The “Barroway Revolution” continued for the Arizona Coyotes on Wednesday, as the team announced the hiring of former Arizona State University athletic director Steve Patterson as the new President and CEO of the club.
Who is Steve Patterson?
A man with a deep and lengthy resume in the world of sports, Patterson has held positions ranging from the COO of a minor league hockey team to athletic director of the wealthiest college program in the country.
However, Patterson’s new position in Arizona closest resembles his duties with the Portland Trail Blazers NBA basketball team, where his headstrong mentality was put on display during a rocky stay in the Northwest.
Hired in 2003 after a string of successful jobs with three Houston-based sports franchises, Patterson became Portland’s team president.
In the team’s first year under Patterson’s guidance, the Blazers finished 41-41, but began to deteriorate in following campaigns. Portland won just 48 games combined in the next two years, prompting the firing of general manager John Nash at the end of the 2005-06 season. Patterson, who had formerly been the general manager to build the championship-winning Rockets teams of the 90s, doubled down on his responsibilities by taking over as GM as well for the 2006-07 season.
While Patterson’s first draft pick as GM landed Portland’s future All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge, the team again stumbled to a losing record in his lone year in charge of the roster. Stuck in the last year of his contract, and with owner Paul Allen not likely to renew him, Patterson unexpectedly resigned in March of that season.
After his turbulent tenure in Portland, Patterson pivoted into the colligate athletics realm. In 2011, Arizona State hired him into their athletic department as a heir-apparent to then-Athletic Director Lisa Love. Love then retired in 2012, clearing the way for Patterson to take full control of Sun Devils athletics.
During his time in Tempe, Patterson took an especially aggressive approach to the football team, where he played a key role in the hiring of Todd Graham and initiated the substantial renovations to Sun Devil Stadium.
ASU’s announcement of a Men’s Division 1 hockey team came after he had left the program.
The business-oriented style displayed by Patterson at ASU caught the eye of his collegiate-athletics mammoth of an alma mater, and in November of 2013, Patterson left the Sun Devils to become the Athletic Director at the University of Texas.
Prior to his arrival in Austin, the UT-grad had been largely successful in his career, even despite the disappointing end to his reign in Portland. With both their football and basketball teams in transitional phases, Patterson seemed to be a perfect fit to utilize the Longhorn’s financial footprint.
In less than two years’ time, Patterson alienated the school’s biggest donors, turned the rest of the athletic department against him, and failed to hire a successful replacement after parting way with the national-championship-winning football coach and school hero Mack Brown, leading to his removal during the 2015 football season.
Two years on from his firing at Texas, stepping into a turbulent Coyotes organization will be an interesting transition for Patterson. On the one hand, he has had success in the Valley, where he was able to garner support for a stadium redo.
However, Patterson has developed a pattern for confrontation as well. Working with a fragile and weary fan base will be a must for the new President; a repeat of his hard-nosed and stubborn practices that cost him his job at Texas could destroy an already deteriorating relationship between Coyotes nation and the new owner.
While his business abilities could be crucial in what could be the team’s last push for a new permanent home in Arizona, Patterson is still a loose cannon. His career’s successes and failures vary as drastically as the good and bad moments experienced by the franchise he is going to work for.
In a summer of monumental change in the Coyotes power structure, Patterson might be the single most important hire in the long-term health of the team. Let’s just hope his second job in Arizona will be as positive and productive as his previous one.