Portland Trail Blazers President and CEO Chris McGowan was interviewed on Blazers Courtside.
Portland Trail Blazers president and CEO McGowan was interviewed by Mike Barrett and Mike Rice on Blazers Courtside. Video of the interview will be available on Blazers.com here.
What's it like sitting courtside?
Five minutes into the game I had a 6-foot-9 guy coming right at me. You definitely have to be on your toes down there. Sitting down there is unbelievable. I haven't watched a lot of basketball as closely because I've been in hockey and soccer the last many years, you forget how physical the game is. Those guys are banging, you really see that, that perspective has been pretty unbelievable for me.
You like those seats?
You'll never hear me complain about sitting courtside at an NBA basketball game. They're amazing. I was able yesterday to walk around the arena and see the vantage point from a lot of different areas in the Rose Garden. The arena is built unbelievable, there's really no bad seat there. That's a good thing.
Initials impressions of being in Portland?
Unbelievable. You hear things when you're talking about moving into a marketplace. When you talk about Portland, everyone talks about the passion in the city and the passion that the fan base has. When you experience it, it's a whole other level. I've been here a week but pretty much everywhere you go, when people find out you work for the Trail Blazers they want to sit and talk to you for 15 minutes about the team. To me that's fascinating and one of the reasons why I chose to come to Portland. I wanted to have that built-in passion that's out there. I was telling people yesterday, I went to the Oregon football game this weekend and sure enough, I'm talking to 30 or 40 people that night who are excited about the start of the team, starting to get behind the team, seeing the vision. You heard it when you come here but when you see it on a daily basis it's a whole other level.
How does it compare to hockey?
It's similar. The passion is similar -- if you look at the Los Angeles Kings fan base, people don't really realize that hockey has been in Los Angeles since 1967. There's generations of Kings fans in Los Angeles. People were always surprised about the passion and the knowledge of Kings fans. I witnessed a really passionate fan base here. I think it's bigger here obviously. L.A. is a very crowded marketplace, there's tons and tons of stuff going on, whether it's USC, UCLA, the Lakers, the Clippers, you can go on, the Dodgers. In terms of relevance in the market, because it's so big, you might not hear or sense it as much as you do here. You walk around here you see logos everywhere, you see images of the players everywhere, you can feel it's part of the season. That's probably the main difference.
Staples Center -- amazing facility with an event every night
The guy who runs the building, the general manager Lee Zeidman, has got it down to a science. Over the 10 or 12 years it's been open, it's like a track meet, they want to have the event to see how long it takes to do the change over. They rally behind that. Very safe, it's dangerous, but they want to get it done as quickly as possible. That whole area down there, L.A. Live, is built around having [the arena]. The more events, the better. The CEO Tim Leiweke is very active in trying to get as many events to the Los Angeles area. It's been very successful and fun to watch and fun to be a part of.
How much will you have to do with events at the Rose Garden?
Quite a bit. That's another reason I was excited to take the job. Coming from the background I come from, I think I'll be able to add a lot of value to Chris, who runs the building here and does a great job. Looking to get concerts, special events, it's something we'll dive into. I look at this as a tremendous opportunity, you have multiple facilities, you have a campus, it's very similar to what we had in Los Angeles. Any event we can bring here, the better, and we'll be active looking for concerts, family shows and events that make sense for the Rose Quarter.
Move to Blazers easier because of your AEG connections?
Absolutely. I was in Los Angeles for 17 years. I had a great career, I progressed through the company pretty well. I owe that all to Tim, being able to work under Tim Leiweke has been unbelievable for me and my career. Because of that, I got to know Tod [Leiweke] a little bit. When you're looking to make a big change in your life professionally and personally, because I have a family I'm moving to Portland, definitely I talked to a lot of people there [at AEG] who have been here and done it. They gave me invaluable advice when I made the decision.
Owner Paul Allen loves the Draft. Will you get into the Draft?
I will not. It's good in life knowing what you know and knowing what you don't know. Neil [Olshey] has got that well covered. My skillset is the business side. I'm going to be there as a resource for Neil. I'm going to get heavily involved in every aspect of the business. I'm not a draft guy. I'm not a team guy. I tell people I played college soccer, played soccer my whole life and I ran a soccer team for a year, I never once walked into Bruce Arena, the GM of the Galaxy, and said, 'Hey, I think you need a faster forward or a better defenseman.' That's not what I do.
That's why it's a great partnership with me and Neil. He knows he's not a business guy. He runs the basketball. I'm a business guy and I don't run basketball. We're going to work very collaboratively and we're going to communicate a ton. But certainly I'm not going to get involved. I want to make sure we get great players here so I'm going to be involved in that perspective but I'm not going to have too many opinions.
Do you offer thoughts about the team to Paul Allen when you sit next to him at a game?
Not yet. It's only been three games. It's really nice. He's really easy to talk to. He certainly has a passion for the game. It's been nice to watch him interact during the games. We talk a little bit of business here and there. Last game, I sat for a quarter down there and then was up meeting sponsors and season ticketholders and seeing how the arena operates, that's what I do. It will be a little bit of both. A combination of sitting down there and running around the arena meeting people.
Kings winning Stanley Cup
It's something I'll never forget. In some form or fashion I've been a part of the Kings for 17 years. I started there right out of college. One of my favorite stories in winning the Cup is that we won it on home ice. Something I'll never forget. All the people I saw in the stands, I had known for 17 years. I was their account executive when I started. I'm walking on the ice, getting ready for the Cup celebration and the fans I've known for 17 years are crying because they get to see their team win a championship. It hits home. That's why people support teams. They are so passionate. That's what they want to see. Sometimes working for a team you lose sight of what a team does for people. For me, my favorite memory is seeing people I know crying because the team they love is raising the Cup in their building. We caught lightning in a bottle and I enjoyed every minute of it.
Economy coming back. Make your life easier?
Sure. When the economy comes around it makes everything easier. The fortunate thing is, the support here, even when the economy isn't great, it's still really good compared to other markets. That's another reason I wanted to come here.
Blazers youth is exciting
The thing I've loved is how hard they play. The fans gravitate to that. I saw this in Los Angeles. When fans say they were there from stage one of going somewhere, to get to the mountaintop, it's so much pride for a fan to say, 'I was there for his rookie year.' Four or five years later, you're doing something special in the league. Absolutely, it's a great time to be a fan.
-- Ben Golliver | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter