Alex Martins, COO and Magic MVP
"The opposition in 2001 was much stronger, and at that time, our (owner) contribution wasn't nearly as substantial," Martins said. "As an organization, we learned from our mistakes. We learned from the way we handled it."
Magic officials speak to this from experience. They can lecture about poisonous dynamics, cartoonish behavior, protracted discussions, nasty breakups. During previous attempts to reach an accord, most recently as 2001, former RDV Sports executive John Weisbrod helped swing public opinion against the club with his aggressive tactics and harsh outbursts. His poor personnel moves and the team's repeated failings further crippled hopes for a quick arena resolution, prompting DeVos to fire the longtime hockey official and lure Martins back as a spokesperson/liaison.
The owner's directive was simple: Repair the damage, and alter the club's image. And Martins, who originally joined the Magic in its second year (1990) as a publicist, returned 18 months ago and immediately embarked on a one-man crusade. He meets religiously with city and county officials. He schmoozes sponsors. He chats with fans, soliciting their opinions, acknowledging their gripes, vowing to make changes. He favors the handshake to the hammer. And in that sense alone, he is the antithesis of Kings president John Thomas, who puts the squeeze play on whenever possible and wherever he works.
"(The Magic) was born here," Martins said. "We grew up during our teenage years, and like all teens, we made mistakes. But we've done a good job of re-engaging the community and repairing our relationships with area businesses. We have just gone about things very differently this time."