Bill Ilett and his partners have spent 18 years establishing pro basketball in the Treasure Valley.
It’s up to the rest of the community to keep it here.
Ilett and his 12 partners announced Tuesday that they have sold the Idaho Stampede of the NBA D-League to the Utah Jazz, the franchise’s NBA affiliate.
The Jazz have signed a one-year contract extension with CenturyLink Arena in Downtown Boise through 2015-16. Jazz executives expressed optimism that the team will stay in the Boise market, but they didn’t rule out moving it closer to home, either.
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Ilett said he’d fight the Jazz “long and hard” if they try to move the franchise.
“It’s here, folks. It’s here,” Ilett said. “All we need to do is make damn sure we do a good job and keep it here.”
The Jazz are the eighth NBA team to purchase a D-League franchise as the 18-team league moves toward its goal of having 30 teams owned by the 30 NBA franchises.
“It’s been a real privilege to know Bill and the partners with Bill who have really championed basketball and have a love of professional basketball and a love of this community, and we really appreciate what they have done to this point in carrying the torch,” Jazz President Randy Rigby said. “We are honored and now will be proud to carry that torch.”
Stampede President Steve Brandes will be retained.
Ilett, who brought pro basketball to the Treasure Valley in the Continental Basketball Association and endured the fall and rebirth of that league before joining the D-League, said the time was right to sell in part because he’s 70 years old, the franchise requires a lot of work and he has enjoyed his relationship with Jazz executives.
More than 40 minor league basketball teams have folded during the Stampede’s existence, Ilett said.
He cited a line by author Joseph Epstein, who called sports “the toy department of life.”
“I’ve been living in the toy department now for 18 years and I’m about to step away from the toy department,” Ilett said. “It’s with a little bit of melancholy but looking forward to the things that are going to happen.”
The Jazz, who run the Stampede’s basketball operations through the affiliation agreement, will take over full business operations. They run “a fantastic arena” in Salt Lake City, Ilett said, and he’s hopeful their expertise will lead to improvements to the Stampede fan experience.
That starts with solidifying the team’s future arena. The Jazz already have started talks with CenturyLink Arena and the city of Boise, Rigby said. The team would like to have a practice facility that could be used for community events such as AAU basketball games, Jazz General Manager Dennis Lindsey said.
“We really enjoy and like the Boise marketplace,” Rigby said.
The Jazz are owned by Miller Sports Properties, which also owns the Salt Lake Bees Triple-A baseball team. The Miller family has business ties to the Treasure Valley through its car dealerships and a key Jazz sponsor, Zions Bank, has a major presence in Downtown Boise.
Even if the Stampede stay in Boise, the name could change. Lindsey came from the San Antonio Spurs organization. The Spurs purchased the D-League franchise in Austin, Texas, and branded it the Austin Spurs.
“I would say everything is possible,” Lindsey said.
But, he said, the Jazz haven’t approached negotiations about the team’s future by using a possible move as leverage.
“We’re going to take this next year to show the Boise market, the arena, the mayor that we can be good partners,” Lindsey said. “The value statement for our organization is pretty simple: to enrich lives.”
For the Jazz, ownership gives them full control of the franchise and a platform to develop talent for the entire organization – players, coaches, executives, sales people, mascots, dancers and more.
The Jazz also would like to expand their brand power in the Treasure Valley. For example, Jazz alumni will make appearances here.
Other NBA teams that own D-League franchises include the Cavaliers (Canton Charge), Warriors (Santa Cruz Warriors), Lakers (L.A. D-Fenders), Knicks (Westchester Knicks), Thunder (Oklahoma City Blue) and 76ers (Delaware 87ers).
“This league has undergone a lot of change already in its short 14-year history and we believe there’s great momentum and growth ahead,” D-League President Malcolm Turner said. “And certainly one of the factors fueling that growth is NBA team and owner partners who are recognizing this platform for what it is.”