If there's an argument in favor of nepotism, it's Nick Arison.
On Friday, the Miami Heat announced that it had named Arison, son of owner Micky Arison, as the franchise's new CEO, promoting him from the position of Vice President of Basketball Operations. The decision comes more than 15 years after Nick first worked for the organization, as a team attendant.
In his new role, Arison will oversee the day-to-day operations of the franchise and report directly to Micky Arison, who will remain the team’s Managing General Partner and Governor at the NBA’s Board of Governor meetings. Nick Arison has been a limited partner of the team and has served as the alternate governor since the 2005-06 season. The move is a natural progression for Nick, who has grown up with the HEAT. His grandfather, Ted Arison, was one of the team’s original founders and his father, Micky, bought the controlling share of the franchise and was named Managing General Partner on Feb. 13, 1995. Nick first started working for the organization as a team attendant for four seasons from 1995 through 1999, and upon his graduation from Duke University became a full-time staff member in 2003.Riley, of course, will continue to call the basketball shots, but in Nick Arison he has a sort of anti-Jim Buss on his side. By all accounts, Arison is respected for his understanding of the game, commitment to the organization and energy. He's not known as a meddler and is someone who is perceived as having earned his positions and promotions rather than simply have them handed to him. He's had the unique opportunity to learn about running a basketball organization from the inside and he's taken advantage of that.
“This is something Nick has been working towards his whole life. He’s more prepared for this job than I was at his age when I became CEO of Carnival,” expressed Micky Arison. “I have the utmost confidence that Nick will continue to lead the HEAT as a model NBA franchise for many years to come.”
Nick Arison has served the HEAT in a variety of positions over the years, learning the business from the ground up. After first joining the HEAT as a team attendant and later serving summer internships in the Arena Operations, Community Affairs, and Sales and Marketing departments, he became a full-time staff member on the business side in 2003 as an Account Manager, Premium Partnerships. In 2006, he was promoted to Director, Corporate and Premium Services where he oversaw the Account Management Team. Prior to the 2008-09 season he was named Vice President, Basketball Operations where he worked directly with HEAT President Pat Riley and Assistant General Manager/Senior Vice President, Basketball Operations Andy Elisburg in overseeing the basketball side of the organization and played an active role in the recruiting and procurement of talent.
“I have been working for the Arison family for 16 years,” said Riley. “The Miami HEAT is truly a family organization and that is what makes it a desirable franchise to work for. The HEAT are the Arisons. Like his grandfather Ted and father Micky, Nick is an extraordinary, special young man and will serve the HEAT in a highly professional manner as those men did. Congratulations to Nick. He has earned it.”
Unlike so many professional sports franchises that get passed haphazardly around the family tree or sold off when the patriarch passes away, Arison also represents a third generation of stability for the team. For many reasons -- the 2006 title, the Big 3, and others -- the Heat have completely shed the label of an "expansion franchise." Think about this: the Heat opened up shop the same year as the Charlotte Hornets (who moved to New Orleans), one year before the Minnesota Timberwolves (regularly near the bottom of the league's standings), seven years before the Toronto Raptors (regularly near the bottom of the league's standings) and Vancouver Grizzlies (who relocated to Memphis). The Heat, along with the Orlando Magic, are the top two success stories when it comes to recent expansion franchises in the NBA, but the Heat have won a ring and are likely headed for many more, and they accomplished that feat without lucking into Shaquille O'Neal and Dwight Howard in the NBA Draft lottery.
Ownership, of course, plays a critical component in that ramping up process and the massive international popularity the team now enjoys thanks to the acquisitions of All-Star forwards LeBron James and Chris Bosh to flank long-time All-Star guard Dwyane Wade. Whatever the Heat's management team is doing, it's working. That kind of track record deserves a promotion.