Becky Bonner may blaze a trail and become the first female general manager or high-level executive in the NBA. She will start by changing the Orlando Magic.
Orlando Magic CEO Alex Martins promised to give president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman plenty of latitude in helping reshape and reform the Magic. At the introductory press conference, Martins said the team would be making an unprecedented investment in the team’s basketball operations.
It started with the hiring of several key staffers, putting a ton of experience and talent into the front office. Weltman had been a general manager and assistant general manager for several teams in the last 20 years. General manager John Hammond was his right-hand man, bringing 30 years of front office experience with him. Then came other former general managers like Pete D’Alessandro.
There were tons of other hires that happened behind the scenes that regular fans may never really know about. And none may end up being as important as director of player development and quality control Becky Bonner.
Her hire was a quiet one, someone who casual fans probably recognized more for her last name than anything else. But the hire has become one that has already started making impacts.
The changes to the Magic’s facilities (at least publicly) are small. The team added logos to the trash cans as some media members noticed. The media also came into their interview room (where coach Frank Vogel gives his press conferences after games) to find comfy chairs and theater seating. The room had been transformed into the team’s film room. The team is building itself a new film room for players inside the practice facility.
Amazingly, as nice as the Amway Center is, it lagged behind other basketball facilities. And when Weltman came in he found a basketball operations program that was bare bones, if present at all. He was building a lot of things from the ground up.
A lot of the responsibility to re-develop the Magic fell on Bonner, as Howard Beck of Bleacher/Report relates:
"The Magic had no player development program when Weltman and Hammond took over in the spring. They tapped Bonner, with her extensive experience working for the league, to reassess everything and build a program from scratch."
Many items about building the Magic from the design of the player’s lounge to organizing team meals to re-designing the locker room to hiring a team chef to making sure players show up where they are supposed to be falls on Bonner’s shoulders.
Eventually — and coinciding with all these responsibilities — she will provide input on scouting reports for upcoming games, trades and the draft. That will be her primary role for however long she is with the Magic. This year, she is laying the foundation for the Magic to build from.
She has her hands in everything with the Magic’s front office. And that is one of the reasons why she came to Orlando to begin with.
Her ambitions are, rightfully, much higher. And as Weltman sought to bring in the best to add to his support staff, he sold Bonner on coming to Orlando. He promised her a path to becoming the first female general manager in the NBA.
As Beck details in his article (which you should absolutely read), there are a lot of women trying to break through into the virtually all-male club of NBA executives. The usually progressive league is starting to see women be part of the decisionmaking process in front offices more and more. It is a slow growth but it is coming. And Bonner very well could be the first.
There is a lot of work to do for herself and the league before then. She will have to show her value in the NBA war rooms.
The Magic and their ultimate success will not be a referendum on her or anything like that. Weltman still makes the final decisions.
It is very clear that Bonner is ready and willing to work. She is doing anything the team needs (she has no design background, but still tackled the assignment of redesigning the Magic’s locker room area). And seems to be doing it exceptionally well.
Bonner may yet change the NBA. For now, she will start with the Orlando Magic.