Salt Lake Golden Eagle and Utah Jazz officials are downplaying a recent reorganization that resulted in Golden Eagle general manager Mike Runge being relieved of his duties.
Although Runge, who held the job two-and-a-half years, is out as general manager, no replacement has been named and none may be named. For now, Jazz general manager Tim Howells will oversee the Eagle organization."Basically the reason for the change is to better employ some of the assets we have in the Jazz organization," said Howells. "The Eagles are headed in the right direction, but there is a strong sense of urgency to get there as fast as we can."
Howells said the integration of the Eagles and the Jazz hasn't taken place the way owner Larry Miller had hoped. Acording to Howells, it has been "awkward."
Howells will continue as the Jazz GM, but may be spread a little more thin in the future with more responsibility with the Eagles.
"This might pull me more into the day-to-day operation of the Eagles," said Howells, who has been representing the Eagles at IHL Board of Directors meetings. "But an awful lot will fall into various departments (of the Jazz organization). We're in the process of seeing this whole thing evolve."
Runge says he wasn't surprised by the move and claims he isn't unhappy about it.
"Quite frankly, I expected it to happen when Larry bought the team (in 1989)," he said. "It just made sense in an organization like Miller's to use that expertise to help the Eagles."
Runge feels good about his accomplishments as Eagles GM. When he took over as general manager in July of 1988, the Eagles were averaging 3,800 fans per game. Last year the average was up to 5,200 and is projected to be around 5,700 this year. But despite the increase, the Eagles are still losing money, in part because of subsidization costs of Midwestern IHL teams traveling to Salt Lake.
Both Howells and Runge said the building of the new arena which will house both the Jazz and the Eagles beginning next year was a factor in the change.
Runge will continue on the Eagles' sales staff and work as the public address announcer in addition to his job at KALL Radio and other p.a. announcing jobs.
"Mike's done a good job as general manager," said Howells. "He's a great asset to the Eagles."
Golden Eagle staff apparently aren't too concerned about their future.
"It's nothing like a major shakeup," said Mark Kelly, the Eagles' Public Relations Director. "Nobody's worrying. We're too busy doing our jobs."
"I'm really optimistic about the way this thing is headed," said Runge, who has been involved with the Eagles since their inception in 1969.