Nashville can add Steve Turner, of the Dollar General Store Turners, to the short list of local citizens who are interested in personally helping score a National Basketball Association (NBA) franchise for Nashville.
Turner, a Kentucky bank executive , as well as the Butler’s Run shopping arcade on Second Avenue, has negotiated in recent months to purchase the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers and relocate the franchise to Nashville.
The Clippers are a sort of insecure stepchild to the better-known L.A. Lakers. And they have earned a well-deserved reputation as the slut of the NBA, since they apparently will negotiate with anybody, anywhere, without ever really intending to leave L.A. Nevertheless, Turner’s interest in buying the Clippers or perhaps some other team has been, and may still be, serious. At one point last fall Turner was fully prepared to do the deal: He planned to round up about $100 million, leverage some more money from banks, and then ask the city for another chunk of green to buy the team.
No one will talk on the record about Turner’s interest in the Clippers or the specifics of conversations that reportedly took place in recent months with Clippers owner Donald T. Sterling, an attorney and real-estate mogul.
But sources familiar with the deal say that it was 60 percent done, even if some crucial elementssuch as the city’s ability to pay up and the likelihood of the league approving the dealremained very iffy. Metro officials say NBA Commissioner David Stern has a general dislike for franchise relocationsand a specific dislike for the idea of a franchise in Nashville.
Stern’s apparent opposition to such relocations is a bit ironic because he was the one who, 20 years ago, proposed that then-Boston Celtics owner Ira Levin swap teams with another league owner so that Levin could be closer to his California home. At the time, the Clippers were the Buffalo Braves, and Stern was the NBA’s general counsel. As a result of his recommendation, the team became the San Diego Clippers. In 1984 they moved to Los Angeles.
When it comes to professional sports, most of Nashville’s attention has been focused on the National Hockey League. Wisconsin businessman Craig Leipold and Gaylord Entertainment are the designated suitors for the city in that regard, and they’re out scouting for a team and the means to bring it here. Still, even though there are some avid hockey fans in Nashville, basketball has a much healthier chance of succeeding here.
The city as a whole has yet to show any real enthusiasm for hockey. We ran off a lesser league’s Nashville Knights by making them feel unwelcome and informing them that they couldn’t play in the arena. Hockey has returned with the Knighthawks, but you don’t hear people talking about their games over lunch.
So, despite the slim chances of Nashville’s emergence into the world of the NBA anytime soon, Turner is at least talking about a game we’re familiar with. His work could result in a team that Nashville could truly get excited about.
Many city officials, and a lot of Metro underlings, are hoping that, before long, Metro Development and Housing Agency (MDHA) director Gerald Nicely, known for his crochety temperament, will be turning into a nicer guy. They’ve got reason for hope. Nicely, who heads one of the city’s most powerful agencies, is engaged to be married.
Boosters of the plan for a shiny new downtown library will be pleased to know that Nicely’s bride-to-be is library director Donna Mancini. There’s every reason to suppose that, when the new downtown library is built, it will be a very, very nice one.
Nominee No. 7
Throughout the ’60s and ’70s, the powerbrokers of Nashville’s business community clustered together in elite organizations such as the Wautauga Society. Over drinks at Belle Meade Club, Jack Massey, Guilford Dudley, and Sam Fleming set about molding the city in what they deemed to be a benevolent and seignorial fashion.
They also groomed younger men for future leadership roles. One of the junior members of their set was Nelson Andrews, a smart, extremely hardworking fellow who went on to make big bucks as a developer. Andrews isn’t so young any more, but he has experience, integrity, and high ethical standardseven in tough times. That’s why he belongs on the Scene’s wish list of nominees to succeed Phil Bredesen when he vacates the mayor’s office in a couple of years.
Andrews, at 69, has a life story that is not all business enterprise and civic endeavor. In his younger days, he played in the backfield of the West Point football team with Doc Blanchard and Glenn Davis. Still, he transferred to Vanderbilt after his sophomore year. In Nashville, however, he didn’t build his reputation playing football. Instead, he played guitar in a square dance band called the Tennessee Dew Drops.
In the mid-’70s, Andrews converted dozens of duplexes off White Bridge Road into single- family homes. The development, Brookside, was a major business hit. The first conversion sold for $37,500. Today, the homes are all selling for more than $100,000 each. Andrews’ real estate company, which is active today, despite becoming overextended in the overbuilt real estate market of the late ’80s, is still called Brookside.
Andrews helped found Leadership Nashville, a prestigious program that offers daylong seminars and leadership training to proven leaders in the community. He has also been a powerful force at the Better Business Bureau, the Tennessee State Board of Education, Children’s Hospital of Vanderbilt University, and more. In short, he can lay claim to as sterling a pedigree as any business leader in this city.
Of all the candidates the Scene is likely to nominate for mayor of Nashville this year, none will probably be more West Nashville, more Republican, or more white-male-Anglo-Saxon-Protestant than Nelson Andrews. None will have more fortitude, honesty, business acumen, and integrity either.
Andrews has observed, or had a part in, every major conflict, decision, and event in Nashville’s recent history. In our studied opinion, putting Nelson Andrews at the helm of city government to steer us through mind-boggling challenges such as the Oilers Stadium, the arena, and our solid-waste problems would be a wise move.
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