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Stars and Seats


By Sandy Siegel '72

Published Apr 1, 2010 9:00 AM

Tim Harris '89 admits he's not the hippest guy in town. "I don't pretend to have my finger on the pulse of who's cool and not cool," he says.

But starting every October and continuing hopefully through the NBA finals in June, Harris is the coolest cat in Southern California for some of the hippest folks in town.

As senior vice president, business operations, and chief marketing officer for the Lakers, he fields calls from agents, managers and publicists trying to score prime-location seats at Staples Center for their clients. Some famous fans, like Jack Nicholson and Dyan Cannon, have season tickets, and some snag studio- or agency-owned seats. The rest court Harris for his coveted house seats, which don't come cheap: Courtside chairs run about $3,000 and include a VIP pass to the arena's private bar and some respectful distance.


Toby Maguire and Leonardo DiCaprio get A-list seats at Staples Center, with Leo showing impeccable taste in hatwear.

"One of the things we want to be known as, other than a team that plays good basketball, is a team that likes to take care of the celebrities, because we're in a celebrity town," says Harris, who acknowledges that A-listers get preference. "One of the ways we take care of the celebrities is by leaving them alone. ... If they ask us for something, we're absolutely here to help them."

Of course, some ask for a tad too much — like the actress who requested a halftime meet-and-greet with Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal.

But Harris' job is much more than celebrity hand-holding. He oversees all revenue-generating areas, including ticket, sponsorship and broadcast sales, entertainment and emerging technology, so he's more likely to have a pregame dinner with a sponsor or not-so-famous season-ticket holder than to chat with Jack or Dyan. "We're always looking to maximize revenue," he says. "Yet at the same time, we have to operate the games and the events for which we have sold. [The job is] a hybrid between selling and operating."

The gig wasn't exactly part of Harris' game plan, but a stint selling sponsorships at the Great Western Forum fortuitously morphed into the Lakers post in 1999. Though people in sports tend to jump around, Harris is staying put. "I've got one of the best jobs in sports," says the onetime UCLA and professional soccer player. "How do you improve on this job?"

Harris could use an assist, though, in one area: "There's not enough tickets," he laments. Of the 18,997 seats at Staples Center, about 15,000 are handled by the Lakers. Of those, about 13,000 are season tickets. He easily could sell more.

Except maybe at home. "Somewhere along the way this past season, [my 5-year-old son] became a die-hard [Indiana] Pacers fan," confesses the father of two young boys. "He cannot wait for the schedule to come out because he wants to go and watch the Lakers in Indiana this season."

Wonder if Dad can score him some seats?