Monday, February 23, 2009

Transition Game

Some sports have leisurely transitions when there's an offense-defense switch.  Personnel shuttle on and off the field, players and coaches have opportunities to regroup and plan, there may even be a complete stop in the game.  Football, baseball, and cricket come to mind.

Other sports have their transitions on the fly.  Soccer, hockey, rugby.  I was watching the championship of the USA Rugby Sevens tournament yesterday, England vs. Argentina.  England seemed to be in control, but in the final minutes Argentina took advantage of a transition off a penalty to score the winning try.  Adapting on the fly is crucial in such a sport.

Basketball is another such sport.  And business requires transition on the fly as well.  And with Larry H. Miller's death last Friday, we will see if the empire he built can play the transition game, or if it will look like the Jazz in their more inept moments.

Miller undoubtedly laid some foundation for this.  He built the business with an eye to passing it on, and he put his son in charge several months ago.  But that's like a coach running a practice or drawing up a game plan.  The issue now is whether the players can execute on the court.

It's a reasonable question.  Several pieces of Miller's empire are vanity projects he subsidized with his core element, the auto dealerships, and we know what auto sales are looking like these days.  Miller built it all up in good times, but the times have changed.  He kept it going with the force of his personality, but that personality is gone.  The new management team may find itself in the position of having a great win-loss record from playing the Clippers at home but now have to go on the road against the Lakers.  Something is going to give, and fast.

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