Mike Storen, a former ABA commissioner and multisport marketing whiz and the father of ESPN broadcaster Hannah Storm, died Thursday. He was 84.
Storm said her father died at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta of complications from cancer.
Known for his hearty laugh and creative mind, Storen rose to executive spots in basketball, football, baseball and tennis during a four-decade career in sports.
“I still have a red, white and blue basketball with his name on it,” Storm said. “All those things the ABA did — the 3-point shot, cheerleaders, the slam-dunk contest — those were right up his alley.”
Storen was general manager of the Indiana Pacers and Kentucky Colonels and president of the Atlanta Hawks. He owned the ABA’s Memphis Sounds with musician Isaac Hayes, worked for the Cincinnati Royals of the NBA and the Houston Astros, and was commissioner of the Continental Basketball Association.
With the Memphis Grizzlies of the World Football League, he brought in the likes of Paul Warfield and Larry Csonka on the field and Elvis Presley into the seats.
Storen promoted the Bluebonnet Bowl in Houston and major indoor tennis tournaments featuring Bjorn Borg in Memphis. His last sports job was with the Georgia Force of the Arena Football League is 2002.
It was a want ad in the newspaper that started Storen’s pro path. He answered that call — “without any appreciable experience but with a lot of charm and gusto,” Storm has said — for a ticket seller with the Chicago Zephyrs in the NBA in the early 1960s. He stayed with the team when it moved and became the Baltimore Bullets as their promotions director.
Storen eventually ascended to become commissioner of the American Basketball Association in the early 1970s. Boosted by stars such as Julius Erving, Storen helped put in motion the ABA’s move toward a merger with the NBA.
At Notre Dame, Storen played freshman football. He later was a U.S. Marine and was involved with the popular Marine Toys for Tots program.
Storm followed her father to school at Notre Dame and, instilled with a love of sports, made that her career path.
“From the time I was a kid, I was always around sports because of my dad,” Storm said. “I remember always having a lot of very, very tall people in the house for Thanksgiving or Christmas or parties. Artis Gilmore, Dan Issel, Dr. J, so many athletes.”
Storen is survived his wife, Lynn; sons Mark and Duke and daughter Hannah by his first wife Hannah; two stepdaughters, Susan Duncan and Lisa Roberts; and 14 grandchildren.
Among Storen’s relatives is major league pitcher Drew Storen.