By John Schaffner

Kathy Betty
Kathy Betty

Sandy Springs resident Kathy Betty loves sports and has supported the Atlanta Dream professional women’s basketball team as a season ticket holder for the past two seasons.

But she never dreamed her support for the team would grow so much.

As the Atlanta Dream opens its third season Sunday, May 16, at Philips Arena against the Indiana Fever, Kathy Betty debuts as the new owner of the team and probably its most enthusiastic cheerleader.

After the first home opening game, Betty will address the Rotary Club of Sandy Springs on Monday, May 17.

Betty and her husband Garry, CEO and co-founder of EarthLink, had planned on retiring and enjoying life, the 54-year-old first woman owner of a Womens National Basketball Association team told recently said at a Buckhead Business Association breakfast meeting. But her husband died of cancer in January 2007, and those plans abruptly changed.

One of the changes Betty made in her life after her husband’s death was buying a new townhome in 2009 in a Sandy Springs development near Ray’s on the River restaurant. Another was purchasing the Atlanta Dream franchise last October after it was given up by the former owner, Atlantan Ron Terwilliger.

In its first year, the Dream won four games. But last year (the team’s second season), the Dream won 18 games and lost 16 and advanced to the first round of the playoffs before losing to Detroit. The team’s coach, Marynell Meadows, was named the league’s coach of the year last season and player

Angel McCoughtry was named rookie of the year.

Speaking to the BBA, Betty exuded enthusiasm about the prospects for the Dream in its third season and about the girls who play for the team. She claims to be a big believer in mentoring and it shows.

“Sports is such a great thing for our young girls,” Betty said. “The Atlanta Dream is all about role models for young girls.”

Betty told the group of Buckhead business leaders, “Every day I get up I not only believe I did the right thing, but this is good for Atlanta. It is great family entertainment and it doesn’t cost a lot.”

She knows her role with the team. “I have to get more people in the seats at games.” She also is in charge of getting sponsors. She points to Buckhead-based Aaron’s Inc. and the Loudermilks as big supporters, as well as the Coca-Cola Co.

Betty has 25 years of business management and consultancy experience, including being one of the first female partners of Ernst & Young accounting firm. In 1996, she formed her own successful incubator The Tradewind Group.

“Semi-retired” from the business world, Betty serves in a leadership capacity for a number of non-profit organizations. She is chairman and CEO of the Garry Betty Foundation, a partnership with the V Foundation, which supports cancer research. She also serves on the boards of Alexander Tharpe Fund, Georgia Institute of Technology, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Foundation, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Atlanta, and the Atlanta Tipoff Club.