Veteran executives from around the league talk about the qualities that make new Bulls General Manager Marc Eversley so highly regarded
Wayne Embry wasn’t sure about the kid. Yes, most everyone is a kid when you played with both Oscar Robertson and Bill Russell and was the first black team president in America professional sports. But Embry listened and Marc Eversley was impressive.
“A hard worker, always willing to learn and someone who was very dedicated to his job,” said Embry, the basketball hall of famer who is something of an eminence grise for the Toronto Raptors, where Eversley worked seven years. “I enjoyed working with him. He impressed me. We got into a debate; it was over Paul George.”
The lanky forward from Fresno State hadn’t been a big time prospect in high school; hence Fresno State. And though George excelled at Fresno with his entertaining athleticism, the team had a losing record both his seasons, a combined 28-39. Small conference, losing record. Not high on the NBA draft charts. But Eversley saw something, knew something, heard something. In moving to Nike’s Oregon corporate headquarters to work in team marketing and player relations, the 6-8 Eversley combined the talent of a former scholarship basketball player with an amiable approach and confident connections.
"Tremendous relationships,” says Washington Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard. “He’s the kind of guy you absolutely love working with, a team player. Across the board, a great feel for the players, excellent relationships, a fantastic network. He knows how to get information. And that’s the biggest currency in our business with a good eye for talent.”
The Raptors had the 13th selection in that 2010 NBA draft, though George eventually wouldn’t get there with a late rise up the boards from workouts reminiscent of Scottie Pippen’s in 1987. George went No. 10 the Indiana Pacers and has been the best player from that draft.
“He kept telling me, ‘Wayne, this guy is going to be terrific,’” Embry recalled. “I still hadn’t gotten there yet. But he was behind it and stayed right with it. Finally I was convinced. He knew what he was talking about.
“He’d been around with Nike all those years; he’s got very good insights,” says Embry. “Communication is a big strength. Marc gets along with people, part of his Nike connection. He works well with the people we have to network with. He’s very bright. I’m glad to see him get a shot. It’s a very good hire for the Bulls.”
It’s been an unusual and atypical path for the youthful looking 51-year-old Eversley, a native of London, England of Barbados parents who was introduced as Bulls general manager Friday. The family moved to Toronto when Marc was four and he grew up in a Toronto suburb. Marc at 6-8 became a top prep basketball player. But Canada had yet to surface much on U.S. radar. He attended a few small colleges to play basketball, finishing at NAIA Urbana U. in Ohio, which recently closed its doors. Without high level professional talent, Eversley finished his business marketing degree. And then talk about circuitous routes to the NBA’s executive suite.
We like to consider it our story, the Horacio Alger rags-to-riches American dream thing. But kids dream everywhere. Canadian exceptionalism is pretty impressive, like that of Canadian street performer Guy Laliberté who figured out this thing called Cirque du Soleil. Marc Eversley begins to take his place in that impressive roll call as the kid who started his professional basketball career managing a Nike outlet shoe store in a suburban Toronto mall. At least he didn’t have to wear the referee shirts like in the old Foot Locker stores.
Marc Eversley has spent time working with the Philadelphia 76ers, Washington Wizards, and Toronto Raptors.
Eversley built the store sort of ground up and was there six years for Nike Canada. The big shot Nike guys in Oregon actually noticed and go west the young man did. Eversley had that gift for affinity and understanding sandwiched around his knowledge of the game. Raptors general manager Bryan Colangelo, looking for a smart basketball guy who also was true North and would stand on guard for thee to grow the game in Canada, hired Eversley. Making Canada seem less foreign was vital for the Raptors, and Eversley was someone who could comfortably help players ease their way into this foreign land while speaking their language of basketball.
Eversley worked his way up to Toronto assistant general manager. During seven years with the Raptors, others around the NBA began to notice the personable and professional kid. Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld recruited Eversley, who stayed for three years as vice president of player personnel before Colangelo lured Eversley back to join him with the 76ers.
“Marc is very knowledgeable guy,” said Grunfeld, a longtime chief executive with the Knicks, Bucks and Wizards. “He has great connections from working at Nike for a long time. He’s been around the league and people really like him. But they also respect him because of his knowledge and the way he presents himself. He’s very connected in the youth thing. He’s a good judge of talent, easy to work with and get along with. But when he has to put his foot down, he can do that, too.
“Very diligent and meticulous in the way he prepared and organized his scouting reports and staff,” Grunfeld added. “I loved working with him and we were sorry to lose him when he left.”
Sheppard succeeded Grunfeld in Washington after working side by side in Washington with Eversley.
“He’s somebody who also is a great listener and has a lot of original thoughts,” said Sheppard. “You find a lot of guys regurgitate things for you. Not Marc. Marc made some really good strides for us, organized an area that was not organized before.”
A few years ago, Eversley was explaining to a Philadelphia reporter the hazy road to finding successful players. “There’s no blueprint, no magic to this,” he said. “It’s about fit, feel and character. Dudes who play hard, who you don’t have to manage every single day.”
It appears the Bulls now have a guy like that as their new general manager.