The Portland Trail Blazers introduced Chris McGowan, the team's new president and CEO.
The Portland Trail Blazers introduced team president and CEO Chris McGowan in a press conference on Tuesday afternoon. McGowan was presented to the media by Vulcan CEO Peter McLoughlin and Blazers GM Neil Olshey one day after his hiring was announced publicly.
McGowan, who is youthful in appearance and seemed a touch nervous, won't officially start with the team until mid-November. As such, he was very light on specifics in discussing both his past work with AEG, the Los Angeles Galaxy of the MLS and the Los Angeles Kings of the NHL. He said, at one point, that he would lean heavily on McLoughlin for help in negotiating any television deals.
The clearest philosophy expressed during the press conference actually came from Olshey, not McGowan. Olshey's only point was clear: Olshey will handle basketball, McGowan will handle business, and the two will respectfully stay in their respective lanes along the way. "Co-lead," is how McGowan termed it. Olshey was a bit more intense in his vision of dual autonomy.
"Knowing someone that appreciates basketball operations but doesn't think they have input into basketball-related decisions," Olshey said, of how he views McGowan's role. "Just like I appreciate the job they do and support them any way I can, but I don't come down to the Rose Garden to tell them how to put together season ticket packages."
Put simply: Welcome to Rip City, Chris, but stay out of my way.
McGowan, of course, is succeeding former president Larry Miller, who took a very active role in basketball operations. Over the summer, Miller resigned shortly after Olshey was hired.
Here's the full transcript of McGowan's introductory press conference.
Peter McLoughlin, Vulcan CEO, opening statement
My name is Peter McLoughlin, and on behalf of Paul Allen and Neil Olshey, I want to welcome Chris McGowan to the Portland Trail Blazers to be the new president and CEO. Chris comes to us from AEG in Los Angeles, where he most recently served as Chief Operating Officer of AEG Sports, overseeing the business operations of the L.A. Kings, all the AEG International sports franchises, as well as business and soccer for the Galaxy. Chris really learned the business under the tutelage of Tim Leiweke, who is not only a good friend of mine, but clearly one of the leading sports executives that we know out there. Chris comes to us well trained and a lot of dynamic experience.
As of today, Chris and Neil represent the new leadership team and the new management team of the Blazers going forward. We're very excited about that. We're excited to have Neil and Chris working together. We had a very extensive, nationwide search that we conducted, and Paul Allen played a large role in that of course. Paul is very happy to have Chris on board, as am I. I want to officially welcome Chris to the Blazers. I'll pass it on to Neil.
Blazers GM Neil Olshey's opening statement
I think it's a great day. We clearly have a complete management team with Chris, Terry and myself. Chris brings a wealth of expereince, we didn't know each other very well. I think he was buried selling tickets and sponsorships in Los Angeles going back and forth between Carson and Staples Center and I was hiding at the practice facility in El Segundo. But I think Chris is terrific, I appreciate Peter allowing me to be part of the search, allowing me to have feedback, contact with Paul, and taking my comments and my reservations throughout the process into account.
I think they found a great guy, a great president, I know that right now the synergy between business and basketball is in good hands. At the end of the day, everyone at the PF is going to figure out a way to win as many basketball games as possible and Chris is going to drive revenue and make this the best basketball organization in the league. Welcome to Chris McGowan.
Chris McGowan, Blazers president and CEO, opening statement
Thanks Peter and Neil. This is obviously a real exciting day for me. I'm thrilled that I'm the new president and CEO of the Portland Trail Blazers. I've been working in this industry for 17 years and it's always been a goal of mine to get the opportunity to lead an organization. I can't think of a better place than Portland to do that. First I'd like to thank Paul Allen and the key management at Vulcan for putting their faith in me and giving me this opportunity to run the organization. I'm going to work hard to deliver a lot of great results for them. I'm excited about the opportunity.
I'm also really, really pumped up, to use one of [Peter's] terms to work with Peter. It's funny, me and Peter's path didn't cross a lot but I had always heard great things about him. He has an unbelievable reputation in the sports business. We have a lot of similar friends. Over the past month when I was going through the search process, we were able to sit down and talk and he was very helpful to me during the process and I quickly discovered that we share very similar philosophies and visions about how to run professional sports teams. I'm pumped up to be working with Peter.
