ArenaFan Interview: LA KISS CEO Joe Windham
As the Los Angeles KISS have started the 2015 to a rocky start, president and new CEO Joe Windham has brought a new perspective to what the team’s direction should be. If you have attended games, you have noticed a major difference in the amount of entertainment there has been, and the focus for the fans has been about the product on the field. While the team has yet to win a game this season, there is a sense of optimism regarding the future of the team, which is much more than winning Arena Bowl titles.
I had the opportunity to sit down with Windham this week to ask him some pressing questions about the franchise.
Manny Nunez: You are just a few months in being involved with the LA KISS, and a few weeks into your new position as Chief Executive Officer. What has been the experience for you so far?
Joe Windham: It has been a great experience. People do not really see how much work on the outside we are doing when it comes to practice and organizing ourselves. We are trying to make calculated moves over the last couple of weeks. It has been more fun for me because now I am working on the football side of things more than I did in Arizona. I have been in business with other sports like baseball and NHRA. It has been a great experience for me.
MN: Describe your relationship with Arizona and the success you had with them, including winning Executive of the Year in 2013.
JW: I feel into a great deal because Arizona had been struggling. Ron Shurts is a very good friend of mine and got me involved after be bought the team. Kevin Guy also ran a very great program in Arizona, and he just needed a guy to bring in the right tools and send it to the stratosphere. Shurts gave us everything we needed to make the product work, and we brought in all the facilities like housing and food in order to make our players happy.
MN: After four straight ArenaBowl appearances, including winning three straight, the rattlers and you decided to part ways. How difficult was it for both sides to make that decision?
JW: Ron and I are friends, and we had a great four years, winning three straight Arena Bowls. Unfortunately, we didn’t agree in the direction that we should go from there, and it is a grind. Running Arizona was a grind and running the KISS is a grind too. I wanted to spend time with my family and agree to disagree and part ways as friends.
MN: You are taking on a team now that had a very difficult first year, but a lot of distractions seemed to plague the team week after week. What was one of the first orders of business you decided to accomplish in order to begin success for the LA KISS?
JW: There was a lot of stuff that had to be fixed. Some people think that when you walk in, you can start the business right away. But you have to build an infrastructure, and there was hardly any when I walked in. It was something like the Wild Wild West. I had to get some of that corralled and fixed up a lot. More importantly, I had to fix up football. If you paid attention to the show (4th and Loud), you realized they didn’t have helmets the first week of practice. There weren’t even showers in the second half of the season. There was a lot behind the scenes that fans didn’t see. Pretty soon, the players didn’t want to play anymore. If you are not happy, you don’t want to do what you were brought here to do. I called this the Bermuda Triangle. We played in Anaheim, lived in Lakewood that is 30 miles away, and practiced in Whittier, which was another 30 miles. It was insane. So I wanted to bring more here, cater meals after practice. Before they all had to drive to a restaurant after they were tired and groggy. I wanted to get the practice facility close and bring the facilities close to Anaheim. That’s exactly what I did, giving the opportunity to work with the Anaheim Union School District and be involved with a partnership. We got housing in Santa Ana, and even better we are two blocks from Santa Ana College where we now practice. In this league, we kind of get the leftovers, and we are trying to build with what we have. Of course the media wants to rip us apart and say we cant compete, but that’s ok. I am trying to build a bandwagon right now and whenever you all are ready you can all jump on. Talking to Gene and Paul a few days ago, they are 100% committed to make this work. Last year they ran 95 guys through the team, and you cant build something strong like that. We had to make some changes and build our defensive front and bring in a lot of experience and find a way to gel with what we are dealing with.
MN: While bringing in a veteran quarterback like Danny Southwick, a player who is trying to fill the void of the injury bug that has hurt the LA KISS at quarterback this year, has helped the team overall?
JW: It definitely helps and he already had an idea of the system when he worked with Matt Sauk (offensive coordinator). He came in the Portland game on the road with just two practices, and he goes out on the field and throws six touchdowns. He did a great job. Having a veteran behind the center and has experience in the game will force these guys to make smart moves. A lot of people don’t realize as we talk about road games that six of our first nine games were on the road, including a Monday-Friday week. It is nice to come back home and getting healthy will get this team going, especially at quarterback.
MN: Wins and losses aside, do you think that this team is better emotionally?
JW: Absolutely. Some of that I try to see and compare on how they feel this season compared to last season. After games they are mad at themselves for how they played. But at the same time, these players have told me how much they have been treated and have said they haven’t seen anything like this. This team really wants to win, but emotionally they are better. We just need to have that confidence during practice and hoping that as these guys really get to know each other, they will have each others backs.
MN: How about the relationship you have built with Gene and Paul? What have you all discussed to make sure everything works out accordingly?
JW: I am always in conversation no mater where they are every so often. It is hard because they came in and were told that they can win a championship in their first year by the people they trusted last year. It just doesn’t happen that way and the reality hit hard. I am more of a realistic guy. Some people say I am a doomsday guy and it comes out to haunt me, but I am completely optimistic when it comes to the game. We are going to take some bumps and bruises but if we fight, the other team will know they can get roughed up too. That’s what we are teaching everyone. I trust the coaching staff, the owners, and the players. I know it is cliché, but we are doing all it takes to get things done and run smooth.