Professional Women's Basketball Could Be over in Los Angeles

By Painter, Jill | Pasadena Star-News, January 5, 2014 | Go to article overview

Professional Women's Basketball Could Be over in Los Angeles


Painter, Jill, Pasadena Star-News


The WNBA is frantically searching for a new owner for the Los Angeles Sparks franchise.

This was certainly not the kind of New Year's goal WNBA president Laurel Richie had planned. But that's the key project that unexpectedly landed on her desk when Sparks owner Paula Madison called her just before the holiday and said her family could no longer run the team. It was an 11th-hour bombshell, which happens all the time in sports, but nonetheless throws the future of women's professional basketball in Los Angeles in jeopardy.

What a sad state.

Unless someone is at the ready to buy a team and start on-the- job training now, Sparks players should be concerned. Coach Carol Ross and the rest of the Sparks staff were laid off Dec. 31.

"It's premature to go into any level of detail, but we are in conversations with a host of people who have expressed interest in owning a WNBA team," Richie said in a phone interview with the Los Angeles Newspaper Group on Friday. "We are knee deep in discussions right now."

The start of the season is just months away, so moving quickly is paramount. On Friday, espnW reported that the NBA's Golden State Warriors were among groups interested in purchasing the franchise.

Richie said there are several options for the Sparks, one of the inaugural WNBA teams. The league started in 1997, and Los Angeles is a premier team having won championships in 2001 and 2002 with Lisa Leslie, a three-time league MVP. The Sparks have made the playoffs five of the last six years.

The Sparks also lead the league in attendance, according to the Associated Press. But the Sparks' deal with major sponsor Farmers Insurance ended this year, according to the Associated Press.

The Sparks signed Ross, the 2012 WNBA coach of the year, to a contract extension one month ago. The Sparks' team Web site is still advertising season-ticket packages and has no news about the state of the franchise. Of course, with the entire staff laid off, there is no one to make changes to the Web site.

Madison told the Associated Press that her family has lost $12 million since purchasing the Sparks in 2007. Richie said that half of the league's teams are profitable.

Interestingly enough, there was seemingly no Twitter campaign from Sparks players - or any WNBA players - to save the franchise just yet. …

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