Clippers president goes on leave

Updated: May 6, 2014, 8:05 PM ET
By Arash Markazi | ESPNLosAngeles.com

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Los Angeles Clippers president Andy Roeser is taking an indefinite leave of absence, effective immediately, the NBA announced Tuesday.

Roeser has been with the organization since 1984.

"This will provide an opportunity for a new CEO to begin on a clean slate and for the team to stabilize under difficult circumstances," league spokesman Mike Bass said.

The NBA announced last week that it will appoint a CEO to oversee the team's day-to-day operations.

Clippers owner Donald Sterling was banned from the NBA for life and fined $2.5 million April 29 by commissioner Adam Silver for racist remarks he made that were published by TMZ.

Roeser, one of the Clippers' two alternate governors besides Sterling, had been in charge of the team since Silver's announcement. However, he drew the ire of many in the organization after he released a statement initially giving Sterling the benefit of the doubt in the wake of the owner's controversial comments.

"I think that rubbed a lot of people the wrong way," Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. "And Andy said right away that was the wrong statement. He apologized for that and then we moved on."

Rivers, who is also the team's senior vice president of basketball operations, will continue to run the basketball side with vice president of basketball operations Gary Sacks. Rivers was meeting with his players when he found out about Roeser and said he was surprised by the news.

"I knew they were going to bring in a new CEO eventually," Rivers said. "But it does [surprise me]. I'm glad that I didn't know about it, honestly. I think the NBA is doing their job and we're just trying to keep this thing together."

The process is reminiscent of the NBA appointing Jack Sperling to oversee the New Orleans Hornets when it operated the franchise in 2011-12 after owner George Shinn no longer had the means to. Clippers point guard Chris Paul was on the Hornets during that time, but he wasn't ready to compare the situations yet in the midst of a playoff run.

"Probably after the season I'll think about it," Paul said. "Right now, as long as we have our uniforms and our shoes in our locker, I'm cool."

Rivers said he has no idea whom he reports to now and added that he hasn't had to report much to Roeser, anyway, since the executive handled the business side of the Clippers.

"Andy basically let me know [what] I needed to do," Rivers said. "I would have to call him every once in a while about stuff. It's nothing big, and the next couple of weeks the [CEO] is going to be decided anyway and the league understands that."

Clippers co-owner Shelly Sterling endorsed the league's move to put Roeser on an indefinite leave.

"While this is a painful step, it is a necessary one as we move forward with the NBA to make the Clippers organization one of the most professional and successful franchises in all of sports," Sterling said in a statement.

"For nearly three decades, Andy has been a crucial part of putting together our winning team, both on the court and in the front office. Everyone in the Clippers family owes him a huge debt of gratitude for his efforts.

"The team's senior management -- including Doc Rivers, Ed Lamb, and Carl Lahr -- are more than capable of guiding the organization during this time. I have the utmost confidence in them."

NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum addressed Clippers employees Saturday at Staples Center to brief them on the situation. Rivers will be consulted on the search for the CEO, according to sources, with the league expected to make a decision on the position soon.

"I've talked to Adam a couple of times, but I told him that right now is not the time for me," Rivers said. "Adam and them have been good, and if I need to know something they've told me, and if I check my phone they probably told me about this, but I just haven't checked my phone."

The league's advisory/finance committee held its first meeting about Sterling on Thursday, two days after Silver said he would urge owners to force a sale of the team. The 10-member committee said in a statement that it "unanimously agreed to move forward as expeditiously as possible" on the process of terminating Sterling's ownership and planned to reconvene next week.

Sterling's awards were removed from the team's training facility this week and the "Sterling Drive" sign above the driveway entering the facility also was removed.

Several high-profile figures have come forward to express their interest in buying the Clippers, including Oprah Winfrey, Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Magic Johnson. This didn't come as a surprise to Rivers.

The Clippers beat the second-seeded Oklahoma City Thunder in the opener of their Western Conference semifinal series. Game 2 is Wednesday night in Oklahoma City.

Arash Markazi

ESPNLosAngeles.com

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