In 36 years, Denny Thum worked for only one organization, the Kansas City Chiefs. In 1974 he graduated from KC-based Rockhurst College and took a job as an accountant with the team. Rising through the franchise ranks, Thum was named Chief Operating Officer in May 2006, interim team president in December 2008 and team president in May 2009.
(Clockwise from left: Denny Thum, Clark Hunt, Scott Pioli)
Then, two weeks ago, after the club’s biggest win in years in a gleaming, newly-renovated Arrowhead Stadium, Thum abruptly, and quietly, resigned.
Former longtime Chiefs beat writer Rick Gosselin wrote a most appropriate obit of Thum’s decorated tenure with the team in the DALLAS MORNING NEWS:
The Kansas City Chiefs dumped club president Denny Thum unceremoniously this month after a 36-year stay with the team. I covered the Chiefs from 1977-89, and Thum taught me the financial side of the NFL. He was the best contract negotiator I’ve ever seen. He also was a loyal employee to Hall of Fame owner Lamar Hunt through good times and bad.
But Thum’s problem was he was inherited by a new owner (Clark Hunt), new general manager (Scott Pioli) and new chief operating officer (Mark Donovan). So the new wave ushered him to the door. Thum deserved better treatment.
The Chiefs have no idea right now how much they are going to miss his expertise in so many areas. Thum won’t be out of work long.
The timing of Thum’s departure, though strange on the surface, actually makes sense once you dig into the details of the Chiefs’ office politics. Read more…
Under new GM Scott Pioli, the Kansas City Chiefs have become a sort of western outpost of former New England Patriots this offseason. Not that this is a bad thing, of course; the former Pats VP had what some might call a “pretty good track record” out in Boston, and the Chiefs have been going nowhere for the better part of the past two decades.
One of Pioli’s biggest acquisitions this offseason was Patriots QB Matt Cassel, who was thrust into the spotlight last year after - we’re getting to the point here - Chiefs safety Bernard Pollard became Boston Public Enemy Number One by shredding dreamboat QB Tom Brady’s knee. Earlier this year, SbB’s Tom “5k” Fornelli said that Cassel should be thanking Pollard for giving him the opportunity to show his stuff.
Well, however Cassel went about thanking Pollard, it clearly didn’t impress him, as Pollard almost shredded his new, less-dreamy-but-still-starting QB’s knee last week in practice. Oops.
When longtime Patriots assistant Eric Mangini left to coach the Jets, New England coach Bill Belichick openly seethed about his right-hand man’s defection. Belichick refused to wish Mangini good luck, instead holding a grudge against him that extended all the way to chilling non-handshake meet-and-greets at midfield after games between the Jets and Patriots. Well, now another Belichick chosen assistant has departed and, like Mangini, Josh McDaniels may be getting slighted by his former tutor.
According to numerous sources, McDaniels’s Broncos were close to a deal for his former quarterback, Matt Cassel, on Friday night. At the last minute, New England backtracked from the deal and included Cassel, a player they were willing to franchise tag at a cost of millions of dollars, in a trade made earlier for linebacker Mike Vrabel with the Chiefs. The Cassel addition may go down as one of the great throw-ins of contractual history, right behind free jalapeno poppers when you buy a large Coke.
The decision to send Cassel to the Chiefs not only smacked of favoritism for Belichick’s former front office compatriot, longtime Patriots-turned-Chiefs GM Scott Pioli, it also tomahawked McDaniel’s new offensive lineup before he even gets a chance to work with it. When the Broncos angled for Cassel, it became clear the team was willing — anxious even — to deal Pro Bowl quarterback Jay Cutler. That concept didn’t play well with Cutler or his teammates, as you read right here yesterday.
Suddenly, after the Patriots received only a second round draft pick for the package of Cassel and a Pro Bowl linebacker, it became clear that something was amiss. By keeping Cassel from the Broncos, Belichick not only hurt a team that has long been a thorn in New England’s side, he also stuck the move to his former offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Belichick is smart enough to know that the Chiefs are still one, probably two years away from legitimate contention. That’s not necessarily the case for the Broncos, and being able to hold back an assistant he didn’t want to leave may have only made shorting Denver an easier decision for Billy B.
The lopsided deal — which, as we pointed out Saturday, could become a lot more plausible if the Patriots land Julius Peppers — was so out of character that some writers have called for an investigation into why the Patriots made it. FANHOUSE columnist Jay Mariotti is the biggest name among that group, and (somewhat shockingly) he makes some decent points as to why something is clearly fishy with the deal.
Mariotti probably won’t get his probe, but the Patriots may get a lot more scrutiny over future moves, and that’s something that would have seemed crazy even a week ago.
We hate to stick with sports teams that play in a single east coast city, but there’s another Boston move that bears further inspection: the Celtics’ signing of team-killer Stephon Marbury. Starbury made a predictably impressive debut off the team’s bench on Friday, but he was 0-for-3 against the Pistons on Sunday, racking up four fouls in 13 minutes, not to mention one embarrassing steal he practically handed to Detroit’s Rip Hamilton. In short, he looked awful, and his brooding gaze under a towel on the sideline didn’t seem to help things during Boston’s upset loss at home, either.
Naturally, that raises the question of whether, if Marbury continues to struggle in a bench role, he’ll be content sitting on said bench. Clearly the Celtics thought he would, because there’s no way he’s stealing any time or any of the role from emerging point guard Rajon Rondo, but there’s no precedent for Starbury “fitting in”. In fact, he’s never fit in, so why should the Celtics assume he will now? Clearly they may have been using specious logic in believing that Doc Rivers, as compelling a coach as he has been, could instantly get Marbury on board with Boston’s team dynamic. That just means that Marbury could be more trouble than he’s worth, which is precisely what the Celtics don’t need if they have any hope of repeating without James Posey.
