BICKLEY & MAROTTA
The Cardinals bring fresh voices and more Newsmaker Week 2023 highlights
Every year toward the end of winter, Newsmakers Week brings together the decision-makers in the Valley’s sports scene at the Arizona Sports studios and on our airwaves.
It comes at a point in the sports calendar where hoops teams are ramping up for the postseason, football teams are getting ready to hit the offseason hard with roster fixing and baseball is throwing out the first pitches of spring training.
Bickley & Marotta welcomed 25 guests representing Arizona’s teams and events to their show from Tuesday through Friday.
So what did we learn?
Fresh Cardinals voices know proof is in the pudding
Between owner Michael Bidwill, general manager Monti Ossenfort and head coach Jonathan Gannon, there was indeed a united voice.
You would not want to play a drinking game around the use of “accountability” or “adaptability” from those Cardinals leaders on the airwaves this week.
While results will drive the evaluation of the new staffers, one thing is certain: It’s a confident — and young — group. And the newcomers, fresh voices as part of a hard reset by Bidwill, aren’t rushing into anything just weeks into their respective jobs.
Ossenfort said all the right things about the future of receiver DeAndre Hopkins, saying he is excited to work with him. Whether that’s working on a trade destination or working to put a competitive Cardinals team around Hopkins remains to be seen.
Gannon also is not rushing anything when it comes to promising roles for key untapped talents like Isaiah Simmons. They want to put all their players in position meetings and on the field before jumping the gun and making grand proclamations.
The Cardinals’ new leaders don’t put their egos and opinions ahead of the evaluation. Right now, collecting data and calculating things as the roster is rebuilt instead of boasting about grand promises comes across as part of the plan and not because they are in over their heads.
A rebuild is a process, and it seems they are at least based in reality. It could take a minute on several accounts.
Rebuilding Coyotes are intriguing in a few ways
It helped that the Coyotes (20-29-9) entered this week with a nine-game points streak that has since ended. But there are at least interesting happenings going on with the team.
Xavier Gutierrez’s job as president and CEO is of course to lead a campaign that in May will get the NHL franchise enough votes for approval on their permanent entertainment district project. But naysayers should at least be impressed that momentum appears to be going in favor of approving a new arena and more that the team has dubbed a “landfill to landmark” project.
Playing at their temporary home at Arizona State University’s Mullett Arena has gone pretty darn well by most accounts.
“The centrality of Tempe to a majority of the population in the Valley has just been spectacular,” Gutierrez said. “You’re right next to the largest public university in the country and so the youthfulness and the exuberance of having young people — many of whom are experiencing hockey for the first time — is really, really exciting. We see it at Mullett and we know we’ll see it at our new entertainment district.”
Meanwhile, general Bill Armstrong admitted that the Coyotes’ rebuild is only 40% done, which was followed by a minor trade of Dysin Mayo.
Could Jakob Chychrun be dealt next, marking a significant point in bumping that percentage higher?
More money, maybe fewer problems
On the business side, Diamondbacks president and CEO Derrick Hall gave a very candid assessment about the state of Chase Field.
There’s not a lot new there, but he and owner Ken Kendrick for a reason ended up speaking to reporters as spring training got underway about the possibilities of moving from downtown Phoenix or refurbishing their original home.
On the baseball side, general manager Mike Hazen pushed back on the notion that he is capped by Kendrick’s spending habits, which are small in comparison to some big-money clubs in the NL West.
“Look, I don’t really care about payroll,” Hazen said. “It’s a crutch. It’s an excuse. I think we have every ability to go out and put a good team on the field.”
In both cases, the D-backs are making do with less of it.
If they win this year — the feeling is they got a good chance to be a fun, scrappy team — only the baseball-related questions posed to their leaders will subside.
The Pac-12 is not in a good situation
Pac-12 presidents of the conference’s committed 10 teams — not including USC and UCLA — have tried to maintain they are working together to keep the league from falling apart.
While that can be true, it’s also true that some of them are super pleased with how media rights negotiations remain ongoing.
Publicly, some important Pac-12 figures have voiced frustration even as a media agreement appears near.
“We’ve just been forced like everyone else, unfortunately, to let this thing play out because we’re not directly in the driver’s seat,” said ASU vice president for university athletics Ray Anderson.
“That being said, we have confidence our commissioners and our presidents and chancellors are going to get to a place where a media rights deal and a grant of rights is done. It may not be the projections originally contemplated but will be a solid enough financial situation to keep this conference together and then (we will) really work hard to move forward positively.”
It doesn’t help the conference’s PR that the Pac-12 has been linked to more obscure streaming options such as Apple TV+, and then even more obscure traditional television conglomerates like ION, which drew conflicting reports about the validity of such rumors.
Either way, it’s bad looks all around, at least until a deal is finally done.
Apple still has not made formal offer for Pac-12’s media rights, but ION television has emerged as a potential Pac-12 partner, sources told @ActionNetworkHQ. ION TV is owned by E.W. Scripps Company, which has 61 local TV stations nationwide & launched Scripps Sports this year
— Brett McMurphy (@Brett_McMurphy) February 24, 2023
ION/Scripps Sports is not involved in the Pac-12's TV negotiations, a source with direct knowledge of the situation tells @TheAthletic.
— Stewart Mandel (@slmandel) February 24, 2023
There are good basketball vibes across the state
This one is just obvious.
The Suns sure are building the anticipation for Kevin Durant’s debut as president of basketball ops and GM James Jones added to the teasing with his vague updating of the star’s injury status.
Mercury GM Jim Pitman hinted at the big media following with Brittney Griner back on the team — and home safe — before we got our first live images of her on the practice court.
The shared practice facility between the Suns and Mercury probably has the best vibes of anywhere else in the Valley at the moment.
And in college hoops, the Wildcats are a top-10 squad prepping for a long NCAA Tournament run, while ASU can make a push to secure a postseason bid and GCU is hoping for a little better luck next year unless they can nab a WAC Tournament title.
There have been a range of dark days for all these programs in recent years. Don’t take for granted where each is at right now.