While the New York Jets currently hold the longest standing playoff drought across major American sports, the Denver Nuggets now hold the shortest drought among all league champions after beating the Miami Heat on Monday to secure the franchise’s first NBA title. Obviously the NBA is very different from the NFL in terms of how the game is played; however, I am of the belief that teams can learn from successful organizations regardless of the sport they are in, at least in terms of what ‘works’ in terms of organizational philosophies, reporting structures, core values, and other high-level operating decisions.
I learned an interesting fact following the Nuggets victory which I wanted to highlight: they are owned by Stan Kroenke. Notably, Kroenke owns teams across multiple major American sports leagues, several of which have won a title, including the Los Angeles Rams within the NFL.
While it’s possible the success of each of Kroenke’s teams were achieved for completely independent reasons, I personally think the larger likelihood is that Kroenke is doing something right that is helping his teams to succeed. With that in mind, I did a dive into what Kroenke’s ownership style is to try to glean what that might be.
The first thing that stood out in my dive is Kroenke has been described as rather “quiet” by owner standards. As written by Jeré Longman in a 2010 article from the New York Times:
He is circumspect and seldom speaks with reporters, who have nicknamed him Silent Stanley. He is regularly called... the anti-Jerry Jones, the anti-Mark Cuban.
Another thing that stood out in that New York Times article was the description of Kroenke by former NBA commissioner David Sterns. As summarized by Longman, “David Stern, the N.B.A. commissioner, described Mr. Kroenke as inquisitive and analytical, ‘as knowledgeable a person as there is’ about basketball, an owner ‘willing to do old things in a new way.’” In further support of this idea Kroenke is willing to do things in a ‘new way’ (or differently), since 2017 his Los Angeles Rams:
- Hired the youngest head coach in NFL history in Sean McVay
- Traded every first round pick they’ve acquired for an established pro-bowl quality player
- Took wide receiver Cooper Kupp despite a poor forty yard dash time, citing a strong play speed as recorded by GPS that alleviated related speed concerns
- Traded away Quarterback Jared Goff only one year after giving him a franchise QB contract due to what can be assumed to be a change their evaluation of his skill level or potential. Of note, the Rams incurred 24.7 million in dead cap space in the process, which set an NFL record for the most dead cap incurred by one player.
The third thing that stood out was that Kroenke apparently allows the people he hires to run his teams to do so without his interference. As said by Rams GM Les Snead, “He empowers us. He expects us to bring that vision to fruition. Then he steps back and lets you do your job.”
Overall, Kroenke appears to be a man in little need of attention who is willing to do things different and to trust the experts who he hires to run his teams. In general, that sounds like a pretty sound strategy to me. It also seems to be preferred by at least one former NFL GM:
Is there a lesson to be gleaned from Stan Kroenke's teams winning championships in multiple sports?— Andrew Brandt (@AndrewBrandt) June 13, 2023
Probably not, but if so, it is this for ownership:
Put up the money, hire good people, let them do their job. and stay out of the way!
Of note, that description of Kroenke sounds like the polar opposite of New York Jets owner Woody Johnson, who has been as front and center as any NFL owner this offseason and who was reportedly a driving force in the Jets’ acquisition of Quarterback Aaron Rodgers. While it remains to be seen whether this alternate ownership style will reap similar rewards, the success of Kroenke may be something that Woody could stand to learn from.