At one point on Sunday, the two sides were said to be less than $2 million apart on a two year deal, with only Ramirez holding an option on the second year. The chance to reach agreement on that faded away when McCourt showed his cheap side. Often dumb, but cheap, when he said the Dodgers and Ramirez will have to start from step one, reeling in Boras to a de-facto admission that the Dodgers are the only team with legitimate interest in Ramirez, then fleecing him by saying that a $45 million deal for the slugger is “off the table”.
The question now is only whether McCourt will suddenly get really, really stingy, trying to drive down Manny’s asking price by $5 million or more, or whether this is all an exercise in saving face and proving a point. The danger there, of course, is whether Boras convinces Manny he’s being disrespected, telling him to turn to some type of a strangely-structured deal with the Giants. That’s probably unlikely, but the way talks have been going, it sounds more and more like a deal between Manny and the Dodgers isn’t so likely at the moment, either.
Longtime Jazz owner Larry Millerwas laid to rest on Sunday, and all of his children drove to the funeral in sports cars, an homage to his start in an auto parts store. Naturally, Karl Malone and others were in attendance in a pretty classy ceremony.
Former NHL degenerate Steve Downie is back in the news, which can only mean one thing: He’s getting himself in big trouble. This time he didn’t take his frustrations out on an opponent, he used a ref … and slashed him with a skate.
Is anyone else sick of Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant facing off? After missing each other for far too long, they suddenly have played three times in three weeks. Shaq won this round, but really, do we want to watch any more right now?
It guess it’s not just to the victor that go the spoils: despite his team falling just short in the Super Bowl, Cardinals offensive coordinator Todd Haley was rewarded for the team’s miracle run, as the KANSAS CITY STAR reports that he has reached an agreement with the Kansas City Chiefs to become their new head coach. Now, with the absolutely mess that the Chiefs are right now, it’s debatable how much of a “reward” this job is. But hey: it’s not the Raiders.
Clearly, by resurrecting the career of Kurt Warner and turning the Cardinals into a fearsome offensive machine, Haley’s proven that he can coach an offense. But can he be the leader? After all, this is someone who never played college football (instead playing and later coaching college golf) and only got into football as a scout in 1995. Can he earn the respect of the players with such little experience?
I don’t want to raise any red flags here, but when you think of “head coach with no college playing experience,” who do you think of? Charlie Weis? And if Haley commands the type of respect and admiration from players and fans that Weis does - yikes. It might even have Chiefs fans longing for the halcyon days of Gunther Cunningham. (Note: this will never happen.)
But I had an inkling this was going to happen. A source (a teammate on my kickball team) mentioned earlier this week that his father spotted Chiefs GM Scott Pioli having a lengthy meal with Todd Haley’s representatives at a Ruth’s Chris Steak House in St. Louis, hurriedly shooing away waiters and looking out for spies (apparently not well enough).
Which brings up an interesting point: Ruth’s Chris Steak House? Really? There was no better place in St. Louis to conduct an important, secretive conversation about your next head coach than a chain steak house? Granted, it’s not Sizzler or Golden Corral, but St. Louis has to have dining options with red leather chairs and lots of dark corners - don’t they have Italian restaurants there? And why not have the meeting in Kansas City? Can someone point him to Yelp, please?
In other news: it turns out that corporate sponsors don’t like it when the person they are using to sell breakfast to millions of kids is pictured taking a rip from a bong. Who knew? CNBC details how Kellogg’s has decided not to renew Michael Phelps’ endorsement contract, which is set to expire at the end of the month. Which was probably going to happen anyway - except very quietly versus with a public statement from the company admonishing Phelps for behavior that “is not consistent with the image of Kellogg.”
At least Phelps can always count on USA Swimming to have his back in their usual, clumsy way. The organization decided to crack the whip on their poster child by giving him a three-month ban, during a time when he wasn’t expected to compete in any meets of significance. (He will miss one meet, but let’s be serious here - if it’s not the Olympics or World Championships. does it really matter?) It’s the equivalent of a five-game baseball suspension for a pitcher, which just means that his next start is pushed back a game.
While all this was going on, there were actual games being played last night. And none were more important - or exciting - than the clash between the Lakers and the Celtics in Boston. The last time the Lakers were seen at the Garden, they were dodging green and white confetti as they exited the court to lick their wounds after having the Celtics pound them like a two dollar steak in their Finals-clinching 131-92 victory.
That didn’t happen this time. Despite Kobe Bryant having an off shooting game (10 of 29 from the field), the Lakers found a way to prevail 110-109 in a seesaw overtime thriller. The key for the Lakers was defense - a concept many thought they had abandoned about a month ago - even without injured center Andrew Bynum, and the scoring of Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom (a combined 44 points).
But if you want to talk about winning, you have to start with Tennessee women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt. After missing at her first attempt earlier in the week against Oklahoma, she notched her 1,000th career win on Thursday, with her Lady Volunteers thumping Georgia, 73-43.
Say what you will about women’s basketball, but that’s an incredible feat. Consider this: in all team sports, only Utah Jazz coach Jerry Sloan has recorded more wins with one team. The difference, of course, is that Summitt actually knows how to win championships (although to be fair to Sloan, she never had to game plan for Michael Jordan.) In other news:
BALL DON’T LIE wants to slap an asterisk on LeBron James’ triple-double the othe night against the Knicks on the basis of his questionable ninth rebound out of 10. Judge for yourself and see if it should have been credited to him or Ben Wallace:
PBA bowler Jason Belmonte bowls like your four-year old son does - except your son probably can’t bowl 300 games. The WALL STREET JOURNAL has the details of one of the weirdest bowling styles you’ll ever see from a pro: