Former Seattle SuperSonics owner Barry Ackerley died Monday in Southern California after suffering a stroke Saturday. He was 76.
“We are going to miss the great love and support of our husband, father and grandfather,” said wife Ginger Ackerley in a statement from the family. “He was larger than life and was a man of great integrity, humor and generosity. Above all else, he always put family first.”
Ackerley entered Seattle’s business community in 1975 with a background in sales and a specialty in outdoor advertising. The Ackerley Group became a national company listed on the New York Stock Exchange.
He bought the Sonics in 1983, purchasing them from Sam Schulman. The team reached the playoffs 13 times in the 18 years Ackerley owned the team. He sat courtside for most of his 18 years as the team owner.
The Sonics won four division titles during that time, reached the conference finals three times and the NBA Finals in 1996. They won a league-best 63 regular-season games in 1993-94. About the only thing the Sonics didn’t do under Ackerley was win a league title.
“He was a guy that wanted perfection, wanted the team to do well,” said Lenny Wilkens, Sonics coach when Ackerley bought the team. “He was excited when he got it. What I remember was he was very supportive.”
Ackerley sold the Sonics in 2001 to a group of investors led by Howard Schultz. Schultz sold the Sonics in 2006 and the franchise moved to Oklahoma City prior to the 2008-09 season.
The most sustained success in Sonics history came under Ackerley’s ownership. The team won 55 or more games for six successive seasons beginning in 1992-93. The Seattle Coliseum was renovated during Ackerley’s ownership of the team, becoming KeyArena.