In an interview with Russian Television that aired earlier this week, Brett Yormark spoke extensively about the Nets business plans including
--How much the team factors marketability into player personnel decisions;
--How much value team's payroll has brought the franchise;
--How he hopes to see greater synergy and integration among the Nets, Islanders and Barclays Center --including adding black-and-white to the Isles' logo;
--How Mikhail Prokhorov wants to balance fiscal responsibility with success on the court; and hopes to get the team and its players over to Russia in the future.
On marketability vs. talent, the CEO said it's often part of the discussion, but that "it really starts and stops with talent."
"We have these discussions internally often when there is an opportunity to sign a player, but what I think what trumps all of that is making sure that we are most successful successful team on the court as possible. It really starts and stops with talent. If that is the most talented player possible, then I think it's fair to say that our general manager, Billy King, is going to go after that player. If someone is less talented but more marketable, I'm not sure the conversation lasts that long. It truly is who is the best fit for our team and who gives us the chance to win."
Asked specifically about bringing in Chinese or Asian players to appeal to that market, Yormark said that appeal would be short-lived and not a smart business move.
"Winning as a team drives success off the court. So yes, there might be a particular player who is very marketable, but if you don't win, it's going to be short-lived. Our goal is to be successful on the court and to win and win the right way with the right players. and then what we think happens is that success off the court follows."
On high salaries specifically, he added that it's about "value" and when specifically asked if they were "good value," he responded, "absolutely good value."
"As it relates to salaries, obviously that's a decison that ownership and our basketball folk have to make. You want a return on that investment, right? So to the extent that we can see a return, I'm sure we'll keep making that investment."
At the moment, though, they're good value?
"Absolutely, to the extent that we don't see the return any more, I think it drives potentially different decisions."
It all gets back to the fans spending the money to see a good team.
"Absolutely. You're absolutely right. It does come back to the fan. You've got give the fan a great product, if you do, they're going to vote yes with their wallet."
Yormark was quite open about how the ownership of the Nets, Barclays Center and the Islanders would like to see all three entities as "one big lens," rather than "three lenses."
"I think we aspire to be a sports entertainment company so we will not look at the Islanders or the Barclays Center or the Nets as separate and apart from each other. So the question is how do we create synergies, how do we create scale, hwo do we create synergy in the marketplace that's different from today. So we are going to look at it from one big lens vs. three different lenses and I think that's the best way to approach it."
As an example, he spoke of how he and his team, now in charge of the Islanders business side, including marketing, would like to add black-and-white, "the colors of Brooklyn" the Islanders palette.
"It's something that we're considering. We've engaged in some meaningful research. focus groups in both Brooklyn and Long Island, to understand the desires of the hard core fan, the fan that's been with Islanders for many many years but we also need to understand what the new fan base for the islanders would like to see in Brooklyn. My job is to make sure we can marry the hard-care fan base and the new fan base and to do appropriate branding that speaks to both. So we haven't made an decisions yet, but i think it's fair to say that black and white are the colors of Brooklyn. So the extent to which we can weave those colors into the current color scheme of the Islanders, I think that might make some sense."
Regarding Prokhorov's willingness to spend, Yormark said Prokhorov wants to be "fiscally responsible" but also win.
"I think Mikhail is very fiscally responsible but he wants to see the team win AND wants us to the run the team like a business. So I think we look at from both perspectives. Billy King who runs the basketball operations side of our business, and I meet often. We want to make sure that we are very much in sync, in business and basketball. And Mikhail has made sure that he's established a culture inside our franchise where we are always communicating , basketball and business, and we're doing what's right for the franchise."
He also spoke at length to Prokhorov's desire to "to advance this sport of basketball here in Russia" and how he'd like to get more players involved in Russia.
"I think one of the goals of buying the franchise that Mikhail Prokhorov had was that the opportunity to advance this sport of basketball here in Russia and help best practices here. He was always fond of the NBA and realizes that the NBA is the best form of basketball in the world. Our coaches have been here running clinics. Our players have been and I'm looking, hopefully, in the future for that to happen more often. So to the extent that we can advance basketball here in Russia, by the Nets having a greater presence here in Russia, that's certainly is a goal."
And on whether the Nets and other professional sports franchises are primarily sports or business, Yormark left no doubt.
I think they're businesses. We certainly run our team like a business. and I think most teams look at it like a business. Its' a major operation. We employ over 200 people and when you think about the basketball team also, the asset value of these franchises has a chance to truly grow and its up to me to help us get there. and to realize our potential. Revenue generation is key and running it like a real business, being mindful of expenses, and just operating it no different than the way IBM Operates their business is something that's critical today.
The stakes are certainly higher today and my owner, Mikhail Prokhorov, expects us to run it like a business, and that's what we do.
Yormark was not asked about the coaching search.