WNBA needs ownership that cares

Gratuitous camera shots of sports owners, a pox on every TV screen, hit its nadir with the Maloof brothers. They're the Las Vegas casino barons who own the Sacramento Kings and recently pulled the plug on the Sacramento Monarchs.

No one had seen them much during the summer - any summer - until the 2005 WNBA finals, when they emerged from hardwood witness protection to sit courtside for the championship series between the Sun and their Monarchs.

With television the witting stooge, the Maloofs mugged for the cameras excitedly, incessantly and faithfully. It was just delicious to be so closely associated with the team that would bring the only sports championship to Sacramento. Ever. How sad that a few years later, the Maloofs have shown their interest in the women's basketball portion of the empire was feigned at best.

The Monarchs are no more. The dispersal draft is next week.

This, no doubt, comes to the delight of many crackerjacks in and out of the media who can't stand the WNBA despite knowing less about it than they do hyperbolic geometry. They'll view this as another sign of the league's demise.

Happily, it's the opposite.

It's great news, just not for the people of Sacramento, who will miss their team.

But for the future of the league? This is beautiful. Because the WNBA just rid itself of a fraudulent ownership group.

The WNBA did not - and does not - need owners who feign interest in their franchises. It's still a problem. Some owners supported shrinking roster sizes from 13 to 11 last season, a move that crippled teams beset with injuries.

Some owners are responsible for the recent decision, as reported in the Seattle Times, to limit coaching staffs to one head coach and one assistant.

Let's be clear on this: Owners who spend more time cutting jobs than finding new and creative revenue streams (as some franchises did last summer) should get rid of their franchises forthwith. No, really. Get out. It's OK. Clearly, you tolerate your teams at best. So dump them. And then don't let the doorknob leave a lasting impression.

Maybe it means that the WNBA shrinks to eight or 10 franchises. Eight franchises that care is more functional than eight that care and five or six that don't. My eight would be: Connecticut, Washington, New York, Phoenix, Seattle, Los Angeles, San Antonio and Indiana.

Nobody is naive enough to deny that the WNBA exists because of NBA commissioner David Stern's largesse. Fine. But it's not like the WNBA is some massive burden. It offers women historic employment in professional sports. Salaries are modest. Tickets are cheap. And with Phoenix, Los Angeles and Indiana earning strong corporate sponsorship deals last summer in a bad economy, the WNBA showed a pulse.

We're part of that pulse here in our corner of the world. The Sun have not captured the fancy of all Connecticut sports fans. But they have a nice niche. It's enough to keep many of the seats occupied and the casino property hopping on game nights.

The Maloofs, meanwhile, will keep throwing money into the Kings (record: 9-11), who have won exactly nothing. Ever. And they just dumped the only championship team in their empire. The guess here is that they were born into their money.

You can watch the WNBA. Or not. I don't care. I like it. And so do some others, apparently. We leave you today with an excerpt from an editorial in a Sacramento newspaper that says it all:

"The Monarchs made Sacramento feel good - they brought us our first top-tier professional championship - and they taught us a thing or two in the process. We'll remember the way the team and the whole community rallied around Edna Campbell as she faced breast cancer.

"We'll never forget the parade and rally that marked their title, and we'll probably never again see first-rate professional sports at an affordable price where foul language wasn't tolerated. ('There are kids here-watch your mouth!' was heard more than once at Arco Arena). We'll miss the Monarchs and we'll miss the way they made us feel."

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.

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