Equally as excited to be working with Neil. I had the chance to sit down and talk with him several times during the process and quickly learned that he may be a little more higher energy than me, and I consider myself to be pretty high energy, but I think we're going to make a great team. We both know what our roles are. I'm looking forward to working with you on a daily basis. I think it's important for me to say that my role here is to support him in any way that we can to create an atmosphere and an environment that allows him to put a winning team on the floor. I'm going to make sure our organization is doing that. I'll be a resource for anything he needs along that process.
Moving on here, I had a great opportunity to meet the staff before the meeting, coming in I had done a little due diligence and quickly found that there's a lot of respect for the people who have worked here and built the brand, the Trail Blazers brand to where it is today. I had a good meeting with everyone, they welcomed me "Rip City" style they said. I'm looking forward to coming in on a daily basis, developing plans with them, it's obviously a staff that's really passionate about working for the Trail Blazers. That's going to be really fun to be a part of.
One of the things that most appealed to me here was that everyone I talked to said they have one of the most passionate fan bases in professional sports, not just the NBA, but in professional sports. To be able to come represent a fan base like that is something that excites me and we're going to work really hard to give them an organization that they can be proud of on a nightly basis when they come to watch Trail Blazers games.
Because I don't want to forget anything, there's a couple of people who have been important to me in my career that I would like to publicly thank, before we get into questions and answers, I want to keep my remarks pretty short because I think the best use of time is to be able to answer as many questions as you might have for everyone up here.
My staff back at AEG, I want to publicly thank them. It was tough to leave such a great group of people. They came in every day and worked really hard with me. I was the leader of the group and often times I took a lot of the credit but it was their hard work that put me in a position to get that credit. I'm going to miss working with them on a daily basis. But they're in good hands and they're going to continue with their mission at AEG. I want to thank them publicly for everything they did while I was working at AEG.
I want to thank Phil Anschutz who was a great owner. I enjoyed working with him for 17 years. He provided a great environment for us to be successful. I wanted to thank him. I want to thank Tim Leiweke who Peter just talked about. I've worked for him for 17 years and he was a great mentor and I learned a tremendous amount from him. That experience I got from him is going to help me be successful here. Last but not least, I want to thank my family. I tried to get my kids to come today, but I had a tough time getting my 10-year-old to not trick-or-treat tomorrow night, so they are going to come on Thursday and we're going to get to spend the weekend in the city together for the first time. Which is going to be great. I want to thank my wife Susan and my two kids, Ryan and Kyle. They are equally excited to come to Portland.
As you guys saw in the press release, I'm going to be starting Nov. 12 and my family is going to get up here as quickly as they can, probably at the latest, be here January 1. This is an exciting day for me, I'm honored and humbled by the opportunity and I look forward to meeting everyone and getting to know everyone. Thrilled to be here.
Chris -- What are your points of emphasis?
I'm the type of person who doesn't try to make too many assessments before you can get into an organization and see how they are operating. What I'm going to do, I like to come in and observe and assess and see what those opportunities are. They'll be a time as I get my feet on the ground, after I get in here and get to meet everyone, where I'll be able to share what those opportunities are, but it's going to take some time before I would let you know what those are. Certainly looking forward to that process.
Neil -- You said you had reservations during the process. What were those reservations you expressed to Paul and how did Chris satisfy them?
Neil Olshey: Any time you're going to make a chance, I had come here, Larry Miller was the president, and [COO] Sarah [Mensah] and I worked together, so I just wanted to make sure that anybody that they chose understood that basketball is a priority here. I think Chris expressed that in his interview. I think throughout the process, knowing how they ran the L.A. Kings, his integral role there generating revenue, working on a daily basis collaboratively with the general manager there but understanding that Chris has his responsibilities at the Rose Garden and I have mine at the practice facility, was important to me.
Knowing someone that appreciates basketball operations but doesn't think they have input into basketball-related decisions, just like I appreciate the job they do and support them any way I can, but I don't come down to the Rose Garden to tell them how to put together season ticket packages.
Chris McGowan:My basketball career ended in ninth grade when I got cut from my high school team.
Neil Olshey: Well, so did mine, but I'm the GM.
Chris McGowan: I'm going to focus on the business. Like I said, giving necessary resources to Neil to be successful on the court and it's a real good partnership as we co-lead the organization going forward.
Chris -- How much impact can you have on business operations this year when you're taking over right before the season?
I think you can have an impact pretty quickly, whether it's structure or new ideas, I'm coming in with fresh ideas and fresh contacts. I think that's a good thing. I will be able to come in here and maybe be able to see thing from a different perspective pretty quickly. You're right, it takes awhile to build a business plan for a full NBA season. Like I said earlier, the staff here is great. It's respected, I'm not expecting to come in here and make drastic changes right away. That would be the wrong approach. The right approach is to come in and identify opportunities for improvement.
