SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - The Sacramento Monarchs folded on Friday, a shocking and disappointing development for the WNBA and one of its original eight franchises.
The decision was largely based on the Maloof family's desire to focus all its energy and efforts on the NBA's Sacramento Kings. Maloof Sports & Entertainment had owned both teams.
Now, the WNBA is left scurrying to try to find a new owner for the organization and a suitable market: with the most logical place being the Bay Area, perhaps in Oakland or San Jose.
League president Donna Orender said in a statement Friday that the league is in discussions with potential investors to relocate the Monarchs to the San Francisco area in time for next season.
The Monarchs franchise was one of the league's original eight teams and it won the WNBA championship in 2005 and the Western Conference title the following season.
The Monarchs' Web site - http://www.wnba.com/monarchs/ - for most of the day carried a message reading, "PICTURE YOURSELF as a 2010 MONARCHS Season Ticket Holder." It was changed by the afternoon, when the site carried only Orender's statement.
While it was difficult to reach anyone in the franchise's offices Friday, the team said it would not comment on the situation further and directed inquiries to the WNBA. Some employees work for both the Kings and Monarchs, so it was unclear how many jobs might be affected.
"We enjoyed our time with the WNBA and the Monarchs," co-owner Joe Maloof said in a statement. "We are extremely proud of an amazing run that included six straight playoff appearances and the 2005 WNBA Championship. All of our resources are now dedicated to bringing the Sacramento Kings back to championship caliber form."
Sacramento had several familiar faces when it comes to women's basketball in the area: former Stanford star Nicole Powell, Olympic gold medalist Kara Lawson, and Courtney Paris, the former Oklahoma star from nearby Piedmont, Calif.
The franchise is scheduled to have the second pick in the 2010 WNBA draft.
"The Bay Area has been a desirable market for the WNBA and the availability of the Monarchs provides an opportunity to move a well-known franchise and broaden its fan base within Northern California," Orender said in the statement. "Maloof Sports & Entertainment, owner of the Monarchs, has deemed it essential to focus all of its resources on the Sacramento Kings at this time. We understand this decision was a difficult one for them and appreciate the vision, leadership, and support of the Maloof family over the past 10 years."
Silicon Valley Sports & Entertainment, which runs the NHL's San Jose Sharks and HP Pavilion - a potential WNBA venue - could be an option explored by the WNBA. The organization had not yet been contacted by the WNBA.
"Silicon Valley Sports & Entertainment is always interested in listening to proposals to bring high-quality events into HP Pavilion at San Jose that are mutually beneficial to both the City of San Jose as well as our organization," SVSE president and CEO Greg Jamison said in a statement, responding to an inquiry by The Associated Press. "We have not had any discussion with the WNBA to bring a team to San Jose."
The Oakland-based Golden State Warriors are in support of the idea of a WNBA team playing in Oakland, but would not affiliate themselves with a franchise. That would have to be worked out with the City of Oakland and Alameda County. The Warriors play at Oracle Arena.