Monday, November 06, 2006

The Cuban Rules

One of the better sports books written in the last twenty-five years was “The Jordan Rules” written by Chicago Tribune columnist Sam Smith. The book delved into the inner workings of Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls during the height of their reign as the most dominate team in the NBA. It may be time for Smith or another journalist to pen a book focusing on the set of rules Mark Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks, operates under. Mark Cuban remains possibly the best owner in professional sports and at times possibly the worst owner in professional sports. How one owner can have such a Jeckel & Hyde personality has the makings of a best seller.

The National Basketball Association very quietly but very deliberately enacted a set of rules during the off-season giving NBA commissioner David Stern the power to suspend an owner for what Stern believes is behavior unbecoming to that of an NBA owner. Said behavior isn’t in anyway related to the suspensions Major League Baseball has leveled at George Steinbrenner during his years as Yankees owner, but for an NBA teams’ owner behavior before, during or after an NBA game that relate directly to the game. The so-called “Cuban Rules” because they appear directed at Cuban, have once again provided Cuban with a platform – an opportunity to vent some rage at the NBA establishment for trying to rein him in.

One question that begs to be asked – has Mark Cuban who believes his behavior is in the best interests of the NBA team he owns, has had enough? Will The Cuban Rules drive Mark Cuban out of the NBA? Cuban insisted to’s Marc Stein, David Stern isn’t going to drive Mark Cuban out of the NBA, but did tell Stein:

"They aren't [driving me away]," Cuban said as a Friday follow-up, repeating his promise to comply with all of the above and continuing with the theme he introduced to great laughs in the Mavs' weight room the night before.

"I love the opportunity they have given me to learn from the best. It was a tough interdiction, but the tough love my fellow owners and the commissioner have shown me are invigorating."

"I may have my missteps along the way. It might be hard to resist making the instinctual travel signal, or [raising] three fingers for a three-second call, much like a caffeine-fiend joneses for a Starbucks latte. But over time those will dissipate and I can fit in and raise my game to the level of my fellow owners."

It’s off the court, where Cuban has become one of the worst owners in sports. At times Cuban has embarrassed himself, the Mavericks and the National Basketball Association. All told Mark Cuban has been fined 10 times for $1.45 million by NBA commissioner David Stern during his first six years as an NBA team owner:

June 20, 2006 -- Fined $250,000 for "several acts of misconduct" committed after a 101-100 overtime loss to the Miami Heat in Game 5 of the NBA finals. Cuban went onto the floor to vent directly to official Joe DeRosa, then stared at and screamed toward Commissioner David Stern, and a group of league officials. He later used profanity during a post-game session with the media.

May 10, 2006 -- Fined $200,000; $100,000 each for going on the court to complain during a loss to the San Antonio Spurs in Game 1 of a second-round series and $100,000 for critical comments in a blog entry entitled, "How to improve NBA Playoff Officiating."

Jan. 8, 2002 -- Fined $500,000 for comments about officiating after a 105-103 loss to the San Antonio Spurs. He said of the NBA's director of officials Ed Rush, "Ed Rush might have been a great ref, but I wouldn't hire him to manage a Dairy Queen. His interest is not in the integrity of the game or improving the officiating."

April 13, 2001 -- NBA fines Cuban $100,000 and suspends him from one game for making a derogatory gesture during a 111-106 loss to the Phoenix Suns. "I didn't make a derogatory gesture," he later said. "I jumped up and grabbed my throat after a missed call, and that was it."
Feb. 16, 2001 -- Fined $10,000 and suspended from two games after he runs onto the court to break up a fight with the Cleveland Cavaliers. This is known as the "chalupa incident" because the brawl was over the Mavericks trying to break 100 points so fans would get free chalupas.

Jan. 11, 2001 -- Fined $100,000 after sitting on the baseline during a road game against the Minnesota Timberwolves. "They said it wasn't fitting for an owner to sit there," Cuban said.

Jan. 4, 2001 -- On the first anniversary of his deal to buy the Mavericks, Cuban was fined $250,000 for criticizing referees after a loss to the Detroit Pistons. Cuban had arena officials freeze a replay of an offensive goaltending violation he thought officials missed, and then had photographers take pictures of it. "The refs were pitiful tonight and I don't care if I get fined," he said.

Nov. 22, 2000 -- Fined $25,000 after verbally abusing and publicly criticizing officials after a loss to the Seattle SuperSonics. Cuban was angry that official Gary Benson, who wore No. 30, missed a goaltending call. Cuban waited for officials at their locker room, then said, "Am I mistaken or did No. 30 just hand them the game? Nice game, No. 30."

Nov. 20, 2000 -- Cuban fined $15,000 after being escorted off the court after a confrontation with an official during a game with the Utah Jazz. Told by Coach Don Nelson that his actions might be hurting the team, Cuban did not attend the next two home games.

10. Nov. 14, 2000 -- Cuban fined $5,000 for criticizing an official after a win against the Los Angeles Clippers. "The policy is to fine anyone who criticizes the officiating," he said. "I knew that before I said anything. But it still doesn't address the issue."

Thursday night, before the Mavericks lost to the San Antonio Spurs 97-91 in their season opener, Cuban held an impromptu news conference – telling anyone who was prepared to listen, Mark Cuban has seen the light, and he’s a changed man.

"I'm reborn," the owner of the Dallas Mavericks said during his usual pre-game workout. "It's no longer Mark Cuban, the benefactor. It's Mark Cuban, David Stern disciple. And I say that with all seriousness. ..."