I've always been really focused on making sure you build a team on the business side that loves working together and understands what the objectives are. Loves coming into morning to work. Those are the culture-type areas where I'm going to focus my time and energy on, in the short term. Long term, we're going to identify a lot of good business opportunities that are out there. All the previous teams and properties I've worked for in the past have been really focused on generating revenue and that's kind of my expertise. I'm definitely going to come in and say, 'Hey, how can we generate more, within reason?'
I'm an ambitious goal-setter. I don't make unrealistic goals. I definitely want the organization being ambitious and striving to raise the bar in all the trackable categories that are there. I think I'll be able to make a positive impact pretty quickly.
Just to anecdote -- I had only been working with the Galaxy for about 10 months before I accepted the job here. That was an organization that Tim, our CEO, asked me to get involved in, to make some quick changes to, because they were running the same way over the past several years. I was able to get in there fairly quickly, I started there 40 days before the season started, and was able to get in there and with my staff have a pretty positive impact on how they were running the business of the Galaxy. Drastically change that organization in one season.
If it needs to be done, it can be done. Certainly, my approach is just to go in and assess and observe and get to know the people who are working really hard in the Trail Blazers organization now.
Chris -- Do you have experience negotiating or dealing with television contracts with sports teams and what you might be able to offer the Comcast/Dish/DirecTV situation?
Fortunately, I've been part of the process twice in my career with the Kings, an extension, and with the Galaxy, which is a new deal. I didn't drive the process so that's why I'm going to lean on my good friend Peter who has done that quite a bit in his career. That's a good example of why it makes sense for me and Peter to work together on a daily basis because I'm the type of guy who knows what I don't know, and I'm not going to try to act like I do. When I don't know something, I'm going to go to people who have good experience in that area.
Peter has a lot of experience that I don't have and I think I have some experience in areas that Peter might not have. It's not only a good partnership with Neil, [Peter and I] are going to lean on each other in a lot of ways. That's the power of having an owner who owns multiple sports teams in the same region. That was very appealing to me, to be able to come in and find a business problem that I don't have a ton of experience in, be able to call Peter and say, 'Can you come and help me on this?' Certainly not afraid to call him on those things, for sure.
Chris -- Will you work to ensure the sellout streak extends this season?
My philosophy, my goal is to sell out every game you have. Sometimes that happens, sometimes it doesn't. I've never been part of an organization that has had 192 straight. I'm looking forward to coming in and diving into that. The start of your season, your goal is to sell out every game. I will say, the properties I've worked on in the past, were ticket sales challenged. The Kings aren't now, because we won the Stanley Cup, but in my career, I've spent a lion's share of my time and energy on how to fill buildings. If that's something that's needed here, I have tons of experience in that area. We'll be able to dive in very quickly in the ticket sales process for sure.
Chris -- Specifics on what you did with Galaxy and Kings that helped generate revenue?
Let me think about that, that's a good one. I think you just have to have an organization that's very focused on generating revenue.
The Kings, for example, our whole organization, before we won the Cup, was built around how do we increase our season ticket base and generate ticket sales. I had a department, a group of department heads that they knew their job was to come in and in everything they do, figure out how we can sell tickets and fill the building. We were able to do that with the Kings at pretty astonishing levels, even when our team wasn't very good on the ice.
Neil will probably tell you that the Kings aren't known as a team that doesn't sell tickets, but behind the scenes we had an organization that worked fiercely and intensely on creating programs and group sales initiatives and good promotions to ensure that our team got to play in front of a full building every night. As the tide turned, and our team started doing a lot better, the situation turned and we're going to be sold out... They're going to be sold out when hockey starts, every game, post-Cup. There's a good example from the Kings.
At the Galaxy, I was there 10 months and more focused on setting up the organization properly, more streamlined and more efficient. They had lots of tickets to sell there and the organization is making a big impact in selling out Home Depot Center on a regular basis. I was able to do that pretty quickly there.
Chris -- Will Blazers continue to work with AEG to run the Rose Garden?
That's another thing that we'll get right into when I get in here, dive in and figure out. I would say so. From what I know, there's a good relationship there. I've got a lot of relationships at AEG that will allow me to quickly get into the conversation and figure out what's the right approach there. Right now, that's our intention.
-- Ben Golliver | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter