Let The Truth Be Told In Houston

By Yolande Lezine
Updated: August 15, 2008

Houston CometsHOUSTON — The Houston Comets are up for sale and it’s time that the real truth be told.

News of the sale started to come out last Friday evening during the Opening Ceremonies of the 2008 Olympics in Bejing rolling across the bottom of the television screen.

What perfect timing it was to have such an announcement come out during a time that everyone in the country would care less about because of the magnitude that the Olympics had on everyone.

It’s sad that it had to come to this. It’s sad that Hilton Koch had to lose millions of dollars before anyone ever paid attention. Yes, that’s right I said MILLIONS OF DOLLARS!

Koch, a well-known businessman in the city of Houston made a valiant attempt to keep the team in the city by purchasing the team from Houston Rockets owner Les Alexander.

He walked away with a hand-shake deal and no concerns about the lease at the Toyota Center. Interesting isn’t it? Koch is in the middle of making payments to Mr. Alexander. He’s still owed money today.

However in the middle of making payments, he was yet losing money on with a team that is part owned by the WNBA. Koch never had full control of the Comets.

The WNBA was supposed to provide him with guidance and whatever else was needed to help make the transition easier. The league does have people in place that have been here year-round working with the team.

It didn’t help either that Van Chancellor retired as the Comets head coach and Sheryl Swoopes was injured. Those two people put fans in the seats, and I do mean fans! The Comets used to be one of the hardest tickets to find in the city.

Nothing personal towards head coach Karleen Thompson, who has already surpassed the amount of wins from the number of games that the team won last season; but, her accomplishments this season haven’t really been publicized like it should.

Here is a woman who is a native Texan with a celebrated history in women’s basketball. She loves what she does and she’s helped to turn around a team that people in the city started to forget about.

The team finished the month of July with a 8-0 homestand record. They went 7-4 overall last month, surpassing the amount of wins from last season, moved into the fourth spot in the playoff chase and the thanks they get is hearing that they may not have a home next year. Talk about overcoming barriers.

For a team that won the first four WNBA Championships, they have been through hell and back for the past year and a half. They couldn’t sell out the Toyota Center anymore so they moved to a more smaller venue in Reliant Arena.

The teams are confined to a small lockerroom and a lot of visiting teams usually get back on the bus and head back to the hotel to shower after the game. The fans are loud true enough but it just hasn’t been enough.

The team practices in a community based Wellness Center in the southwest part of Houston, that has noise coming from its members up above. Whatever happened to having a private practice facility?

And yet in still the Comets have overcome it all to be listed as the hottest team in the league and this is the thanks they get.

TEAM WAS GOING TO BE SOLD PRIOR TO SEASON

Prior to the 2008 WNBA season, sources close to the Forward Times Newspaper told us that the team was going to be headed to Lancaster, Texas, a suburb right outside of Dallas that has a fairly new state-of-the-arc high school athletic complex.

Three weeks ago, another source came to me and shared that it was a done deal. That was the most powerful 20-minute conversation that I had with some people who had a sincere concern about the Comets organization.

You see others, not just Hilton Koch was interested in purchasing the team when it was for sale by Les Alexander; however, after requesting a look at the books, they got up and left the meeting.

So don’t get mad at Hilton because he tried to help the city and the city of Houston didn’t help him back in return. I haven’t seen the mayor at a game all season. Even when WNBA President Donna Orender was in town, he wasn’t there.

And no one has recognized Karleen Thompson and the Comets for their success thus far, but we took time out to recognize former WNBA and Harlem Globetrotter Lynette Woodard two weeks ago when she came in town to do a legends charity basketball team.

Nothing personal toward Woodard, but home should be taken care of first! The city has been knowing that the team and Hilton needed assistance. That was one of the reason’s that he attempted to seek a smaller arena.

Orender, Koch and the Comets organization shouldn’t have to make a phone call to the mayor to draw attention to this issue. Koch has been through enough. He even had to get a duplicate set of banners made like the original ones that are still hanging in the Toyota Center. Hilton Koch has a young family and his extended family.

KOCH TOOK IN OVER 25 PEOPLE AFTER KATRINA

What a lot of people don’t know is that Koch took in over 25 members of his immediate family after Hurricane Katrina. They were displaced after the aftermath of the storm. He can’t afford to lose over four million dollars a year! No good businessman would want to continuely take that loss! That would befoolish.

Koch address the season-ticket holders in an open letter that was posted on the Comets website on August 8th. Despite his losses, Koch is still trying to help with finding another buyer for the team. A team that is 11-2 at home and on a seven-game winning streak.

The WNBA needs to take over and get with the mayor to keep the Comets in this city. And whatever the financial woes are they need to be handled. Stop waiting for the team to win a championship before you jump on the bandwagon.

This story actually surfaced three weeks ago and I went to Koch and asked him if he was going to move the team. He looked at me with a stunned look that gave an element of surprise at how I got this information.

As we continued the conversation, he assured me that the team wouldn’t be going anywhere. We later made eye contact again after the end of a game at Reliant Arena. I knew by the look in his eyes, that it was true, but he just couldn’t talk about it!

After the Comets defeated the Chicago Sky in their last game before the Olympic break, Koch was excited about everything that the Comets had accomplished. “God is good and we want to give him all the glory, Koch stated. “I look at where we are now and where we were last year. We are being the best that we can be right now. Pray for this team!”

The Comets are supported faithfully by a little under 3,000 season-ticket holders, including Council member Jolanda Jones, the Houston Texans, Daniel Gibson and Steve Francis of the NBA, and a few other celebrities that attend games when their schedules permit.

Hopefully, that same excitement and enthusiam that these people see will catch the attention of the league. I do hope that the WNBA does everything in its power to help the Houston Comets remain in the city; because they still owe us a WNBA All-Star game.

We are the only team that has won four-championships, but never had an All-Star game! The month of November has been tabbed as the date that a potential sale needs to be made or else the team will be relocating.

Regardless of who is meeting now it will come down to what does David think!