Vol. 14, No. 14, October 8, 2001

SuperSonics Gear Up for New Year

Gotham, Walker
Terry Gotham chats with Wally Walker after Friday’s presentation.

Wally Walker, CEO & President of the Seattle Supersonics, Seattle’s entry in the National Basketball Association, gave a thumbnail sketch of the prospects for his team this year. Wally played for the Sonics from 1977 to 1982. He received his MBA from Stanford and is a national trustee of Boys  & Girls Clubs of America.

According to Walker, the outlook for Supersonics is upbeat. "Pro sports in Seattle have been overshadowed by Mariners and their great season. But, our pre-season is here and the regular season starts in November."

Howard Schultz, owner of Starbucks, purchased the Sonics last year, and Nate McMillan was installed as head coach. "Nate had 45 minutes to transition to head coach. Taking over for Paul Westfall, Nate got his thoughts together, went out for the team's practice, and then headed to Portland to beat the Trailblazers. McMillan was given a 4-year contract at the end of the year."

Nate has set the tone for what the Sonics want to be. Walker said the Sonics are reloading to get back into the NBA elite. "We'll stay competitive with veteran Gary Payton and the new names on the team. When we talk about setting the tone, Payton is capable of being the team leader. He has raw, competitive nerve. Gary stepped up with a new attitude when we announced at the end of last season that ‘no one on the team was untouchable.'"

The team's problems with Vin Baker will hopefully end. "We couldn't trade him because his salary was too high … and there wasn't enough interest in him. We haven't played a game yet, but we're hopeful that Payton and Baker will step up, set the tone, and provide leadership into this new season," Walker emphasized.

"We want the community to be proud of this team and of the contributions they'll make to the community. We have open seats at the arena, and we need the community's support to fill those seats." Walker announced that during the pre-season, contributions for Disaster Relief would be matched by both management and players.

When asked about Michael Jordan's return to the NBA, Walker said his move was a positive one, which created new interest and a sell-out in December when the Wizards come to town.

Bob Moloney vented his feelings:. "I love basketball. But I don't like the NBA kind. I don't want to put money in the pockets of hoodlums. I'd like to know that these guys are people I'd invite to my home for dinner." Walker's answer: "We can control the situation and have made moves to make our situation much better. You can feel good about inviting them over to your home for dinner."

Asked about the need for a tall guy in the middle, Wally talked about Calvin Booth, who has pegged in as the team's center. "He's made huge leaps in his two years in NBA … good shooter and blocker … gives great effort. He's playing for minimum salary, but he's got a great attitude and is the first guy to practice. Calvin's a so-so rebounder."

Rebounding is the area that Wally is concerned about. “We'll be a great, great shooting team. Rebounding is a natural talent, not learned.”

So, who's gonna win the NBA Title this coming season? Wally likes the Lakers and San Antonio in the West and Toronto and Philly in the East. When asked about the impact on the sports market with the addition of women's professional basketball, Wally said they just didn't have enough time to market prior to last season. "We're going to do a better job of promoting, marketing, and sales for the women's team." Thanks to Bob McNulty for his introduction.

President Goldfarb gave Wally a certificate showing that 600 pounds of food has been donated to Rotary Youth Harvest in his name.