Clips CEO: Doc desires exit if Sterling stays

LOS ANGELES — The interim CEO of the Los Angeles Clippers testified in state court Tuesday afternoon that coach and team president Doc Rivers has told him on multiple occasions that he doesn’t think he wants to continue as coach if Donald Sterling remains owner of the team.

Dick Parsons said he’s talked to Rivers, several players and key sponsors who are troubled by Sterling’s continued ownership of the franchise, which is being adjudicated in a California probate court.

At issue is whether Shelly Sterling acted properly in selling the franchise for a record $ 2 billion to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, without her husband’s expressed consent.

Parsons was called as a witness in the trial Tuesday to discuss the impact the continuing uncertainty over the ownership situation has had on the Clippers franchise.

“If Doc were to leave, that would be a disaster,” Parsons said. “Doc is the father figure of the team. Chris (Paul) is the on-court captain of the team. But Doc is really the guy who leads the effort. He’s the coach, the grown-up, he’s a man of character and ability — not just in a basketball sense, but in the ability to connect with people and gain their trust.

“The team believes in him and admires and loves him. If he were to bail, with all the other circumstances, it would accelerate the death spiral.”

Sterling’s lawyers objected to Parson’s testimony on Rivers, arguing that only Rivers should be allowed to speak on his state of mind in this matter and if that was the case, Rivers should be called as a witness. While Judge Michael Levanas agreed with that notion, he allowed Parsons to express his opinion on the matter and noted he would not consider it as fact.

Parsons said that while ticket revenue was essentially the same as last year, he had concerns about the franchise’s finances if Sterling continued to own the team.

“The issue or the cloud hanging over the team is the continued ownership of Mr Sterling,” Parsons said.

While the team has retained the majority of its 20-22 sponsors, he said several have made it clear they only want to continue a relationship with the team if Sterling is replaced as owner.

Parsons cited Mandalay Bay and Kia Motors as examples of sponsors who are “sitting at the edge of the pool and don’t want to go in the water unless there is resolution” on the ownership situation.

Parsons said during cross examination that only six or seven sponsors had explicitly asked to be disassociated from the Clippers following the scandal that enveloped the team after Sterling’s racially insensitive comments to TMZ were published on April 25.

The team gave the remaining two-thirds “a holiday” before they felt compelled to disassociate from the franchise.

Parsons said losing Rivers would be “a disaster” that would “accelerate the death spiral” for the franchise.

“If none of your sponsors want to sponsor you, your coach doesn’t want to coach you, and players don’t want to play for you, what do you have?” Parsons said.

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