Some how, some way, former Texas Longhorns athletic director Steve Patterson is getting another high-profile opportunity in sports, as the Arizona Coyotes announced Patterson as the organization’s team president and CEO on Wednesday.
The move by the NHL franchise comes less than two years after Patterson was ousted at Texas following less than two years on the job with the ‘Horns.
The most perplexing element of the decision is that Patterson’s tenure in Austin wasn’t the only notable failure of his career and his downfall was eerily similar to the roiling disaster that was his time as the general manager of the Portland Trail Blazers.
So, has the notoriously prickly, arrogant, and consistently alienating Patterson learned anything from his systemic previous mistakes?
“I don’t spend a lot of time looking backward,” Patterson told the Austin American-Statesman.
Welp. Maybe the Coyotes shouldn’t count on Patterson having deepened his sense of self-awareness, then. Surprise, surprise.
The interview by the Statesman described Patterson as “sounding recharged” now that he’s returning to professional sports and the state where he was successful in leading the charge for capital improvements to Arizona State athletics and negotiating a new contract with Nike for the Sun Devils.
“I think for me personally, we love the marketplace,” Patterson said of Phoenix. “Yasmin (his wife) and I kept our house. We love the Valley of the Sun. I think we need to figure out an arena solution. We need to grow the business side. Those are all things that fit my skill set.”
In fact, the justification for the Coyotes hiring Patterson likely lies in his ability to make difficult decisions to reduce budgets, change coaches and other personnel, and find funding to build stadiums and arenas.
At Texas, Patterson dealt with coaching decisions that had been put off, streamlined the athletic department and its budget, revamped ticket sales, and signed a new licensing agreement with an upstart brand created by Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.
The former athletic director doesn’t often get even-handed treatment in retrospectives on his divisive tenure with the Longhorns, but he certainly made plenty of large, structural changes at Texas that were necessary due to the late-career complacency of DeLoss Dodds.
Where Patterson consistently fails is in the interpersonal relationships that are so important for collegiate athletic directors and much less important, though still necessary, in professional sports.
Arizona undoubtedly hired Patterson to be an agent of change for a reeling franchise that is deeply in debt, just underwent an ownership and coaching changes and is seeking financing for a new arena amidst relocation threats by the commissioner.
In other words, it’s an even bigger mess with an even worse financial situation than Texas athletics found itself in four years ago when former president Bill Powers hired Patterson.
And that’s saying something.
Several things seem certain, then, when attempting to forecast how things will go in Phoenix — Patterson will successfully act as that agent of change and then will quickly wear out his welcome, at least in regards to his interpersonal relationships with his employees.
Same story. New chapter.