As the hapless Clippers wind down another dismal season, Mike Downey's article of last spring, lamenting the team's embarrassing stay in Los Angeles, takes on ever-growing relevance. However, Downey's deft analysis overlooks the problems inherent in team management, and particularly the effect of the enigmatic Donald Sterling, who, in his own uncanny way, has brought discredit to his franchise ever since he bought it from Irv Levin.
Sterling represents a glaring departure from the tradition here in which the public perception of the owners and their teams are closely linked. The O'Malleys have always been acknowledged for their grand vision and civic pride. Jerry Buss has drawn high marks for both his philanthropic activities and for having the friendship of his players. Al Davis has earned both awe and admiration for his maverick actions and his Rozelle bashing. The common denominator among these owners is strong leadership and a good business sense.
Sterling, however, reflects none of these traits. Rather, he presents a lackluster, erratic image, which in the public's view is easily confused with that of the team.
Sterling would seem to have two viable choices. He can sell the team to any one of several reputed buyers who may yet infuse the team with a new image and a winning record for Los Angeles fans. Given the Lakers' pre-eminence in town, that possibility appears to be remote.
A more viable option would be to move the team to a city that is so hungry for basketball that the issue of team ownership is totally irrelevant.