Originally posted on Fox Sports Arizona  |  Last updated 10/10/11
PHOENIX -- For the first time since uncredited sources identified him as the guy attempting to throw away the key to the NBA lockout, Robert Sarver was within microphone distance of several local reporters at the same time. "I can't comment," The Phoenix Suns' managing partner said of the lockout. Although the right to free speech allows Sarver to say whatever he wants (within reason) without landing in the hoosegow, it doesn't protect him from the punitive wrath of NBA commissioner David Stern. And even though Monday's press rally at US Airways Center was billed as an introduction to Brad Casper, the Suns' new chief of business would have to pull off a few immediate marketing bonanzas to cover the cost of Sarver breaking communication ranks regarding the lockout. "Eventually, when it's over," Sarver said of the owners-players scrum, "the facts of my involvement will come out. And I can't wait for that day." But he did have a nice parting shot ... even though he wasn't parting. "Don't believe everything you read." That's really good advice during these troubled NBA economic times, but he really did say what I wrote he said. Anyway, with Sarver's expected response to an obligatory lockout-related inquiry out of the way, let's take a look at his replacement for Rick Welts. Welts, you may recall, is the highly regarded former president and CEO of the Suns, who -- through an interview published in the New York Times last season -- became the first openly gay executive of a major American sports franchise. In another news-making move, Welts left the Suns and Phoenix (relationship reasons) for Sacramento a few weeks ago, ostensibly jobless but prepared to consider a potential book deal and speaking engagements that might advance the cause he promoted by going public. Within a few days, however, Welts was hired to fill a presidentCEO vacancy by the new Golden State Warriors ownership team. "Chicken Little"-inspired Suns followers seized this latest personnel change as another sign that the part of the sky operated by Sarver continues in a presumed free-fall. Welts attempted to diffuse these reactions by insisting that Sarver is a swell guy to work for, truly cares about winning and took the lead in helping him land the Warriors job. But you almost could detect a organizational twitch occurring in the Al McCoy media room Monday when Casper said, "Thank you, Rick Welts, for leaving for Golden State so I can have this opportunity." OK, Casper may not have fully appreciated the reported timeline and primary reason for Welts leaving or reconciled how they might play with the team's critics. But his business credentials -- based on believing what was read in the press release and heard during Monday's testimonials -- suggests he's a pretty sharp guy. His most recent gig was president and CEO of Henkel Consumer Goods, Inc., which is a German-owned, Scottsdale-based outfit that took in the Dial Corporation. Casper moved to the valley as president and CEO of Dial 6 12 years ago. He characterized Dial's existence as a "sleepy follower" until his skills of innovation gave the company more than a pleasant whiff of optimism. After having accomplished most of his goals for the company, he and Henkel parted ways a year ago. Casper -- whose son was entering his senior year of high school at the time -- decided to stick around Phoenix and look for work. Through prior work with Suns vice chairman Sam Garvin, Casper found himself on the Suns' potential-hire radar. "It's a win-win," said Sarver, who also announced the promotion of Jason Rowley from general counsel to chief operating officer. "He brings a lot of innovation, creativity and passion to the organization." Casper, who became an immediate admirer of the Suns after moving here, appreciates any perception-based skepticism. "What does a guy who peddled soap know about basketball?" said Casper, anticipating potential sentiments of the doomsday watchdogs referenced earlier. Well, since his list of new-product victories includes Dial's lineup of body scrubs, we know Casper is no stranger to versatility. If his company can produce a shower weapon that includes body soap, shampoo and conditioner in one bottle, perhaps his teammates on the basketball side will be inspired to find players who possess the combined abilities to score, rebound and defend. "I have the utmost confidence that they can be transferable," Casper said of how his ability to market soap will not exclude him from being able to market an NBA team. "I think the brand is very strong." And that's before any off-court cleansing can be accomplished by the soap guy.
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