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Suns President Rick Welts Named 2006 McHugh/Splaver Award Recipient

Suns President and Chief Operating Officer Rick Welts was named the winner of the 2006 McHugh/Splaver "Tribute to Excellence" Award.
(Jeramie McPeek/Suns Photos)
Posted: April 13, 2006

Rick Welts, Phoenix Suns President and Chief Operating Officer, today was named the winner of the 2006 McHugh/Splaver "Tribute to Excellence" Award.

The award is given annually by the NBA Public Relations Directors’ Association to a current or former member of the NBA public relations family who has demonstrated an outstanding level of performance and service during his or her NBA career.

A veteran of nearly all levels of the NBA, Welts’ entry to the league was in 1969 as a ballboy for the Seattle SuperSonics. He remained with the organization for 10 years in several capacities, including Director of Public Relations – a position he held during Seattle’s back-to-back trips to the NBA Finals (1978-1979), which included an NBA championship in 1979.

Welts continued his association with the NBA when he moved to the league office in 1982. From 1982 through 1999, he served as league’s executive vice president, chief marketing officer and president of NBA Properties. Welts helped guide the revitalization of the league and its image through strong marketing initiatives. He is credited with the creation of the NBA All-Star Weekend concept in 1984 – now a league highlight and a standard in both the National Hockey League and Major League Baseball.

Along with his duties on the NBA side, Welts was also responsible for the 1992 Olympics “Dream Team” marketing program as the agent for USA Basketball. In 1998, Brandweek magazine named Welts “Marketer of the Year” along with former WNBA President Val Ackerman for their role in creating and launching the WNBA.

During his tenure at the NBA office, Welts supervised league departments including corporate sponsorship and media sales, consumer products, media relations, community relations, team services, special events, creative services, and retail including the NBA Store and the “NBA City” restaurant. He was also responsible for the NBA’s international business activities, from placing preseason games in foreign countries to opening the league’s first international office in Australia to supervising six regional offices and 75 international employees in Asia, Europe, Australia, Mexico and Canada.

The McHugh/Splaver award is named in memory of two of the most highly respected public relations executives in NBA history, Marc Splaver and Howie McHugh. Splaver, who passed away from leukemia in May 1978, was the Public Relations Director of the Washington Bullets for five seasons in the 1970's. McHugh served for more than 40 years as the original Public Relations Director of the Boston Celtics.

Past winners of the award include Boston Celtics Vice President, Media Services/Alumni Relations Jeff Twiss (2005); former Public Relations Director and current NBC Sports Executive Kevin Sullivan (2004); former Public Relations Director for the Washington Bullets and current Assistant Athletic Director for Communications at the University of Miami Mark Pray (2003); former NBA Director of Media Information and current Vice President of Basketball Operations Matt Winick (2002); former Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks Public Relations Director and current Newark Star-Ledger reporter Josh Rosenfeld (2001); current Knicks’ Team Historian and Writer Dennis D’Agostino (2000); longtime Portland Trail Blazers Publicity Director John White (1998); Hall of Fame publicist Harvey Pollack (1997); founder and first President of the NBA Public Relations Directors Association Tom Ambrose (1996); and former Houston Rockets PR Director and current Rockets radio analyst Jim Foley (1995).