USA Today: 11 former NBA players in prominent front office positions

basketball-courtThe NBA has moved away from hiring former players as general managers as the salary cap has become more complicated and more important in managing player personnel, USA Today reported.

With the age-old trend of hiring former players to run teams appearing to be on the serious decline, more than 20 current players who want to eventually have a role in team building gathered in Las Vegas for a three-day leadership seminar in July and have been sharpening their studies ever since as they wait for training camp to arrive.

The realization is setting in, it seems, that having played in the league is hardly qualification enough to win these jobs.

The front office frontier is a world of strategies, numbers and rules that are very different from the court.

And as franchise values have soared, new collective bargaining agreement rules have restricted the general manager’s playing field, and the focus on player analytics has grown, NBA owners have begun to rely on decision-makers whose backgrounds go well beyond basketball.

Only two of the past 15 additions of a top front-office position went to former NBA players, with three leaving the league in the process (Otis Smith in Orlando, Lance Blanks in Phoenix and Geoff Petrie in Sacramento).

The recent return of Larry Bird in Indiana was not counted among that group, but there are now 11 former NBA players in prominent front office positions among the 30 teams with him back in the fold.

The most recent general manager hirings show owners are increasingly hiring respected executives who, while not former NBA players, have proven track records learning this game inside the game.

Former players, in other words, are playing from behind in the general manager game these days.

Atlanta Hawks assistant general manager Wes Wilcox was one of the speakers at the July seminar put on by the National Basketball Players Association, along with McDonough, former New York Knicks and Washington Wizards executive Ed Tapscott , Oklahoma City Thunder general manager Sam Presti, and Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle, who is head of the coaches’ assocation.

Wilcox spoke to players about the scouting process, the ins and outs of the collective bargaining rules and how they pertain to team-building, as well as his personal path from Cleveland Cavaliers advance scout to second in command for the Hawks under former NBA player Danny Ferry.

When players were done with the classroom part of their session, they sat in the stands of UNLV and wrote scouting reports of young players who participated in summer league.

“It’s an education,” Wilcox said. “The more NBA players are aware of the mechanics of how the league works, how trades get put together, I think it helps them better understand their profession and maybe the realities of being in the NBA.

“These guys need to be thinking about life after basketball. Their careers are over when many of our careers — ‘our’ being non-player careers — are just beginning. To be amongst a group that is already thinking that, and to have an opportunity to share it with them, and hear their experiences and share yours with them, that’s a pretty cool thing.”

Shareef Abdur-Rahim has been the rare exception to the recent rule. After earning more than $100 million in the 12-year playing career in which he averaged 18.1 points and 7.5 rebounds per game, he retired in 2008 and became an assistant coach with the Kings. He joined Petrie as the Kings’ assistant general manager two years later, and became the director of player personnel under D’Alessandro after the recent regime change.

While knowing the CBA as if it’s your team’s playbook will always help a former player’s cause when it comes to pursuing front-office positions, Abdur-Rahim stressed the importance of maintaining a good reputation during one’s playing days.

“People have an opinion of you as a player, so if you were a dependable guy — not if you were the best player, but if you were a dependable guy — if I could count on you to give effort every night, knew you were a hard worker, knew you’d be on time, knew you were responsible, just that in itself will go a long way for you in anything else you want to do after playing,” he said. “My advice to guys is, don’t think it’s the same as playing. It’s totally different rules. Totally different skill sets, totally different environment.

“It’s like everything else: You have to work. You have a duty to work, to get better.”


Stay updated on latest stories!

Subscribe, and receive free updates directly in your Inbox. Enter your email address:

comments powered by Disqus

Comments are closed.