Update: 6:49 p.m. Ed Adler, a spokesman for Parsons, released the following statement:
“Dick played on the freshman team at the University of Hawaii in 1964-65. He has never said that he played varsity, that he lettered, or that he was a good player.”
For your reference:
The late Red Rocha, the coach who oversaw the basketball program, had this to say about Dick in a 2004 New York Times article:
"'He was a big gangly kid who clearly enjoyed college,' said Red Rocha, the coach of the varsity team at the time. ‘He didn't start on the team, but he was clearly popular with all of the players.'”
A Deadspin report asserts that Dick Parsons, the former Time Warner executive who was installed as CEO of the Clippers after the NBA assumed control of the team following the lifetime ban of Donald Sterling, never played basketball at the University of Hawaii despite claiming he did and having that fact attributed to him in the press many times over the years.
There's absolutely no record of Parsons playing for any sort of varsity team representing the school—not under the name Richard Parsons, or Dick Parsons, or anything Parsons. You won't find his name on a University of Hawaii basketball roster, or his face in a team photo. Hawaii athletic officials can't come up with anything that says he really played for the school.
"Unfortunately we do not have statistics on Dick Parsons," says Neal Iwamoto, sports information director for Hawaii's men's basketball program.
It's not just that Parsons doesn't show up in box scores, photos, rosters, or news stories from 1964 to 1968, the years he says he was at the school. The guys who do show up don't remember ever playing alongside any Dick or Richard Parsons.
"There was nobody on the team with that name," says Harvey Harmon. A three-year letterman at Hawaii in the mid-'60s, he was captain of the varsity squad during his senior year of '67-'68, the same year Parsons says was his senior year at the school.
The Deadspin report is a detailed tapestry of evidence, which includes interviews with players from that time, that shows that a man who says he did something did not do something.
Does this take away from his lifetime of success in business? No. It's a minor detail that was played up that has been proven false. But the NBA was tasked with finding someone to run the team after what is considered to be an ethics scandal. Sterling never broke a law with his comments, but what he said is considered wrong by the NBA (and pretty much every rational person in America, including me). So to install someone to run the team who fabricated a story and lied about the role of something that never occurred in his life, that's not a great look for the league.
It doesn't change where the NBA stands on Parsons' credentials, but it does create yet another PR problem for the league while it's seemingly trying to battle fires on a daily basis. Both the Clippers and the league responded to inquiries from Deadspin:
Both the Clippers and the NBA are ready to downgrade Parsons's basketball career. In response to phone calls and emails asking what years Parsons played college basketball, Clippers spokesman Seth Burton said there was no varsity ball in his past. "He played one season on the JV team at Hawaii," Burton said via email. He referred questions about the "specific dates" of his ballplaying days to the NBA communications office. NBA spokesman Michael Bass, in turn, also said that the new Clippers boss play was limited to one non-varsity season, but that was when Parsons "played for the freshman team" at Hawaii in 1964-65.
But Deadspin goes on to firmly refute those assertions due to a lack of evidence. There's no way of knowing what kind of impact this report will have, other than once again the league having to put out fires when it comes to the mess Sterling (and the league's longtime tolerance of his behavior) has brought about.