New Executive Hired As Mystics Retool

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Washington Mystics yesterday tapped a veteran of another fledgling professional sports operation to lead an attempted turnaround of the ailing franchise, hiring Greg Bibb as chief operating officer.

"I'm excited and very grateful for the opportunity," said Bibb, who will start on Oct. 1.

Bibb replaces Curtis Symonds, who resigned to pursue other interests last week. Team president and managing partner Sheila Johnson hired Symonds -- who had no prior experience in pro sports -- shortly after she bought the team for $10 million in 2005.

In the last year Johnson said the franchise has lost approximately $500,000, an amount greater than typical annual losses, because corporate sponsorships decreased. Once one of the most popular franchises in the WNBA, the team's attendance also stagnated the last two seasons, hovering around 7,700 fans per game.

"He's a great salesperson and he's a great guy, and he did a good job for me those two years," Johnson said of Symonds. "But now it's time where I get somebody who really understands the business. And that was my fault. I should have brought someone in who understood the business, but I didn't understand the business, and I'm the first one who's going to say it."

Bibb has spent the last 10 years climbing the ranks in indoor soccer. He started his sports career in 1997 as the media and public relations manager for the now-defunct Harrisburg Heat of the National Professional Soccer League.

In 2003, the Philadelphia Kixx indoor soccer team hired him as executive vice president and general manager.

He comes to the Mystics from the Detroit Ignition. He oversaw the day-to-day business operations for the MISL franchise since 2005 as executive vice president.

"He's dynamic, focused and well-organized," Johnson said. "He just brings a depth of knowledge on sports management, sponsorship, sales and the marketing side that we need."

Johnson said increasing the team's corporate sponsorships and boosting attendance will be among Bibb's top priorities. His hiring, Johnson said, is part of a reorganization of the team's management structure and business plan.

"I have a great passion for the game," Bibb said. "I believe in it. It's a fantastic product and it's going to be my job to spread the word."

Mystics Note: Johnson said the team and Tree Rollins are close to reaching an agreement to keep him as coach. She said final details of the contract are being worked out.

"Right now, we are sticking with Tree," Johnson said. "We have all the faith in the world. We want to give him this chance. He's been able to turn the team around. Players really like Tree, he's been a breath of fresh air to them."

Rollins took over as interim head coach after Richie Adubato resigned three games into the season. Rollins led the Mystics to a 16-18 mark this season, bringing the team within one victory of qualifying for a playoff berth.

-- Marc Carig

© 2007 The Washington Post Company