Mike Storen, an innovative professional sports executive who served as the American Basketball Association commissioner and general manager of several pro basketball franchises, died Thursday. He was 84.
ESPN SportsCenter anchor Hannah Storm is Storen’s daughter. She said her father died at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta of complications from cancer.
Storen was the first GM of the Indiana Pacers in 1967, when he set into motion the hiring, drafting and building of one of the ABA and NBA’s most respected franchises.
“It is impossible to overstate the formative impact Storen had on our franchise and the American Basketball Association, for which he would later serve as commissioner,” said a statement from the Pacers, who added that Storen was “instrumental” in choosing the team’s name, initial logo and blue-and-gold colors.
As a front-office executive, Storen had a direct role in acquiring several future Hall of Fame players, including Roger Brown, Mel Daniels, Louis Dampier, Artis Gilmore and Dan Issel.
In 1973, Storen became the commissioner of the ABA. He played a role in leading the upstart league’s charge to sign undergraduate college stars and helped push ABA teams to an eventual merger with the NBA. Storen became owner of the league’s Memphis Sounds with musician Isaac Hayes and GM of the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks.
Storen served as commissioner of three minor leagues in the late 1980s and 1990s: the Continental Basketball Association, Global Basketball Association and Indoor Professional Football League.
Rest In Peace Dad. You will be missed in so many ways. ♥️ pic.twitter.com/6sA5w1CMzn
— Hannah Storm (@HannahStormESPN) May 8, 2020
“If you knew my dad, you knew not only the profound impact he had on the sports industry, but also on the people he encountered,” Storm wrote on Twitter. “He was creative, larger-than-life, relentlessly positive, a fierce leader, inspiring, a forward thinker and above all, my greatest supporter. It is with a heavy heart and much sadness that I share that Mike Storen, loving father, grandfather, husband, proud member of the Fighting Irish family, and renowned sports executive, passed away today due to his battle with a rare form of cancer.”
Storen is remembered for his innovation in several capacities, including as a captain in the United States Marine Corps, for which he began the Toys for Tots program. As an executive in the ABA, his represented the swing vote that approved the red, white and blue basketball for the fledgling professional league.
“For me and so many other guys that might not have had a chance to continue playing, his influence on the ABA just gave countless kids and coaches to do something they love,” Basketball Hall of Fame coach and ABA alum Larry Brown told the AP. “And at the end of the day, when you consider the contributions some of those kids and coaches made in the NBA after the ABA was finished, it’s just remarkable. He just cared about the game and cared about the players in the league.”
Storen held jobs from ticket sales manager to GM with a number of professional teams and sports in a career that spanned five decades, including stops with the Houston Astros and World Football League’s Memphis Grizzlies.
Storen was a graduate of Notre Dame and a native of Michigan City, Indiana.
He is survived by his wife, Lynn, his three children, two stepdaughters and 14 grandchildren. Among Storen’s relatives is major league pitcher Drew Storen.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.