NEW YORK (AP) — Lisa Borders has been a fan of the WNBA ever since she helped bring a team to Atlanta. Now she’s the league’s new president.
The WNBA announced the move Wednesday, three months after former president Laurel J. Richie stepped down.
“I have been more than a fan. I led the effort to bring this team to Atlanta,” said Borders, who describes herself as a raving fan. “I’ve been a season ticket holder ever since. I sit in the Hollywood seats, usually have lost my voice by the end of the game.”
Borders said she was approached about the opening by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver at a Duke Board of Trustees meeting in December. Both are graduates of the school and serve together on the board. He asked her if she would be interested in the job.
She had a simple question for him: “Are you committed to the league?”
He said that he was “1,000 percent committed and I’m in it to win it,” Borders recalled. “It’s great now, but we can take it and make it even better.”
Borders, who has spent the last few years as a chairwoman of the Coca-Cola Foundation, was sold after hearing Silver’s response.
“As a proven executive with a passion for the WNBA and the game of basketball, Lisa is the right leader at a pivotal time in the league’s history,” Silver said. “She will be responsible for spearheading our efforts to strengthen the WNBA and accelerate its growth.”
She inherits a league that will begin its 20th season in May. Despite its exciting playoffs last season, culminating in a five-game series in which Minnesota beat Indiana, the WNBA had its lowest average attendance in league history during the regular season. Some of that was due to San Antonio moving arenas while its normal home court was being renovated and Tulsa announcing it was moving to Dallas in 2016.
“As a fan I’ve had an extraordinary experience in Atlanta,” Borders said. “We’ve got to grow our overall business, the WNBA is a business. Any business has to grow its top line to be sustainable. We want to improve our television ratings, bigger and more sponsorships. We want online traffic to be increased.”
The WNBA announced last month that it was making significant changes to its schedule and playoffs. The league will now take the top eight teams into the postseason regardless of their conference affiliation. The top two seeds will get byes to the semifinals. The schedule now will be more balanced, with each team playing three times and one matchup happening four times.
Like her predecessor, Borders has no managerial experience in sports. She ran for mayor of Atlanta in 2009 but didn’t receive enough votes to advance to a runoff election. She was vice mayor when she helped bring the Dream to Atlanta in 2008.
“All of us at the Atlanta Dream think Lisa Borders is an excellent choice as the next President of the WNBA,” Dream co-owner Mary Brock said. “Not only is Lisa our No. 1 fan, but the Dream is in Atlanta because she made it happen! Her skill set and experience, as well as her enthusiasm for women’s basketball, will take the league to new heights and great success as we enter our 20th season.”
Borders will be at the NBA All-Star Game this weekend in Toronto and will start her new job on March 21.
Follow Doug on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/dougfeinberg