- The Washington Times - Friday, January 26, 2007

Tom Doyle’s latest idea calls for 7-foot-8 Sun Ming Ming to play alongside 7-foot-7 Gheorghe Muresan and 7-foot-6 Manute Bol in the frontcourt.

The goal: Create a human hoops skyline that will earn entry into the Guinness Book of World Records and create a buzz for the Maryland Nighthawks, a Rockville-based team that plays in the obscurity of the American Basketball Association.

“I can also bring in some random 7-4 guys,” says Doyle, the Nighthawks’ owner. “They are all over the place. It is a way to get some media attention.”

Ming recently finished making the movie “Rush Hour 3” with Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker, but on this day he is just another innovation for Doyle. The 43-year-old lawyer and former amateur boxer has bigger plans than a Chinese player who stands nearly 8 feet tall. Ming is a regular member of the Nighthawks, while Muresan and Bol play only occasionally.

Doyle recently was named the chief operating officer of the ABA and faces the extremely tall order of fixing the dysfunctional league, one that has teams coming and going with great frequency.

If cleaning up that mess wasn’t enough, Doyle also is trying to find a new venue for his own team. The Nighthawks currently play in the cramped gym on the Rockville campus of Montgomery College, but Doyle has designs on building an arena in upper Montgomery County.

The facility would include 8,000 to 10,000 seats and, in addition to housing the Nighthawks, would play host to concerts and other shows and serve as a venue for such things as high school graduations — similar in function to Patriot Center in Fairfax County.

“It is something that doesn’t exist in the county and can really be used for the county,” says Doyle, who is gaining support in the county government. “It will help a lot of people and keep dollars as well as bring dollars into the county.”

The county council already has conducted a feasibility study, and the soon-to-be released results are said to be extremely positive. The arena likely would be a joint venture among the county and state governments and the private sector.

Doyle says he already has lined up $20 million from investors to fund the private side of the deal. In theory, the county and state would each kick in about $20 million to fund the project, which is expected to cost close to $60 million. Montgomery College-Germantown and the fair grounds in Gaithersburg are possible sites.

“People are starting to discuss the real possibility and places,” said county councilman Michael Knapp, whose district likely would play host to the new building. “These are places it actually can be done. It is still early, but it is gaining momentum and will get going even more in the next six weeks or so.”

‘One cool cat’

Neither the arena nor leadership of the ABA was on Doyle’s agenda three years ago.

Siegel & Doyle, his law firm, says it offers “a different breed of attorney,” one for whom casual clothes and plain talk replace suits and lawyer-speak.

“It’s a different approach,” says Doyle, who is wearing jeans and a T-shirt as he runs the sound system at a Nighthawks game. “I am not going to walk around in a suit in my office. I will be like this. I am more into paying attention to people and clients than a stereotypical law firm, which I kind of despise.”

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