Over the past few years, women have slowly moved into positions of power within NBA front offices. These women are not making the case of girls can do anything boys can do – they’re making the case that they can do what they work for.
One woman who is breaking ground in the NBA front office is Tori Miller.
Miller, an Atlanta native, is the second-ranking basketball executive for the Erie BayHawks, which is the Atlanta Hawks G-League affiliate team. She’s also the manager of basketball operations for the BayHawks. At just 27 years old, she’s been able to be part of the teams’ first-ever South-East Division Championship last season, while continuously working on perfecting her craft and working her way up to becoming a General Manager of an NBA team herself.
But her path here has not been a simple one.
Growing up, most parents will tell their children they can do anything they want to and believe they can, but their suggestions are typically traditional jobs – such as a teacher or a lawyer. But for Miller, she followed her heart and didn’t let the fact that her dream job as a general manager of an NBA team wasn’t conventional stop her.
Her work ethic was a testament to her love for the game of basketball. Although she grew up playing softball, she gave basketball a try in high school and wasn’t great at it initially – “but that’s what drew me to it,” Miller admitted. “I’m the type of person, if I’m not good at something, I will continue at it to make myself good at it. I started playing basketball, I fell in love with it, and that’s how I started to work in it.”
“Since I’ve been in college I wanted to be a GM, so that’s the path that I’ve been on,” Miller recalled.
Miller’s career in NBA front offices started off with an internship with the Phoenix Suns, but once that position was up, there were not any full-time opportunities. “I had to start over from scratch and try to land a full-time job.”
Recognizing that she had to set herself apart from everyone else, she quickly realized sending out resumes and work samples were not going to land her the dream job. “I wasn’t getting much love, so I kind of did my own scouting for a whole season.”
Much like her introduction with the sport, she did not let the lack of responses to her countless job applications stop her, she kept working at it. For a whole season, Miller attended college games in Atlanta – including all the Georgia State and UGA games, all while really honing in on the G-League, but she did not just attend as a fan. She did the one thing that separates herself from the crowd.
“I was making scouting reports tracking the league and I would send those out to various teams.” These reports are what she refers to as ‘booklets’. A booklet is a 30-page rundown of a team’s roster and salary cap situations, including recommendations on free agents, draft picks and potential trades.
“I knew I had to do something different. As a female, my name [Tori Miller] on a resume, you don’t know what my gender could be. But when you pick up the phone, it’s like, ‘oh – this is a girl!’” she stated with a laugh. She knew that doing her own scouting, and doing it well would win someone over regardless of her gender.
While attending G-League games, she ended up meeting Malik Rose. Rose had a similar career to Miller, post-NBA career. After winning two championships with the San Antonio Spurs, Rose was hired as manager of basketball operations for the Atlanta Hawks then promoted to the general manager of the Erie BayHawks. And last year, he was named the G-League’s Basketball Executive of the Year.
When Rose met Miller, he liked her reports. “We stayed in contact, and then once he became the GM in Atlanta [of the BayHawks], he reached out to me and that’s how I got the job,” she said. Her hard work was finally paying off.
As the manager of basketball operations, not one day is the same for Miller. “For the main part I do the logistics, handle the scouting and personnel matters,” she said proudly. “But really making sure everything for the team is set like practices, making sure the guys are good for the game.” She gets work done. Period.
Within her work hard, play hard lifestyle, she realizes having a release at one point is important. “I’m in a great position where I work with the Hawks so after the season I’m able to go back home. My family is there, my friends are there and I use Facetime all the time,” she said. “You have to have a balance, or you’ll go crazy!”
If Miller could look back and give her 18-year-old self some advice, it would be to save money. She remembers riding the Greyhound with her last few dollars and taking jobs at the local car dealerships, knowing ultimately that grind and hustle would all help fund and get her closer to her dreams. She also would add that it’s necessary to get some tough skin and be prepared for anything and everything.
Another piece of advice? If you end up in Erie, Miller urges you to “get a winter coat!”
The BayHawks are currently 12-13, 4th in G-League Southeast Division.