CEO Cynt Marshall at a high school signing day event in 2019. Courtesy of mavs.com.
Three years ago, stories about the culture of the Dallas Mavericks’ front office were pretty bleak. In February 2018, Sports Illustrated published an investigative report titled “Inside the Corrosive Workplace Culture of the Dallas Mavericks” that outlined a front office culture of institutionalized sexism and harassment. In an article full of damning quotes and anecdotes, one that stuck out was from an anonymous former male department head who said, “There was built-in protection for a lot of men. The lack of oversight and compassion within all levels of the business was alarming.”
After the report was published, the Mavericks retained its law firms to conduct a seven month independent investigation. The team committed $10M to women’s causes. And owner Mark Cuban, arguably a more famous public figure than any other owner in the league, told local station KERA-TV, "This is not something that just is an incident and then it's over. It stays with people. It stays with families. I'm just sorry I didn't see it. I'm sorry I didn't recognize it."
These are the expected external steps any organization would take after a scandal like this comes to light. What truly changed the internal culture in Dallas, though, was a focus on new hires from a wide range of backgrounds. Read on to learn more about the key talent hired by the Mavs in 2018 and what the restructured org chart of Dallas’ front office looks like heading into the second half of the 2021 NBA season.
The first major, and most important, hire came in March 2018 when Cynt Marshall was brought on as CEO. A 36-year AT&T veteran who eventually solidified herself in the telecom giant’s C-suite as the Senior Vice President of Human Resources and Chief Diversity Officer, Marshall is the first Black female CEO in NBA history. With a focus on a cultural transformation of diversity and inclusion in mind, Marshall had a one-on-one with, “every single person in the organization,” after she started and now runs the Mavs’ day-to-day operations. Without a traditional sports background, her style has been called more “authentic” than what Dallas had in the past. Plus, while there were no women or people of color on the Mavericks’ leadership team when Marshall started, today 50% are women and 47% are people of color, a spokesperson told CNBC.
To help tackle a problem that widespread in 2018, Marshall brought on Sekou Lewis, General Counsel, and Keshia Robinson, Director of Compliance, both of whom bring legal and regulatory experience outside of sports to the organization. She also brought on Iris Diaz, a Chief Marketing Officer who once held leadership positions at marketing companies like Clear Channel Outdoor as well as publications like The Dallas Morning News.
Cuban, a tech entrepreneur and investor who has owned the Mavs since 2000, did leave a trusted mainstay in charge of player personnel and roster decisions -- Donn Nelson. The General Manager & President of Basketball Operations has been with the organization since 1998 and is involved in every aspect of building the Mavericks roster. Nelson, the son of longtime NBA coach Don Nelson, has had a legendary career that includes trading for both Dirk Nowitzki and Steve Nash in the same transaction. That was in 1998 and it’s still the only time in NBA history a General Manager has acquired two future MVPs in the same transaction.
Nelson’s No. 2 at the Mavs is Michael Finley, VP of Basketball Operations. A 15-year NBA veteran and 2x All Star, Finley played for four teams, including the Mavericks from 1996-2005. He’s been in the Dallas front office for seven seasons and was promoted into his current role from Assistant VP two years ago.
More than a dozen employees report directly to Finley, but none have a more interesting background than Haralabos “Bob” Voulgaris. One of the most famous sports gamblers in the world, Voulgaris made millions on NBA wagers in the late 90s and early 2000s through analytics, psychological analysis of coaches, and cutting-edge prediction software. Rather than jump on the wave of legal sports gambling in the U.S. by joining a media company like Penn National Gaming, as several gamling personalities have done in the last few years, Voulgaris decided to bring his talent to the people he’d been making money off of for so long. He joined the Mavericks in 2018 as Director of Quantitative Research & Development, a position the organization doubled down on a year later by bringing on Jeremias Engelmann to also hold the same role.
Since winning the NBA Championship in 2010-11, Dallas, which declined to be interviewed for this story, has yet to advance out of the first round of the playoffs. The tides could be changing, though. Led by transformational 22-year-old superstar Luka Dončić, Dallas has won 12 of its last 15 games and currently holds the 8th and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
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