The Golden State Warriors are one of the groups interested in running the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks according ESPN’s Michelle Smith on Jan. 3. The Sparks previous ownership surrendered control of the team prior to Christmas and all Spark front-office employees have been laid off.
League president Laurel Richie confirmed that the WNBA has made contact with groups that have previously expressed interest in running a franchise.
Warriors spokesman Raymond Ridder provided a statement that a WNBA team acquisition isn't imminent, though the team is interested.
“Our ownership group has maintained their interest in operating a WNBA team in the Bay Area since acquiring the Warriors three years ago. We've had exploratory conversations relating to this topic with the WNBA on several occasions since 2010, including most recently regarding the Los Angeles franchise. At this point, our dialogue remains in the exploratory stage as we evaluate the complexities of any such acquisition now or in the future.”
Warriors owner Joe Lacob is a longtime women's basketball supporter. He He is a season-ticket holder for Stanford's women's team and a former owner of the San Jose Lasers of the American Basketball League. Golden State chief operating officer Rick Welts worked closely with then-president Val Ackerman to launch the league in 1997.
Sparks chairman Paula Madison told the Associated Press on Thursday night that her family lost $12 million since taking over the franchise in 2007, including $1.4 million last season.
All Sparks’ front office personnel, including the team's president and general manager, were laid off on New Year's Eve via email
“Our team has had a tough time from year to year, and we went into this not because we wanted to own a franchise, but because we wanted to support women's basketball," Madison said in a phone interview late Thursday night.
While half the league's teams are connected to NBA franchises, the Sparks were independently owned, which has made reaching profitability more difficult.
The Sparks, one of the league’s original four franchises, have been one of the best on the court and have led the league in attendance the past two seasons despite the franchise’s financial trouble. They won titles in 2001 and 2002 and made it to the playoffs in five of the past six seasons.
Los Angeles went 24-10 and finished second in the Western Conference. The Sparks were knocked out in the opening round of the conference playoffs.
Candace Parker, the 2013 WNBA MVP, led the team with 17.9 points and 8.9 rebounds a game. Rookie Nneka Ogwumike (14.6 ppg), Kristi Oliver (14.1 ppg) and Lindsay Harding (10.9 ppg) also averaged double figures a season ago.
If Golden State ultimately purchases the Sparks’ franchise, the team will be moved to the Bay Area.