"I used to spend a lot of time trying to really learn the details and the numbers, doing a lot of research, because I was cynical and skeptical. I've lost all that cynicism and skepticism. It's all gone. Sarcasm? There's no sarcasm."

Speaking to the media Friday night at the Toronto Raptors home opener – David Stern didn’t see much sincerity in Cuban’s Thursday night tirade.

Said Stern Friday night according to a report in The Toronto Star: "There's a humble man.” Stern added: "He's well-advised. I applaud his sagacity."

"In the course of the last several years as we've dealt with reputational issues, rule changes, enforcement issues, points of emphasis, I give Mark all the credit for those. We're happy to have his support and wisdom,” Stern told the Globe and Mail’s Michael Grange.

How sincere was Cuban in the comments he offered Thursday night? Consider these pearls of wisdom from Cuban.

"Now I have new aspirations beyond winning the title in the NBA, and that's to fit in and be like everybody else," Cuban said. "They're smarter, they're better, they're prettier, in better shape, they have nicer teeth."

"I'll just keep a little diary," he said. "If I get that old urge to yell at the officials, I'll just write it in the diary at the end of the night, just purge all that anxiety because I know that they'll fix it. Everybody's human, everybody makes mistakes. But they'll fix it. They're that good."

It’s almost if Cuban is baiting Stern and the NBA seeing how far he can far push Stern and the NBA before have had enough of Cuban.

It would appear the keys to Cuban’s Mavericks Empire, his players, have had enough of Cuban’s behavior. Dirk Nowitzki unquestionably the Mavericks leader on the court made it clear to the Dallas media at a Mavericks camp for kids in early July, he has had enough of Cuban and his off court antics.

"We all know that Mark is 100 percent all the time," Nowitzki said while signing 350 autographs for campers at a Mavericks' basketball clinic at Grapevine High School. "He loves us and he gets fired up once in a while. Well, all the time, really."

"Do I think it's a bit much sometimes? Yeah. He's got to learn how to control himself as well as the players do. We can't lose our temper all the time on the court or off the court, and I think he's got to learn that, too. He's got to improve in that area and not yell at the officials the whole game. I don't think that helps us."

"We all know what Mark brings to the team, how he supports us. We live with who he is, and we love him that way. But do I think it's good for us always? No."

One issue is clear; Mark Cuban doesn’t have a great deal of respect for his fellow owners, who Cuban believes are at the root of the NBA’s Cuban Rules. Cuban earlier this week pulled the plug on a two-hour Sunday talk show, Mark Cuban's Radio Maverick, on SIRIUS as part of the NBA's multimillion dollar broadcast agreement with the satellite network.

"It was a culmination of many things in my relationship with the NBA," Cuban said via e-mail in a Dallas Morning News report. "I decided to make my decision public because of e-mails from potential listeners and because of the information that some of the other owners or the league leaked to the media this week."

"The 'code of conduct' has no description or definition, so it's hard to respond to," Cuban told The Dallas Morning News. "But the intent was to suggest that some owners don't like the way I do business, something they remind me of collectively every year but forget individually when they ask for something for the league or their teams."

When Cuban purchased the Mavericks January 14, 2000 he was like a kid in a candy store. A dot-com billionaire, Cuban’s ownership antics have resembled a classic ‘boy with a toy’, as opposed to the image of a traditional sports owner. Cuban was one of the first owners to sit among the fans buying tickets for games. His belief was and likely still is a sincere interest in gaining a greater understanding of the ‘fan experience’.

From day one he treated the Mavericks with respect. Two decisions Cuban made just after he bought the Mavericks, arranging for the team to fly on their own plane, and giving each member of the team (and the entire organization) a laptop computer with all the bells and whistles. He did what he did, not because he had too, but because he believed it would make his team better, giving them a better chance to win. Every team owner should have those attributes – doing whatever he can to help his team win. That’s the Dr. Hyde side of Cuban.

And then there’s the Jeckel side of Cuban. The issue with Cuban is he seems more often then not wanting to be the center of attention. Let’s not mistake passion for the “Billy Madison syndrome”. At times Mark Cuban behaves like a spoiled child who when he doesn’t get his way stomps and yells until someone notices him. David Stern then becomes the parent who has to discipline his misbehaving child. On every level when Mark Cuban acts like a child he’s doing a disservice to all the great decisions and moves he’s made as an owner and as a business man.

"He sits right there over by our bench, too," Nowitzki said. "Sometimes I think that's a bit much, but we all told him this before. It's not rocket science."

"The game starts and he's already yelling at [the officials]. He needs to learn how to control himself a little better. If somebody's in your ear constantly...I'd be [ticked] off if I were an official."

Is Mark Cuban good for the NBA – unquestionably, more often then not he’s GREAT for the NBA. His passion serves as an example for anyone. If you want to be a success you need to be passionate, committed and dedicated to the task at hand, those characteristics should be The “Real” Cuban Rules, not a set David Stern having to baby-sit a grown man. The challenge for Mark Cuban, give up on the inane suggestions your fellow owners “they're prettier, in better shape, they have nicer teeth.” its juvenile behavior at best and diminishes what makes Mark Cuban the best owner in the NBA. As long as Mark Cuban continues to feed the media with frat boy humor, he’ll remain one of the worst NBA owners, the ultimate sports owner who seemingly will never be a happy man.

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom. Sources cited in this Insider Report: The Dallas Morning News,, The Toronto Star and the Globe and Mail

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