Executives Spotlight stories appeared on this website starting in 2001. Some of the executive's professional experience may have changed since they were published.
Spotlight - September 12, 2002
Executive Vice President, New Orleans Hornets (NBA)
Neil Diamond played at the New Orleans Arena while I was there helping the new New Orleans Hornets staff up. I was thrilled to see Neil. He belted out to an aging mere 10,000 audience, "It's a long, long road...with many a winding turn....that leads us to who...who knows where..." Do you remember?
The sports and similarly entertainment industry embraces youth. Why, there are many examples of thirty-somethings becoming Presidents of sports marketing firms or professional sports teams.
It's funny, then, that when the last two major league professional sports franchises had to relocate within only months of their season ending they chose veteran (that means fifty-somethings!) sports marketers to lead their relocation efforts. Why is it that these graying, "long in the tooth", over-the-hill executives led the way -- in 60 days hired 40+ staff members (many of them their children's age!), moved computers, servers, telephones, accounting systems, banking relationships, office files - and within months seamlessly established roots of sports tradition in Memphis.....and this summer New Orleans? Andy Dolich for Memphis and Sam Russo, New Orleans. Why? Because they remember.
In fact, one day, Sam and I did a little remembering about his life:
-when he, as a high school kid, won a job as a "gopher" for his hometown Pittsburgh Pirates because he could run to the ballpark within 15 minutes of being let out of school.
-when Charlie Finley's name conjured up the same charged emotion as George Steinbrenner
-when you could purchase a game's ticket - a handwritten one - at a local store
-when the change of seasons was designated by the opening day of football (fall), basketball/hockey (winter/spring) and baseball (summer)
Sam Russo's been part of some of the most memorable and remarkable sports franchises. The World Champion Pittsburgh Pirates. The Charlie Finley's Oakland A's. And the only recent-day winning American sports franchise that was booed out of town...the Charlotte, ahem, New Orleans, Hornets. And with his Cheshire cat smile, a welcoming hug, Sam's years of experience in ticketing, sponsorships, community relations, television broadcasting, advertising, marketing provides the proper anticipation and answers to new customer complaints; the ability to make lightning quick and confident decisions that can positively affect the franchise for years to come; the straight-forward negotiating of contracts that meet all market styles, and the sizing up of staff that can generate the most money a market can cough up. He's a veteran who is used to working 13 hour days, 7 days a week. He's on speed-dial with stress. He knows nothing else. Because he remembers.....and remembers to have fun.
So, was it just my imagination, when I walked out of the Hornets' offices the other day, I could have sworn I heard that unforgettable world champion Pittsburgh Pirates theme music seeping under Sam's closed office door? I assure you, it put a little bounce into my step .... "We are Family!....I've got all my sisters and me....come on everybody ....." Do you remember?
- Buffy Filippell
"I have been fortunate to work for some of the greatest guys in sports. The reason I came to the New Orleans Hornets is Sam Russo."
--Todd Santino, Vice President, Sponsorships Sales; New Orleans Hornets
What I do...
Sam Russo is responsible for managing all the business operations of the New Orleans Hornets NBA team. That includes sponsorships, tickets, community relations, media relations, marketing, creative, IT, etc.
HOW I GOT HERE...
NEW ORLEANS HORNETS; New Orleans, LA; 2002-present
Executive Vice President
CHARLOTTE HORNETS; Charlotte, NC
Executive Vice President
Director of Business
DENVER NUGGETS; Denver, CO
Director of Ticket Operations
HI-TECH ENTERPRISES; Denver, CO
Vice President Operations
SELECT-A-SEAT CORPORATION; Newport Beach, CA
Director of Operations
TICKETRON; Oakland, CA
Manager, Northern California
OAKLAND A'S; Oakland, CA
CIVIC ARENA/PITTSBURGH HORNETS; Pittsburgh, PA
Assistant Ticket Manager
PITTSBURGH PIRATES; Pittsburgh, PA