CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Ed Tapscott, the first employee hired
when the NBA gave Charlotte the expansion Bobcats, stepped down
Wednesday as president and CEO of the second-year team.
"I would like to thank Eddie for helping to build a basketball
team that will grow into a playoff contender," owner Bob Johnson
said in a statement. "On behalf of the Board of Directors, we
appreciate what he has done for the team and we want to thank Eddie
for his contributions."
Van Sinclair, president of Johnson's RLJ Companies, was
appointed acting president and COO.
Johnson did not give any reason for the departure of Tapscott,
who was promoted to CEO a little over two months ago. He retained
his title as president after the promotion.
"Ed has done a fantastic job getting the Bobcats franchise up
and running and integrating our organization into the Charlotte
community," Johnson said in announcing the promotion. "He has
earned the respect of the local community, as well as our peers in
the NBA, and has created a foundation for success on the court."
Now, Tapscott is out, just a day after he signed off on coach
Bernie Bickerstaff's decision to return to the bench next season.
Bickerstaff, who was admittedly stretched thin last season, had
contemplated stepping aside to focus on his general manager duties.
But he announced he was staying on another season hours before the
Bobcats received the No. 3 pick in the NBA draft lottery.
Tapscott had previously been vice president of player personnel
and basketball operations for the New York Knicks, and did a short
stint as the team's interim president and general manager.
He was Johnson's first hire when he was awarded the NBA's 30th
team in late 2002, and has been one of the most visible members of
the franchise. He was in charge of hiring Bickerstaff, led the
efforts to create a logo and color scheme and directed the
construction of the team's new arena.
But Tapscott was also thrust into the challenging role of
persuading Charlotte to support a new team so shortly after the
Hornets fled to New Orleans in a bitter split earlier in 2002.
Many fans had soured on the NBA and owner George Shinn after a
series of high-profile indiscretions and arrests. The Hornets, who
once led the NBA in attendance and had 364 consecutive sellouts,
routinely drew less than 10,000 fans a game in their last two
playoff-bound seasons in Charlotte.
Tapscott had to fight to bring fans back, and the Bobcats ranked
28th in attendance after their first season in the outdated
Charlotte Coliseum. The team moved into its new $265 million arena
last season, but has been unable to secure naming rights.
And although the arena has received rave reviews, the Bobcats
sold out only seven of 41 games this season and averaged 16,366
fans -- only 22nd in NBA attendance.
Even worse was their season ticket base, which is believed to be
right around 5,000 and third worst in the NBA. In response, Johnson
announced the team would lower season ticket prices for next year.
It doesn't help that the product is subpar, either. The Bobcats
went 18-64 in their first season, but improved to 26-56 and closed
last year with a four-game winning streak despite numerous