Ackerman will help lead search for replacement

Val Ackerman, the WNBA's president since its inception in 1996, will step down next spring, the league announced Thursday.

"The past eight years have required much sacrifice in my family life, and at this juncture it is my profound desire to devote myself more fully to the lives and activities of my daughters," said Ackerman.

Ackerman will remain at her post until Feb. 1.

Anne Sarnoff, who was named the league's chief operating officer last February, is regarded as a possible replacement, according to the Sports Business Daily.

"I can't imagine anyone replacing her," agent Bruce Levy, who represents a number of WNBA players, told the publication. "It's no secret that I've had my battles with her over the years, but I've come to see she is working not only for [NBA commissioner] David Stern and the NBA, but for women's basketball overall.

"And someday, I think people will see the WNBA as the only successful pro sports league launched relatively recently."

Ackerman will lead the search for her successor, which will begin immediately, and will act as an adviser to the league and Stern.

"Val's contributions to the women's sports movement have been monumental," said Stern. "Under her leadership the WNBA has grown from concept to a successful and thriving enterprise. We are grateful for her enthusiasm and passion and look forward to her continuing advice and counsel as we build upon the success she helped generate. "

Ackerman was a four-year starter at the University of Virginia, graduating in 1981. She joined the NBA in 1988 as an attorney and became a special assistant to Stern. She left the NBA as vice president of business affairs to lead the WNBA in 1996. She has two daughters.

The WNBA began with eight teams and had as many as 16 in 2002 before three teams folded in the past two years. Ackerman recently said the league hoped to add another team in the next two years.

"In '06, we are optimistic that we are going to add the 14th team," Ackerman said earlier this month before the WNBA Finals.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.