The new boss of the U.S. Olympic Committee is setting out to restore respectability to the organization and repair relationships around the globe. To do that, he is taking a cue from the Wizard of Westwood.
"In my opinion, it's the world's greatest brand and we haven't been good stewards of the brand," Scott Blackmun said Wednesday when he was introduced as the USOC's new chief executive officer. "So, first and foremost we need to act with transparency and integrity.
"I'm a big fan of John Wooden and he talks about success being defined as making sure you gave it your best shot and making sure you acted with integrity and honesty in your dealings with others. And that's going to be the foundation of this organization going forward."
Blackmun succeeds acting CEO Stephanie Streeter, who faced constant criticism after her sudden, unexpected ascension to the top position in March.
Blackmun, a 52-year-old Colorado Springs attorney, is returning to the USOC, where he worked as general counsel, then senior managing director and later as interim CEO from 1998 through 2001. He will officially take over on Jan. 26 after a week's vacation in Hawaii and will be in place for the start of the Vancouver Olympics on Feb. 12.
USOC chairman Larry Probst said Blackmun's four-year deal includes a base salary this year of $450,000 -- a revelation that Blackmun said points to the organization's attempt at transparency.
Although incentives could push that figure higher, it's a big drop from the eyebrow-raising $1 million-or-so pay package that Streeter received, which included a base salary of $560,000. Former CEO Jim Scherr made just under $620,000 in 2008 with a base salary of $428,243.
Although Chicago's first-round failure to land the 2016 Summer Games, which went to Rio de Janeiro, was widely viewed as an international rebuke of the USOC, Blackmun said he thinks the IOC was motivated more by delivering South America its first Olympic Games.
Nevertheless, Blackmun said he plans to burnish the USOC's standing around the world, and he intends to do that by becoming more engaged with the worldwide Olympic community.
"Internationally, it's just a lot of blocking and tackling," Blackmun said. "At the end of the day, relationships are a function of time and commitment and we need to start spending that time and making that commitment and becoming engaged in the movement. We are part of the worldwide Olympic movement. The IOC is the leader of that movement and we intend to become a much more regular guest over there.
"It's not something that we can fix overnight," Blackmun added, "but it is something that we can address overnight."
If reaction to the USOC's choice is any indication, Blackmun's hiring has already begun to smooth things over both at home and worldwide.
Probst said he spoke with IOC president Jacques Rogge on Wednesday.
"He was very enthusiastic about Scott's appointment. He thinks we made a terrific hire and he's looking forward to meeting him in Vancouver," Probst said.
"We are clearly pleased at the appointment of a new chief executive officer at the United States Olympic Committee," IOC spokesman Mark Adams said. "Our relationship with USOC is a key one for the future of the Games, and having an experienced operator in the post is clearly to be welcomed."