The NBA wants Matthew Dowd to do for the league what he did for George W. Bush. The NBA hired Dowd, 44, who assisted in shaping the president's message and strategy in his successful reelection campaign last year, to help the league burnish its image and reach new customers.

"I've given the NBA some strategic advice," Dowd, one of four founding partners in Austin-based ViaNovo, a firm that develops strategies for businesses, said in a telephone interview with Bloomberg. "I told them what they needed to do."

The NBA is looking for Dowd's expertise in research to help repair its reputation among both fans and partners. The league was tarnished by the Nov. 19 brawl between Pacers players and fans in Detroit. TV ratings for games slumped. Sales of licensed apparel sank about 30 percent this year, in part because of the declining popularity of old-style jerseys.

During the political campaign, Dowd wrote detailed polling memos that were sent to party activists and journalists to counteract perceptions of drift or decline in Bush's political fortunes. For the NBA, he has worked on how to best draw information from focus groups composed of people who said they weren't basketball fans, NBA Entertainment President Adam Silver said in an interview.

* CAVALIERS' MAN: Mike Brown, a 13-year assistant who won an NBA title with the Spurs, was introduced as the Cavs' coach. He said he was flattered to be among the big-name candidates for the job.

"You got a guy like LeBron James, you have an exciting city like Cleveland, you have terrific owners who are committed and that have the same or similar philosophy that I have and a lot of cap room to do some things," he said. "With those things in mind, this is a great opportunity for me to take my first head coaching job."

-- From News Services