Thursday, Aug. 5, 1999 | 9:50 a.m.
Ron Kantowski's notes column appears Tuesday and Thursday. Reach him at [email protected] or 259-4088.
The Maloof family of Albuquerque and Las Vegas has given a whole new meaning to the shot-and-beer business.
The family, which for the past 68 years has owned the Coors beer distributorship in New Mexico, recently got in the shot business -- the jump shot business -- by purchasing and assuming control of Sacramento's two pro basketball franchises, the NBA Kings and WNBA Monarchs.
Brothers Gavin and Joe Maloof, the front men for the basketball pursuits, have taken both leagues by storm.
The Kings' surprising run in this past season's NBA playoffs, combined with the brothers' commitment to customer service, has resulted in an increase in NBA season tickets, from 7,000 to 9,000 -- and the season-ticket campaign is just getting started. Team officials are projecting a minimum 30-percent gain in season ticket sales by the time the 1999-2000 season tips off.
The Monarchs' popularity is even more remarkable.
As of July 21, their attendance was up 25.8 percent over last year while the league as a whole is down 4.4 percent. Sacramento -- one of only two WNBA clubs showing an attendance increase this season -- is averaging 8,020 spectators, ranking ninth in the 12-team league. Last year, the Monarchs were last in attendance.
The Monarchs also are winning on the court, as former Las Vegas Silver Streaks coach Sonny Allen has guided the team to a 15-10 record following last season's miserable 8-22 performance.
The Maloofs humbly credit their teams' success for keeping the turnstiles spinning but their infectious enthusiasm -- they cheer out loud and pump their fists at courtside -- and the hospitable manner in which they treat their guests certainly hasn't gone unnoticed.
Try calling the Kings office sometime. If the brothers aren't tending to business in Las Vegas at the Fiesta hotel-casino (which the family owns and operates), chances are one of them will answer the phone.
The only way you'd get George Steinbrenner to pick up the phone is if there were a $100 bill attached to the receiver.
But as Joe Maloof suggested in the current issue of the Sports Business Journal, being accessible is just good business.
"When you pick up the phone, you never know if the guy on the other end wants to order 10 season tickets or buy a couple hundred cases of beer," he said.
Or both. In that case, he's probably a Chris Mullin fan.
* SPECIAL DELIVERY: It was Jim Dent who once said of his erratic drives "I can air mail a golf ball, but I don't always put the right address on it."
After his Hapless Gilmore routine on the 72nd hole of the recent British Open, the same could be said of Jean Van del Velde. The likeable Frenchman blew a seemingly insurmountable three-shot lead by making some of the worst strokes since Mark Spitz jumped back in the pool prior to the Atlanta Games.
But Van de Velde's sympathetic fans haven't had trouble finding him via the mail. He's been getting more fan mail than Ricky Martin, despite having what amounts to an unlisted address.
One greeting, from a man in England, simply was addressed "Jean Van de Velde, southwest France." There was a picture of Van de Velde, standing in Barry's Burn (where he hit his ball on No. 18 at Carnoustie), pasted on the envelope, with an arrow drawn to it and the words "That's him!"
Unlike the Claret Jug, the letter wound up in Van de Velde's possession.
* SPEED RUN POSTPONED: Craig Breedlove, who was a speed freak long before Michael Irvin signed with the Dallas Cowboys, has called off his latest attempt to reclaim the land speed record in the northern Nevada desert. Breedlove, who was the first man to eclipse 400, 500 and 600 mph on land, said a painful bone spur in his arm will preclude him from making another run at Briton Andy Green's speed-of-sound exceeding mark of 763.035 mph, set in October 1997.
While Green was making like the Roadrunner on that day, Breedlove looked more like Wile E. Coyote on the other end of Black Rock Desert north of Reno. He got up to a rather pedestrian (provided the pedestrian is an Apollo astronaut) speed of 636 mph before tipping his land rocket onto its side.
That may explain why two days later, during a Las Vegas appearance for longtime sponsor Shell, Breedlove's complexion still looked like rocker Edgar Winter's. In a driving snow storm.
Breedlove, 63, said this week he will focus on making a run at the record next year instead of this fall.
* AROUND THE HORN: During the recent drought back East, Penn State is using water that cooled a nuclear reactor to irrigate the grass at Beaver Stadium. So that may explain why Joe Paterno wears his pants so short. ... If you don't think the Michigan-Ohio State football rivalry isn't what it used to be, consider Buckeyes coach John Cooper gets a $150,000 bonus if OSU wins the national championship. He gets $200,000 if the Bucks beat Michigan. ... Mark McGwire didn't have to slide into third base against the Padres Tuesday when he ended the majors' longest drought between triples -- 4,618 at-bats. Instead, he just used the runaway truck lane. McGwire looked like a '69 Buick Electra, leaking oil around the bases, after Tony Gwynn couldn't hang on to his long drive at the right-field fence. ... The Milwaukee Brewers will wear a patch representing the Ironwork ers Local 8 union on their uniform sleeves next year, to honor the three workers who were killed by a crane last month at under-construction Miller Park. .
. Former UNLV track coach Al McDaniels returned to Las Vegas from the Pan-Am games this week, where he was a coach for the U.S. track and field squad. ... A bottle of wine commemorating NASCAR's 1999 Brickyard 400 will be released this week by Thoroughbred Vintners of Indiana, which isn't exactly the Napa Valley when it comes to fine wine. But then, NASCAR fans aren't exactly connoisseurs of fine wine. According to the press release, the vino is the real thing -- not just Budweiser in a fancy green bottle.