Moving the franchise away from Donald Sterling and to new ownership might require a lengthy fight, but it's one Parsons thinks is worthwhile.
"This is an issue that's actually bigger than just the Clippers, bigger than just the NBA in my judgment," Parsons said. "The whole world is kind of watching how, frankly, we as a country navigate our way through this crisis. So if I can help, I'm happy to try."
The NBA chose Parsons, a former Citigroup chairman and former Time Warner chairman and CEO, as interim CEO of the Clippers on Friday.
Parsons will oversee the management of the franchise and represent it at owners meetings while the league tries to force Sterling to sell following his lifetime ban for making racist remarks.
With Sterling barred from anything to do with the team or league, and team President Andy Roeser on an indefinite leave of absence, the league and Clippers worked together to find someone to lead the organization along with coach Doc Rivers.
Parsons, who is black, met with Commissioner Adam Silver on Monday and accepted the position Thursday. He had gotten to know Silver, then the deputy commissioner, when Time Warner owned the Atlanta Hawks, and he supports what Silver is trying to do now in his first crisis since replacing David Stern in February.
"He's a good man and he's trying to do the right thing and he's trying to do it in the right way, and he could use some help," Parsons said during a phone interview.
Parsons is currently a senior advisor at Providence Equity Partners and sits on the board of directors for the Commission on Presidential Debates. He has also been on President Barack Obama's economic advisory team.
A graduate of the University of Hawaii, where he played basketball, Parsons earned a law degree from Albany Law School in 1971 and became a staff lawyer for New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller. He moved to Washington when Rockefeller was appointed vice president, and also worked closely with President Gerald Ford.
Parsons left the legal field in 1988 to become president, then chairman and CEO of Dime Bancorp, Inc. He was Time Warner chairman and CEO from 2002-08, then chairman of Citigroup from 2009-12.
Silver said in a statement that Parsons "will bring extraordinary leadership and immediate stability to the Clippers organization."
"Dick's credentials as a proven chief executive speak for themselves and I am extremely grateful he accepted this responsibility," Silver added.
The owners' advisory/finance committee has already held two conference calls since Silver banned Sterling, fined him $2.5 million and said he would urge owners to force Sterling to sell the franchise he has owned since 1981.
That would require Sterling to be charged with violating the league's constitution and bylaws, followed by a three-fourths vote of owners after a hearing. Sterling's estranged wife, Shelly, wants to keep her 50 percent ownership stake in the team, her lawyer said Thursday, and Silver said so far the ban only applies to Donald Sterling.
While that potential fight goes on, the Clippers are trying to stay focused on the playoffs following their most successful regular season ever. They are tied with the Oklahoma City Thunder entering Game 3 of their Western Conference semifinal series.
Parsons said he wouldn't be involved in an ownership fight and hopes one won't even be necessary, that "cooler heads and rationality" would allow the NBA and the Clippers to work through the turmoil without a legal battle. He doesn't know how long that could take.
"I know the NBA would love to get this done before the next season begins, but who knows what's going to happen? It's open ended," Parsons said.
"We're here until sort of we can work our way through the point of transition."