View Full Version : Clipper's Sterling Article.

01-28-2003, 09:11 AM
Found this article through LMF. Great, great stuff.

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Clipped answers intriguing
Owner Sterling pleads ignorance

Compiled By Peter May, 1/26/2003

Mea culpa, Donald. Mea maxima culpa.

All these years, I've thought, erroneously it now appears, that the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, Donald Sterling, was a hands-on guy. All these years Sterling has been criticized for being too cheap and not being able to keep his players and changing his mind and overseeing one of the NBA's laughingstock franchises.

But I now know that it's not Sterling's fault. None of it. How do I know? Because Sterling said so himself. Not to me, but under oath, in a deposition taken last May 10 in his - oops, there I go again - in the Clippers' lawsuit against former coach Bill Fitch. The suit never went to trial - it was settled and the terms remain confidential - but the Globe was able to obtain a copy of Sterling's 90-minute, 94-page deposition.

Let's start with the suit itself. The Clippers fired Fitch after the 1997-98 season. According to the documents, Fitch had two years and $4 million remaining on his contract. The Clippers at first kept paying him, but then stopped when they felt he wasn't looking hard enough to find a new job (and thus reduce their financial obligation to him.) In the deposition, Sterling was asked about the lawsuit.

Q. Whose decision was it to sue Fitch?

A. I believe it was our counsel's decision.

Q. OK. Did you have any input in that decision?

A. No.

Q. Were you consulted as part of the decision to sue Mr. Fitch?

A. No.

Around four minutes later, the topic turned to Sterling's role in assembling the basketball team.

Q. Do you play a role in the final decision to sign a player, resign (sic) a player, draft a player, not sign a player, anything like that?

A. No.

Q. You don't play any role in that?

A. No.

Q. Let's say signing a player.

A. The basketball people do that.

Q. OK. And the basketball people being?

A. Well, there is a personnel director. There is the general manager. There's - I don't even know. There's some other people in that department.

Asked to identify the personnel director, Sterling testified, ''I don't know. It might be Barry Hecker. I don't know.'' Hecker is listed as the director of player personnel and assistant coach in the Clippers' media guide.

Sterling soon was asked if he played any role in the hiring of a coach.

A. I rely on my people ... My business people and my basketball people.

Q. OK. Do you have any input whatsoever in the decision making, or is it just, they just let you know what they're doing.

A. They let me know what they are doing ... I really don't have the experience.

Sterling, listed as a ''prominent attorney'' in the Clippers' media guide, was asked if he had ''an understanding as to whether Fitch's 1994 contract was guaranteed.'' (Fitch's first deal was for three years, starting with the 1994-95 season. It was extended prior to the 1996-97 season.)

A. No.

Q. Do you have an understanding whether the 1997 contract was guaranteed?

A. No.

Q. Sir, do you have any idea what a guaranteed contract is?

A. No.

Q. None?

A. No ... I really don't understand what the - what ''guaranteed contracts'' mean. I, I'm really not sure exactly what that means with relations to players.

Asked if he understood that coaches get paid if they get fired, subject to certain provisions, Sterling said, simply, ''No.''

When the subject turned to finances, Sterling again professed little knowledge as to who got paid how much and why.

Q. In general, who sets the range that the Clippers are going to be - are willing to pay a coach when there is a coaching search?

A. The basketball people and the business people.

Q. OK. Do you have any input into that whatsover?

A. No.

Sterling then showed his sense of humor when he testified that he does like the team to win, but ''it [the basketball operation] hasn't listened too much to me.''

Q. OK. Is (sic) there instructions you give that you want to be under the (salary) cap, over the cap, anything like that?

A. No.

Q. Are there instructions that you give regarding you want to be paying coaches in general less than the average, more than the average, that are being paid at the particular time?

A. No.

Q. OK. Is (sic) there any instructions you give that you want Mr. Roeser (Andy Roeser, the team's executive vice president) to run the club very leanly or meanly or words to that effect?

A. No.

Among other offerings in the deposition are Sterling's inability to remember the last time the Clippers were in the playoffs (hard to fault him there, but it was 1997, under Fitch), that he played no role in the decision to fire Fitch (''I think I found out after it was - happened'') and that he considers Fitch to be a ''very honorable'' man.

