Fri, Jun 20, 2008 - Page 23 News List

SuperSonics owner admits mistakes in dealing with Seattle

AP , SEATTLE

SuperSonics owner Clay Bennett testified on Wednesday that he made mistakes in dealing with the city of Seattle after he bought the NBA team in 2006.

“We bought this team with grand visions for success,” he said. “Did we do everything right, and did we understand everything there was to understand? Certainly not.”

Bennett began his second day on the witness stand in a federal trial over the Sonics’ lease at KeyArena under friendly questioning from team attorney Brad Keller, and didn’t specify his mistakes.

He was replaced on the stand by Sonics president Danny Barth, who discussed the team’s finances, charitable work and the difficulty of running the business when it’s unclear where the Sonics will play next year. He said 23 of 125 employees have quit in the last six months.

Bennett suggested he misunderstood the region’s political climate. But he also testified he simply wasn’t willing to commit to the things his local advisers told him would be necessary to win government support for a new arena and keep the Sonics in town: Make an out-of-pocket contribution toward the construction, and agree to cover cost overruns.

The 48-year-old Oklahoma tycoon, who received calls of “Liar!” when he entered federal court on Monday, also said he’s regretted his failure “to integrate more completely with the people” of Seattle — it’s to the point “I can’t go to games.”

“I’m not real popular,” he said.

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