Season-ticket holders buy team; Agler reportedly selected coach
SEATTLE -- A group of Seattle Storm season ticket-holders, with the financial means to be taken seriously, is making sure the Storm isn't leaving Seattle.
And on the same day as the announcement that Force 10 Hoops LLC, a group of four women, has secured a Storm purchase option from Seattle SuperSonics owner Clay Bennett for $10 million, came reports that the team's new coach will be Brian Agler.
Both the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and The Seattle Times reported the selection of Agler, an assistant coach with the WNBA San Antonio Silver Stars, citing unidentified sources Tuesday night. Neither the Storm nor the Silver Stars would confirm the hiring. The Storm scheduled a Wednesday news conference to announce a new coach.
Previous Storm coach Anne Donovan resigned Nov. 30.
Agler has been with the Silver Stars since 2005. He also served as the head coach and general manager of the Minnesota Lynx from 1999-2002.
Former Seattle Deputy Mayor Anne Levinson led the Force 10 Hoops deal, which has until the end of February to close. The agreement was finalized in the last few days and ensures the Storm will remain in Seattle, while Bennett continues his push to move the SuperSonics to his hometown of Oklahoma City.
"This is driven by the enthusiasm of the fans," said Microsoft Corp. executive Lisa Brummel, one of the four new owners. "It's really easy you're going to decide you're going to get involved with something if you're passionate about what you're involved in."
"How big is the smile on my face today?" Storm CEO Karen Bryant asked at Tuesday's ownership announcement. Bryant, who is not part of the ownership group, will remain with the Storm in her current role.
The Storm has been highly successful in its eight seasons, winning the 2004 WNBA title and making the playoffs each of the last three seasons. Each of those seasons ended with first-round playoff losses.
Seattle has only four players under contract for the 2008 season, including league MVP Lauren Jackson. All-Star Sue Bird is a free agent, but has continually expressed her intention to return to Seattle if the team were to stay.
The new ownership group was brought together by Levinson, who originally broached the topic early last summer after legislation for a new arena for the Sonics and Storm failed in the Washington Legislature. The group also includes Ginny Gilder, who owns an investment business, is president of a family philanthropy and won a silver medal at the L.A. Olympics; Brummel, senior vice president of human resources at Microsoft and a Yale softball player; and Dawn Trudeau, who formerly headed Microsoft's database division and now works with nonprofits.
Levinson made her first overtures to Bennett during the summer, but was met with the same answer Bennett gave to anyone making offers for either franchise: "Not interested."
"We talked several times and [he] was very clear about that," Levinson said.
In September, Bennett showed his first signs of being open to other options with the Storm, announcing the team would play the 2008 season in Seattle, but making no commitment beyond that season. In November, when he filed for relocation with the NBA to move the Sonics, there was no mention made of the Storm following suit.
"In November we asked if could start talking again and enter into serious negotiations and we finished up during the holiday season," Levinson said.
The sale, which needs to be approved by the WNBA board of governors, would make the Storm the seventh independently owned WNBA team, joining Atlanta, Chicago, Connecticut, Houston, Los Angeles and Washington. It's the third team with a majority female ownership, along with Washington and Los Angeles.
Levinson said the intention is the Storm will always play at KeyArena.
"We are pleased we have been able to negotiate a transaction with an extraordinary group of highly accomplished women," Bennett said in a statement. Bennett purchased the two franchises in July 2006 for $350 million from the Basketball Club of Seattle LLC, led by Starbucks Chairman Howard Schultz.
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press