SAN DIEGO — Mannie L. Jackson, a Honeywell Inc. executive and former Harlem Globetrotter, will detail his plans to bring the National Basketball Assn. back to San Diego at a Sports Arena press conference Thursday morning.
Jackson, now based in Minneapolis, is the latest puzzle piece in La Jolla multimillionaire Harry Cooper's attempts to build a 22,900-seat indoor arena aimed at inducing the National Hockey League to expand to San Diego while simultaneously luring the NBA back to this city.
"Smart guy, bright guy, VP at Honeywell, gotta be doing something right," said former NFL defensive lineman Alan Page, now a lawyer, when asked about Jackson.
Page has worked with Jackson in minority youth programs in Minnesota and said he has discussed with Jackson the plans to obtain the franchise.
Page said it is his understanding that Jackson will be the "primary owner" if the league grants the franchise.
"I think he'd be a sharp owner," Page said. "I think he'd be great." It is also believed that Jackson would also be the league's first black principal owner.
Sources close to Cooper said Jackson has already met with NBA Commissioner David Stern and will file an application for an expansion franchise at the league's next Board of Governors meetings.
But the NBA repeatedly has said it has no immediate desire to grow past the 27 teams it will field in 1989-90. And it said so again Tuesday.
"We have no interest in expansion," said Russ Granik, the league's executive vice president.
That was after Granik had been read the contents of the press release distributed to sports media outlets in San Diego. The release didn't identify Jackson by name, only as a "business executive." But Page and a source familiar with San Diego's efforts to land an NBA franchise confirmed that the "business executive" was Jackson.
Jackson did not return phone messages left at his home by The Times.
The press release, which Cooper later said wasn't supposed to be distributed until today, also described this "business executive" as a man who will "announce his plans and outline his philosophy of how the future franchise will be involved in the community" at the Thursday press conference.
The NBA has tried and failed in San Diego twice. The Clippers moved to Los Angeles May 15, 1984, after six seasons in San Diego during which they had only one winning record and no appearances in the playoffs. Before that, the San Diego Rockets played four seasons here before moving to Houston after the 1970-71 season.
But Cooper insists the NBA has never gotten a fair chance here. And one Cooper aide said San Diego is the "most wired" city in the country for cable television and pay per view potential.
Cable television is one the league's major criteria in gauging the health of a franchise. It is Cooper's plan that an NBA or NHL franchise would play in the Sports Arena he now owns until his sports "palace" is ready for operation.
It was not immediately known where Jackson's financial backing would come from. But if he assumes the title of owner or managing partner, that would be a major step forward in the league's efforts at promoting affirmative action.
Before joining the Globetrotters, Jackson played for University of Illinois basketball teams from 1958 to 1960. He captained the team in the 1959-60 season and was an honorable-mention All-American in 1960.
At Honeywell he started a program called "Best Shot" that encouraged young minority athletes to be serious about getting a good education by using athletic role models. Former Vikings Page and John Henderson are also involved in the program.
Jackson's current title with Honeywell is national sales vice president of the company's Commercial Buildings Group. That division has an office on Convoy Street in San Diego. "Mannie is a very peripatetic individual who's going 24 hours a day," said Louis Navin, Honeywell's former chief financial officer. "He's the kind of sports figure you would love to have in your town. It's San Diego's gain and Minneapolis' loss."
Before joining Honeywell, Jackson worked at General Motors.
Staff writers Chris Kraul, Dave Distel, Curt Holbreich and Craig Stanke contributed to this story.