By JENNA FRYER
The Associated Press
Wednesday, May 24, 2006; 4:33 PM
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 injuries.