WNBA still searching for new president
By DOUG FEINBERG
NEW YORK (AP) Mark Tatum hopes his tenure as WNBA interim president is coming to an end soon.
With WNBA training camps set to begin in a little over a month and the regular season tipping off on May 24, the league is still looking for a new president.
"We've always had a general timeline by having someone in place by the start of the regular season," Tatum said in a phone interview last week. "That's realistic at this point. We want the right person for the role. Someone who has business operational experience as well and an entrepreneurial spirit to them as well. ... We need someone who is a strong marketer, sales person and someone who will take the business to the next level.
Former president Lisa Borders stepped down in October and the search process has been ongoing ever since.
"I would say the search continues and we haven't identified the person yet," Tatum said. "We've interviewed a significant number of candidates. The quality of executives that have raised their hand has uncovered no shortage of candidates we're looking at."
One person who isn't a candidate for the job is Tatum himself.
"I'm pretty good with the NBA deputy commissioner and COO role," he said. "I've really enjoyed the opportunity to work more directly on the WNBA. I've been able to sell sponsorships for the first 15 years and the last five in my current day job for the WNBA. I've always felt connected to it and tied to it. I'm so optimistic about the future of our league at this point."
The WNBA promoted Christin Hedgpeth to chief operating officer in February. She had been serving as the league's interim COO since Borders stepped down.
"She's doing a fantastic job of overseeing strategy and business development for our league," Tatum said.
The WNBA announced its annual draft will take place on April 10. Tatum said he will be involved in it.
The interim president touted a few positive things that have happened in the offseason, including an increased number of games on ESPN this year as well as a new partnership with AT&T and the team-up the league had with the highly successful Captain Marvel movie last month.
The league also oversaw the sale of the New York Liberty to an investment group led by Brooklyn Nets minority owner Joseph Tsai.
"We're thrilled about it," Tatum said of the sale. "Obviously thankful to Jim (Dolan) for his decades of commitment to the Liberty, but we found we think a fantastic home for them in Joe Tsai and his group. I spent a lot of time with Joe and Oliver Weisberg on that partnership. They're committed to it and big, big fans and supporters of it. The Liberty will stay in the New York area and with the resources and support they'll put behind it is great for the league and fans and teams."
One thing that the new president will have to deal with relatively quickly is the collective bargaining agreement. The players opted out of the current contract at the end of last season. This season will still fall under the current CBA.
Tatum didn't want to get into specifics of negotiations between the league and the players' union. However, he did say that the two sides have had preliminary conversations and they've been productive.
"The goal would be to get the new deal done as quickly as we can," he said. "We're going to meet often and we've already started meeting. Our goal would be to get something done in the most timely and expeditious fashion. We haven't set a timeline of that. Clearly before next season, that's our hard deadline."
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Updated March 26, 2019