Seattle-based entrepreneur Howard Schultz is chairman of The Basketball Club of Seattle LLC. The purchase of the Seattle SuperSonics NBA franchise and the WNBA Seattle Storm basketball team by The Basketball Club of Seattle, LLC, a group of local private investors, was approved on April 1, 2001. Under his leadership, the organization continues to exceed expectations with wins on the court and unprecedented community involvement off the court. Schultz is committed to bringing an NBA championship to the city of Seattle, enhancing fan support for the WNBA Seattle Storm and building upon both teams' community involvement.
Currently Chairman and Chief Global Strategist of Starbucks Coffee Company, Schultz joined the company as director of operations and marketing in 1982, when Starbucks had only four stores. In August 1987, Schultz purchased Starbucks Coffee Company with the help of local investors. In June 2000, Schultz, who remains chairman of the board, assumed the additional role of chief global strategist so he could apply his brand-building expertise to Starbucks global expansion and international brand development.
Schultz chatted live on Wednesday, April 17. See what he had to say!
Flint (Portland, OR): Hey Howard, I live in Portland, but I'm a lifelong Sonic fan. Between Dallas, San Antonio and Sacramento, who do you think we have the best chance of upsetting in the first round?
Howard Schultz: It's clear to all of us that those are three very strong, highly competitive teams and at this stage of the season I don't think there's any difference between players and coaching staff as we enter the playoffs. With Gary Payton at the point and our ability to shoot the ball, I strongly believe we can beat whoever we play. I think the fans are in for a treat no matter the opponent.
Tami Zimet, Philadelphia: How has the hiring of Coach Demopoulos impacted the Sonics season this year?
Howard Schultz: I give Nate McMIllan a lot of credit for anticipating the need, with the rules changes, and going out and recruiting a highly-skilled college coach who could bring his knowlege of the zone to Nate and the team. I can't imagine a first year asssitant who's had more value and been more of a contributor than Dean. I think the entire coaching staff did a great job this year weathering the injuries and other things we've gone through this year. Just a tremendous job by all of them.
Sonicsfan (Seattle): Have you always been a Sonics fan?
Howard Schultz: Growing up in New York, I was a Knicks fan as a kid and have some fond memories sitting up in the rafters with my father watching some of those great Knicks games during the glory days. When I moved to Seattle in 82, I became a season ticket holder, and I changed my allegience to my home team. I'd say my Knicks days are behind me.
Bridget (St. Louis): What is the Sonics' draft scenario? Are you looking for a big man on draft day?
Howard Schultz: Because of the Patrick Ewing trade, once we qualified for the playoffs, our first round pick belongs to the Raptors. Barring a trade scenario, our second round pick will be our first. We were scouting overseas because of the great contributions we got from the European players.
Jimmy (Las Vegas): What do you think of the job that Mark Cuban has done with the Dallas Mavericks? Do you see similarities in your styles?
Howard Schultz: I think Mark deserves a tremendous amount of credit for transforming what was an underachieving franchise into NBA elite. I have a high degree of respect for his passion for the game. I think he and I have a mutual respect and a growing friendship but stylistically, I approach my responsibilties to the Sonics in a different way.
Jeff (Austin): With his tenacious defense and 22 pts, nine assists and five boards, in your mind, where does Gary Payton rank among all-time greats?
Howard Schultz: I've been witness to every one of Gary's seasons since he came into the league, and I have been amazed each and every year not only in his production, but his will to win, his passion for the game and his ability to make his teammates better. That being said, I think this has been his best season and although Kidd and Duncan are getting MVP consideration, I don't know another player in the league whose team relies on his leadership and production as much as Gary.
bronx: Who do you think is going to take the Eastern Conference?
Howard Schultz: I thought that the Nets would maintain their No. 1 seed and that would prove to be the correct position, but since Todd McCulloch got hurt, you can see that his presence on the team is very important. If he's not on the top of his game or is injured, they could have a tough time. I think Detroit has a great shot, too. I like how they play the game.
LaQuanda - Seattle: Do you hang out with the players ever? Are they fun guys? They seem really cool.
Howard Schultz: They are a great group of young men and a lot of fun to be around. I try to make myself available for them collectively and individually, and I've tried to build a relationship built on trust with them. I think it's important that they not only be basketball players but great members of the community. I've built some good relationships with some of the players. The Sonics lead the league in community appearances, with Desmond Mason leading the way. He's a terrific kid.
Firas, United Arab Emirates: Mr. Schultz ... Congrats on a great season! My question: What are the team's priorities this offseason? I'd like to see the same group just come back and give it another shot with one more year experience under their belt.
Howard Schultz: I agree about a young group staying together. I think we have as strong nucleus as there is in the league. With the young guys and the leadership from Gary and Vin. We'll try to keep this group together because we have a lot of confidence in the future with this group but we have to try to keep improving this club. It'll also be nice to get Calvin Booth back next year. What we've done without him is a huge accomplishment. We can't wait to get him back.
clemson: Are you yourself a basketball player?
Howard Schultz: I played basketball my whole life and this year for the first time I stopped playing. I had an injury, and I also realized that my skill level doesn't match my aspirations. My 16-year-old son finally beat me one-and-one, and he's never looked back.
Denver (Seattle): Howard, what do you think about the job Nate has done with this team?
Howard Schultz: One cannot say enough about Nate McMillan. In terms of his passion, respect of the game and his ability to communicate with the players that builds trust and confidence. He directs the players as best he can. He's the glue that's kept us all together. I'm so proud of what he's done, and I'm gratified that he's gotten the accolades he deserves. When SI named him Coach of the Year, I called him in Spain to congratulate him because I was so proud of him.
Oliver ,Renton: What is your favorite moment from your first year owning the team? Was it when Mason had that big dunk versus Charlotte???
Howard Schultz: I think that was the single, defining play of the year. But I'd have to say beating the Clippers and making it into the playoffs that night was the most gratifying night of the year for the organization and me, personally. I think people thought we'd win 30 games, but we believed in each other and here we are. I wouldn't want to be the team that plays us in the first round.
Howard Schultz: I'd like to speak to our Seattle-based fans and our community. It's been over a year since we acquired the Sonics and Storm, and we've really tried to re-establish the relationship with our fans. Our goal was to be the most fan-centric teams in the league. The fans are what matters most. From my heart, we believe very strongly that we have to earn our fans' love and respect. And you don't just do that by winning games. You have to do that by playing hard and giving back to the community. I think we've made significant leaps, and we've brought back great Sonics basketball to Seattle. And I think we'll make Seattle fans very proud. I'm glad to be part of this and that we have the opportunity to do these things. Thank you.