Things sure changed on the Minnesota sports scene, during the short week I was away.
On the Vikings front, Red McCombs has announced a potential sale agreement that would put the team in the hands of Reggie Fowler, an Arizona businessman and, potentially, the NFL’s first black owner. On the T-Wolves front, Kevin McHale dismissed his friend, Flip Saunders, and took over coaching duties himself.
This is not news to most of you. But here’s my take on both matters…
THE VIKINGS SALE
The idea of Reggie Fowler owning the Vikings is a fun one. It would be nice to see the NFL get its first African-American owner. But, I think, in the end it will be Glen Taylor, not Reggie Fowler, who owns the team.
Is this because I think the NFL is full of racist owners? No. But the NFL is full of billionaire owners and, from what anyone can tell, Fowler falls short on that count. By a margin.
Here’s the math, as I understand it. To own an NFL squad, you have to have a lead partner (Fowler, in this case) who owns at least 30 percent of the team. With the announced sale price of approximately $625 million, that means Fowler would need to chip in around $187.5 million. Cash. Not credit, not loans.
But the NFL Finance Committee does not stop its stipulations there. An lead partner also needs the financial wearwithall to foot the bill for about six to eight years of operating at a deficit, in case of a financial downturn in the NFL economy. And the lead partner needs to have enough in assets to buy out any potential partners who decide they want out of the deal.
What that means is, in addition to around $187.5 million in cash, Fowler would need about another $400 million, at minimum, in assets, to make the deal fly by the NFL Finance Committee with flying colors. That means Fowler would need to be worth around $600 million. Unfortunately, reports on Fowler’s personal wealth place him at around $200 to $400 million. So unless he has some money stuffed away in a sock drawer somewhere, it’s not likely Fowler has the means to actually pass muster with the NFL Finance Committee.
PREDICTION: At the March meetings, the NFL Finance Committee will deep-six Fowler’s bid, due strictly to financial means issues, and Glen Taylor will own the Vikings by May or thereabouts. Taylor, in addition to being a native Minnesotan, is worth $2.1 billion. That’d be plenty to pass muster with the NFL Finance Committee. And if Taylor has any sense of PR value… and he typically does… once he owns the team, he’ll extend a minority partner opportunity to Fowler. Whether Fowler accepts or not is anyone’s guess.
McHALE FIRES SAUNDERS, TAKES OVER AS WOLVES COACH
I never saw it coming.
Sure, the Wolves were operating around .500 with a staff that went to the Western Conference championship series last season. Sure, a couple of malcontent, overpaid players were griping and tanking the season on purpose. But to see Saunders, a man who lasted nine and a half years in the same job, in a league where most coaches last about three seasons? And especially when the GM is the coach’s college buddy? I never would have predicted it.
In fairness to Saunders, it’s not his fault Latrell Sprewell and Sam Cassell got bad attitudes when, at age 35, they both wanted multi-year contract extensions that would make them both even more overpaid in the twilight of their NBA careers. What is his fault is that he wasn’t able to snap them out of it. Saunders is still a great coach, as the interest of several teams in his services, within days of his ouster, attest.
Since taking over, McHale has guided the Wolves to a 2-1 record, putting the team at 27-27, but that’s probably more the result of the intimidation factor of playing for the GM. It’s not a long-term solution, and everyone knows that. What bugs me about Flip’s ouster as coach is not that it happened… I kinda thought it might. But in mid-season? That’s where I have a problem with it.
It would have made more sense to dismiss Saunders, if that’s what McHale and Taylor wanted to do, at the end of a season. After all, you get the consolation prize of getting into the NBA lottery and infusing the team with some young talent, if the team continues to flounder. And even with McHale at the helm, the likelihood is that the Wolves still won’t be able to beat the top teams, this year, or get very far, even if they do qualify for the playoffs. So what’s the point of dismissing Saunders before the All-Star break? It’s just an odd choice.
PREDICTION: With 28 games to go, the Wolves will go 18-10 the rest of the way, just barely make the playoffs, and lose to the first- or second-seeded team in the West, in the first round. Then the team will not have much talent to choose from this summer by the time their draft pick rolls around. Oh, and by next fall, the new Wolves Coach will be… Eric Mussleman.