really doing is coming up with a name for a team that opens the 2008-09 Continental Basketball Association season at Millwood High.
We’re going to go ahead with it anyway, hoping that one way or another we get the eventual name — whichever league or team it’s used for — on the bracket. We’re thinking about releasing the No. 1 seeds Friday.
There is one name we’re intentionally leaving off the bracket — Sonics. Consider it our olive branch.
Speaking of olive branches, I was going to throw one out to the Emerald City by mentioning that my insurance carrier just happens to an 85-year-old Seattle institution known as Safeco. Then I saw where Liberty Mutual is buying Safeco and could be moving jobs to Boston.
Let me know when the Save Our Safeco movement begins and I’m in.
By Mike Sherman
Well, at least some folks in Seattle are talking settlement.
Last week Starbucks chairman Howard Schultz walked to the scorer’s table. Late Tuesday, Schultz checked into the game, filing the lawsuit his lawyer threatened last week. Schultz seeks to void sale and have the Sonics returned to him.
In this blog, Seattle Times’ Percy Allen promises more juicy emails that will put Clay Bennett in hot water again. And maybe they’ve got them. But it’s hard to see where the email claim made in the lawsuit — that Bennett told fellow owners that they could “flip” the Sonics if they got an arena built and still get a team for Oklahoma City — breaches the good-faith promise.
If the Oklahoma City-based owners had secured a new arena, thus securing the future of an NBA franchise in Seattle for another 30 years or so, then turned around and sold them, here’s what would have happened: People in the Northwest would be hailing Bennett, not cursing his name.
Seattle would have a new arena, it’s beloved Sonics and probably a local owner. And Clay Bennett could have gone to the NBA with this case: As part of the Spurs ownership group in 1992, he helped stabilize the franchise and secure its future in San Antonio. As part of a local investors group, he helped bring the Hornets to Oklahoma City, stabilizing a franchise that was floundering before Hurricane Katrina. And as the chairman of the Sonics ownership group, he would have saved basketball in Seattle.
With those three accomplishments in hand, Bennett could have gone to the NBA and asked, “Now what can you do for my hometown?” Still, two out of three ain’t bad.
There’s quite a few people, including our man Berry Tramel, who think Howard is just trying to save face. Can’t see why that would be any motivation, other than the fact that a Seattle Times poll last week named Schultz as the person most to blame if the Sonics leave Seattle.
It’s going to be interesting to hear legal experts — especially those beyond Washington and Oklahoma — weigh in on the merits of this case. Of course, ESPN has its own, and it doesn’t sound like Lester Munson is buying the face-saving scenario.
By Mike Sherman
Could Seattle’s resolve for making the Sonics play out the final two years of their lease in the Emerald City be weakening? Former U.S. Sen. Slade Gorton — that’s Slade “Scorched Earth” Gorton to David Stern — leads the Seattle legal team in its federal lawsuit against the Sonics.
Gorton tells the Seattle Post-Intelligencer he’s willing to talk settlement if it includes a promise that Seattle will get an NBA team when it gets its KeyArena act together. Interesting.
This story comes a few days after two King County officials said the city has no business suing the team and would be better off working toward getting an arena deal and another NBA team.
Obviously, it’s a little early to start the OKC ticket sales, but the prospects of a June 16 trial date and a lame-duck season or seasons in Seattle no longer seem as inevitable