The Washington Wizards are searching for their next president of basketball operations and general manager, and majority owner Ted Leonsis has touted diversity as a major selling point with this job opening.
“I think people believe in our ownership group,” Leonsis said April 3 of Monumental Sports & Entertainment, the company that runs the team. “We have the most diverse, one of the most powerful ownership groups, and we’re very, very focused on trying to make everything that we touch world class.”
If diversity holds significance for the owners of Monumental Sports & Entertainment, a collection that includes Laurene Powell Jobs and Sheila Johnson (the only African American woman to hold ownership stakes in three professional sports teams), then the Wizards could consider bucking a trend for their top front-office executive.
Among the 30 NBA teams, there are only four African American general managers (Cleveland’s Koby Altman, New York’s Steve Mills, Philadelphia’s Elton Brand and Phoenix’s James Jones), but many more work in various front-office roles. Here are a few rising black executive candidates whom the Wizards could consider.
A five-time all-star point guard who now provides NBA commentary on ESPN, Billups will reportedly interview to become the next president of basketball operations for the Minnesota Timberwolves. Although Billups has spent the majority of his post-playing career in front of the camera, the move from the analyst chair to the front office is not as far-fetched as it once seemed. After four years at TNT, Steve Kerr became the Phoenix Suns’ general manager in 2007 before eventually becoming the Golden State Warriors’ head coach.
Billups nearly made the leap in 2017 when he interviewed for lead executive jobs with the Atlanta Hawks and Cleveland Cavaliers. Billups received an offer from the Cavaliers but removed his name from consideration, and the job went to Altman.
Billups, 42, played 17 years in the NBA and won a championship in 2004 with the Detroit Pistons. He was named NBA Finals MVP.
Eversley, who has ties to the Wizards organization, is vice president of player personnel for the Philadelphia 76ers. Before he moved to Philadelphia during its ascension from “The Process” to the playoffs, Eversley worked in the Wizards’ front office from 2013 to 2016.
Eversley has an unusual backstory. He went from working as a floor manager in Nike’s inaugural Canadian retail outlet store to the upper echelon of the company. He spent a decade with Nike as a sports marketing manager before joining the Toronto Raptors as the team’s director of basketball operations in June 2006. By 2010, Eversley was promoted to assistant general manager.
The 2019 G League executive of the year, Langdon oversaw the Long Island Nets during the team’s run to the finals. While directing the G League affiliate, the 42-year-old has also spent the past three seasons as the assistant general manager for the Brooklyn Nets under Sean Marks.
Langdon may be best known as a Duke basketball star whose NBA career lasted just three seasons (1999 to 2001), though he continued playing overseas. That experience gave Langdon an advantage in understanding international talent. Nets rookies Rodions Kurucs and Dzanan Musa developed on Long Island. Kurucs was selected for the Rising Stars game at All-Star Weekend and has logged minutes in Brooklyn’s first-round playoff series against the 76ers.
Langdon has emerged for executive openings this spring. Along with Billups, he has been named as a candidate for the Timberwolves’ job. Langdon, who has worked with the San Antonio Spurs and Cavaliers, also interviewed for the New Orleans Pelicans’ job, which went to David Griffin.
At 34, Mensah-Bonsu was tasked with running the day-to-day operations of the Capital City Go-Go during its inaugural year in the G League. As the Go-Go’s general manager, Mensah-Bonsu, now 35, worked with the Wizards to develop the team’s pair of players on two-way contracts. One of those players, Jordan McRae, earned a standard deal with the Wizards for the 2019-20 season.
Though young, Mensah-Bonsu has a world of experience in basketball. The London native played five years in the NBA and seven years overseas. After retiring in 2015, Mensah-Bonsu spent a year working as a regional representative with the National Basketball Players Association before joining the Spurs as an advance pro scout.
The San Antonio roots run deep, and Rose, a three-time champion with the Spurs and current assistant general manager with the Detroit Pistons, has branched out as an up-and-coming executive.
Rose, 44, took a circuitous route to the front office. While riding the bench with the New York Knicks near the end of his playing career, he earned a master’s degree in sports management. After retiring, Rose moved to the broadcast booth with the Philadelphia 76ers and spent offseasons interning with the team, even helping build the brand and selling tickets for its upstart G League affiliate, the Delaware 87ers.
Rose moved on to Atlanta, where he worked as manager of basketball operations. In 2018, Rose took on additional duties as the GM of Atlanta’s G league affiliate, and in his only season he was named G League executive of the year. That season, the Erie BayHawks made their first trip to the playoffs in six years.
The Silver Spring, Md., native started his ascent in NBA front offices while still a graduate assistant. In 2006, as he was studying for his master’s at the University of Central Florida, Wright spent the summer interning with the Orlando Magic. The internship turned into an eight-year stint with the organization, and Wright eventually became the Magic’s director of college scouting.
By 2014, Wright joined the Pistons as assistant general manager, and two years later he replaced Marks as the Spurs’ assistant GM.