D.R.: Maverick owner of Mavericks | VailDaily.com
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D.R.: Maverick owner of Mavericks

Don Rogers

My wife and I strayed out of the Vail Valley recently and took in an Aspen Institute session with Mark Cuban. Excellent opportunity to ditch work early ” while claiming I was on the job, actually. And to scoop up Mary for some quality time and a nice drive to Aspen, her favorite mountain town from childhood.

Cuban attracts my interest simply as the enthusiastic owner of the Dallas Mavericks basketball team. But he’s also established as a digital age wunderkind and Internet savant who knew exactly when to sell his startups to bigger players for gazillions.

As such, he’s a sage. One who wears blue jeans and doesn’t worry about tucking in his shirt even for chats at the august Aspen Institute. My kind of guy, actually, particularly with the basketball ” the last traditional sport I play and still follow with any passion.

Apparently his competitiveness belies the affable guy’s guy I saw on stage. He told his interviewers ” David Kirkpatrick, senior editor for technology of Fortune Magazine, and Norman Pearlstine, former editor-in-chief of Time Inc. and now adiver to Time Warner (whew!) ” that no one even among the Mavericks can match his drive. That’s saying something if you’ve ever seen head coach Avery Johnson at work. But I saw nothing of the fellow who stared down NBA Commissioner David Stern after a game gone bad in the championships against the Miami Heat. I do think that the Mavericks, the more talented and athletic team, simply got too mad at everything to win; OK to get intense, but not to the point you lose focus. And they lost focus. Oh well, I rooted for Miami ” with the Lakers, Nuggets and Suns out. Glad to see the Mavs bump out the Spurs, and Avery Johnson is among my favorite coaches, as well as players when he was a workhorse point guard. Mavs have a great shot at returning to the championships. Just rein in those emotions a bit.

Mary and I went in part to get out of our valley for a few hours, and in part with the notion Cuban might give me ideas about how to look at the Vail Daily’s Internet forays. By those measures the presentation was a success. Mary even acknowledged that the presentation wasn’t as boring as she had imagined. She couldn’t care any less about digital or Internet anything, but she found Cuban pretty interesting.

“Talk about ADD,” she remarked afterward. She figured this guy was off the charts for busy-ness of mind. Someone a bit like her. Only her interests tip at the polar opposite of basketball, digital anything or the business world. But she liked this guy.

I liked hearing he never goes to meetings ” the bane of corporate media life, at least as far as I’m concerned. We have officers in our company who I swear don’t do anything but have meetings. I think their notion of accomplishment goes by what they decided in meetings, which is not to be confused in real life with getting anything that actually gets done. Of course, the caveat to that would be we poor fools who confuse doing things with direction.

Definitely there’s a sweet spot between planning and doing. Meet too often and tasks on the ground don’t get done. Focus on the tasks and you risk losing direction, and forgetting what you are working toward, if anything. At our tiny paper, my role includes doing as well as planning, so I’m completely schitzo. Meetings give me hives, thinking about all the things we have to get done.

Cuban said he stays on top of it by e-mail. Others go to the meeting, and he gets a synopsis of the session. I try to cut through a lot of the planning noise by e-mail myself, so this was music to my ears. Meet when you need to, use e-mail to maximum advantage, and go, go, go. Planning is great, but the game is won on the court, whether hardwood or newsprint or virtual newsprint. Coaching only goes so far.

And all the digital and Internet stuff are not ends in themselves, as so many seem to think as they preach their gospels and make up a lexicon to mask the fact they don’t any more than I do where this is all heading.

Cuban looks at the whole thing as tools to other ends. He did not sound lost in the gee whiz. Ink quill to typewriter to home computer ” all tools to tap our minds, no more and no less. He’s right. Nice to hear that from one of the savants.

As far as tapping the Internet and digital tools, well, you just have to get it right once, Cuban noted. That kept him going. Just once. Well, he got it once. Then twice. Then, if you count the Mavericks’ success, and you should, that makes three. His current bet is on high definition television, which in time will become as everyday as today’s regular television, he believes.

He also has an entertainment company that owns specialty theaters, a distribution holding, and a stake in Lions Gate Entertainment. The company, 2929 Entertainment, also created 2929 Productions to produce high def television and movies.

Sounds like fun. Oh, the maverick who owns the Mavericks also rules in the blog world. He answers a lot of his e-mail, he stays accessible, and he lets the rest of us in via his blogging. Keeps folks around him honest, he said.

So, all in all, it wasn’t a bad date with this gal I’ve known for nearly 25 years. We even had time afterward for romantic dinner and stroll around Aspen before heading home to our valley, back to meetings and e-mails and the other trappings of daily life, armed for the techies and other pretenders with some perspective from their own world.


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