Q. Have you ever known him (Fitch) to lie?

A. No.

Sterling gave the same responses when asked about Roeser and the Clippers general manager, Elgin Baylor.

Q. How about Bob Weiss? Have you ever known him to lie?

A. I don't know who he is.

Weiss was the coach of the Clippers before they hired Fitch. He, too, was fired and, like Fitch, the Clippers stopped paying him. He had to go to court to get what he was owed.

The Clippers, meanwhile, are last in the Pacific Division despite having a well-stocked roster of young talent. One possible reason: the players are playing for themselves because the know that Sterling, er, the team, rarely pays top dollar and rarely re-signs free agents. Michael Olowokandi has one foot out the door and will be elsewhere next season. Elton Brand, Andre Miller, Lamar Odom, and Corey Maggette will be restricted free agents.

A call was placed to the Clippers Friday to see whether Sterling might want to respond. Joe Safety, the team's vice president of communications, said there would be no comment.

Ballot stuff

The All-Star starters have been announced, and with the exception of Vince Carter, the chosen ones deserve to be in Atlanta for next month's extravaganza. Carter has played only 10 games this season and there is speculation that he'll rest up over All-Star weekend (Feb. 7-9), which would be the safest course for his bad wheels. He might return as soon as today.

Anyway, the fans have spoken. The coaches will round out the teams this week; they can't vote for players on their own team. We'll give them an early heads-up as to who is worthy to be playing in Philips Arena.

Eastern Conference starters - C: Ben Wallace, Detroit; F: Jermaine O'Neal, Indiana; Carter, Toronto; G: Allen Iverson, Philadelphia; Tracy McGrady, Orlando.

Reserves - C: Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Cleveland; F: Antoine Walker, Boston; Jamal Mashburn, New Orleans; Michael Jordan, Washington; G: Jason Kidd, New Jersey; Paul Pierce, Boston; Ray Allen, Milwaukee.

Toughest omissions - Jalen Rose, Chicago; Ron Artest, Indiana; Ricky Davis, Cleveland; Jerry Stackhouse, Washington.

Explanations - Kidd should be starting, period. He's an MVP candidate. Pierce and Walker belong, again, while Mashburn is quietly putting together a superb all-around season. Ilgauskas gets the nod over Brad Miller as the No. 2 center, proving once again how shallow the center pool really is. Allen gets the nod mainly because Milwaukee is playing better than Chicago (Rose) and the other omissions already have teammates on the squad. Plus, we couldn't take two from Cleveland. Don't you have the feeling that MJ will somehow find his way onto the team?

Western Conference starters - C: Yao Ming, Houston; F: Tim Duncan, San Antonio; Kevin Garnett, Minnesota; G: Kobe Bryant, LA Lakers; Steve Francis, Houston.

Reserves - C: Shaquille O'Neal, LA Lakers; F: Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas; Chris Webber, Sacramento; Elton Brand, LA Clippers; G: Steve Nash, Dallas; Gary Payton, Seattle; Stephon Marbury, Phoenix.

Toughest omissions - Peja Stojakovic, Sacramento; Antawn Jamison, Golden State; Michael Finley, Dallas; Shawn Marion, Phoenix; Karl Malone, Utah; John Stockton, Utah.

Explanations - Shaq, C-Web, and Nowitzki are locks. The forward position out West is ridiculous; the guys on the omissions list could make up a third All-Star team. Payton gets the nod over Finley (the Glove leads the league in assists and Dallas already has two on the team) while Brand deserves to be recognized for his everyday efforts. Somebody from Phoenix deserves to be on the team, and Marbury noses out Marion mainly because of position.

Home team shut out?

