Nick Sakiewicz never left town, he just changed jobs.
The former Philadelphia Union executive resurfaced as National Lacrosse League Commissioner last January following 21 seasons in Major League Soccer.
That was three months after his split with Union majority owner and principal investor Jay Sugarman. The pair brought soccer to Philadelphia in 2008, but parted ways at the end of 2015 when their relationship became strained following years of on-field struggles and disagreement on how to move the franchise forward.
For some of that time, Sakiewicz was seen as public enemy number one in Chester, a CEO and Operating Partner who became the face of an underachieving club. In fairness, that was something he never really disputed.
“Someone has to answer and take the heat, I guess,” he told the Delco Times a few months back.
To that point, I viewed Nick as a person who covered for Sugarman’s shortcomings by repeatedly falling on the sword. There was never a doubt that Sakiewicz was a smart businessman, but a lack of resources stunted early Union gains and quickly brought an end to the club’s honeymoon period. Whether he helped his cause or not, most people realized that this was a thrifty franchise with a young coach, no scouting department, and no general manager.
But those days are long gone, and Sakiewicz is now building a new foundation for the NLL.
Attendance is up and expansion is underway. There seems to be stability and foresight for a league that has existed for quite a while now, but for most of that time just spinning its wheels. In many ways, Sakiewicz’s experiences with a rapidly growing MLS made him an ideal candidate to oversee the growth of another niche sport with similar upside.
I ran into Sakiewicz for the first time in two years at last Thursday’s NLL Philadelphia expansion announcement. He agreed to speak further about his lacrosse gig and Union departure, and we followed up on the phone this week. Continue Reading