Bob King built the Nuggets/Rockets

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Bob King built the Nuggets/Rockets

Postby rlee » Tue Jul 20, 2010 3:41 pm

King built Rockets into NBA franchise

By Irv Moss
The Denver Post

When Bob King was the day-to-day and game-to-game operations chief for the Denver Rockets and Denver Nuggets, he ran things old-school.

When office telephones rang, King expected them to be answered. The staff knew that a second ring would bring him charging out of his office, wanting to know why the phone wasn't picked up.

The operation of Denver's pro basketball team of the day was the envy of the city's sports teams and a model for other teams in the league.

"My philosophy was that any time the phone rang, the call was from somebody who wanted to buy a ticket," King said. "That's money in the bank for a pro sports franchise. I didn't want any caller put on hold, and my staff knew they had to return calls to anyone who left a message."

King joined the Denver franchise for the ABA's 1971-72 season, coming east from the San Diego Clippers' organization in the NBA. He joined the Rockets at the request of old friend and coach Alex Hannum and stayed through the Larry Brown years, the merger of the ABA and NBA, and the coaching term of Donnie Walsh that ended during the 1980-81 season.

"I think we had four people in the office when I arrived," King said. "Bill Ringsby owned the team, but he sold it to Frank Goldberg the next year."

Goldberg wasn't satisfied with just the ABA franchise. He added a franchise in World Team Tennis, and King's job became a mixed bag between basketball and tennis in 1973-74. Denver's pro tennis team, the Racquets, featured Francoise Durr, who became a fixture in Denver's social circles.

For King, basketball became the focus again when Carl Scheer came on as president of the Rockets in 1974-75. Scheer hired Brown to coach, and with his enthusiastic style, pro basketball was at the top of Denver's sports calendar.

Scheer named King executive vice president, and the next three years became a wild ride. The home court moved from the Auditorium Arena to McNichols Sports Arena. The team's name changed from Rockets to Nuggets, and the Nuggets won the regular-season championship in the final year of the ABA. The roster was high-powered and featured David Thompson, Bobby Jones, Dan Issel, George McGinnis (later traded for Alex English), Byron Beck and Brian Taylor.

Denver's entry into the NBA for the 1976-77 season was the reward.

"Carl Scheer should be in the Basketball Hall of Fame," King said. "He forced the merger by having a lot of the best college players ready to sign with the Nuggets."

After the euphoria of joining the NBA died down, one of King's jobs was to be referee between Scheer and Brown. Their association had become strained over Brown's desire to trade Issel.

The clash reached the breaking point in February 1978, when the Nuggets were playing on the road in Portland.

"Larry Brown is one of the greatest basketball coaches ever," King said. "But his time with the Nuggets had run out. He came to me and said he was quitting and taking assistant coaches Donnie Walsh and George Irvine with him. I immediately went to Donnie and George and convinced them their careers would be over if they left. They stayed, and Donnie became the interim coach."

King believes one of his best accomplishments was convincing the male-dominated sports management of his time that women could be capable sports executives.

His proteges include Amy Scheer, vice president of Madison Square Garden; Becky Roberts, a one-time executive in USA Basketball; and Paula Hansen, vice president of the WNBA.
After leaving the Nuggets, King went to the NBA office in New York to be vice president of team services.

He's retired and is back in Denver. With two television sets, he misses very few sports events and cowboy movies.
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