While we're on the subject of All-Stars, remember the game in Washington in 2001, when the Celtics didn't have a single representative in any of the major categories? They were the only team that was so slighted that year, and Red Auerbach ripped the league for dissing his team in his hometown. This year, it's even worse because host Atlanta is unlikely to have a representative in either the All-Star Game, the rookie game, the dunk contest, or the 3-point contest. The fields for the last three events already have been set - and the Hawks, Knicks, Trail Blazers, Bucks, and Wizards are unrepresented. The only hope left is the All-Star reserves, where the Hawks also should come up dry, especially with their play of late. Assuming Jordan gets chosen, that would leave Atlanta, Portland, New York, and Milwaukee without a candidate, unless Allen also gets picked. No one from the Knicks or Blazers is likely to be named to the reserve squads ... You can pretty much eliminate Milwaukee as a landing place for Larry Bird. The team is for sale, but it's not the best of situations because of a high payroll, dwindling interest, a tough arena deal, and a coach making tons of money. However, Boston businessman Steve Belkin did get a check back from the league for his Charlotte application fee, which was thought to be nonrefundable ... One of the real turnarounds is going on in Golden State, where the Warriors did something no team had done since 1973 - beat the NBA finalists from the year before on successive nights. Golden State downed the Lakers in Los Angeles Wednesday and returned home to thump the Nets Thursday. One key to their surprising play (their 20 victories are one shy of what they had all last season) has been the play of 5-foot-5-inch Earl Boykins, now making a strong case for the Sixth Man Award. Against the Lakers, he came off the bench and had 16 points, 5 in the final 34 seconds, including a game-clinching 3-point play. The next night, he had 23 points and 6 assists in 33 minutes off the pine. Boykins was sitting by the phone in his native Cleveland when the Warriors put out the call in late November. Reports Warriors GM Garry St. Jean, ''[Assistant GM] Gary Fitzsimmons had liked him when [Boykins] was with Cleveland, and [coach] Eric[ Musselman] knew him from his days in the CBA. It was the right place, right time, right guy.'' Boykins has bounced around since 1998, when he finished up at Eastern Michigan. There were two years with Rockford in the old Continental Basketball Association. Prior to the Warriors, he'd played for the Nets, Cavaliers, Clippers, and Magic. He has the distinction of being waived twice by the Cavaliers and once by the Clippers. He's only 26. ''He's a mature pro because he understands what it's all about,'' St. Jean said. ''It's nice to see a guy like that have some success.''... We didn't get a chance to see Governor Dummer alum Dan Gadzuric when the Bucks passed through town last week. Gadzuric was getting playing time early in the season, but when Toni Kukoc went down with a thumb injury, Milwaukee coach George Karl felt he needed veterans on the floor. As a result, Gadzuric's DNP in Boston was his sixth straight and seventh in eight games. In this case, Karl doesn't want to mess with success - the Bucks have ripped off six straight wins and seven in eight games. ''Danny's a great rookie,'' Karl said. ''He's a heck of a second-round pick. He's going to be a 10-year player in this league.''


H ow's that again, Phil?

Lakers coach Phil Jackson said last week that Shaquille O'Neal had come to grips with getting outvoted for the All-Star starting center spot by Houston rookie Yao Ming. ''He understands fully the NBA has put out four forms [of ballots] in Mandarin, Cantonese, Pekingese, and Hong Kong-ese to allow the Chinese voters to vote on the All-Star ballot, which probably skews it a little bit,'' said Jackson. Tim Brown of the Los Angeles Times was quick to note that only Mandarin and Cantonese are languages. Pekingese is a breed of dog (and Peking has long since been renamed Beijing). Hong Kong was a British colony until 1997 and most of its residents are natives of China who speak either Mandarin or Cantonese.

A night of firsts

The Clippers' 96-89 victory in Utah on Wednesday was a milestone. They had never won in the Delta Center and had suffered 26 straight setbacks in Salt Lake City dating back to April 18, 1989. (They have had nine coaches in that span while Utah has had one.) The win also snapped a 15-game overall losing streak to Utah. That same night in San Antonio, the Grizzlies ended six years of frustration with a 98-93 win over the Spurs. They had lost 21 straight to San Antonio dating to Feb. 12, 1997. Pau Gasol didn't see it as a big deal. ''I only lost six times to this team,'' he shrugged.

01-28-2003, 10:45 AM
good comedy

Big Boy Laroux
01-28-2003, 11:21 AM
oh, man. that is priceless.

01-28-2003, 01:07 PM
Donald Sterling = Chauncey Gardner?

01-28-2003, 01:18 PM
Donald Sterling = Sargent Schultz.

01-28-2003, 01:32 PM

Big Boy Laroux
01-28-2003, 02:09 PM
seriously, kiki... no kidding. "i like to watch"

how did sterling get his money anyway?

01-28-2003, 02:28 PM
<< how did sterling get his money anyway? >>

Donald Sterling: I'm not sure. My money people took care of that.