David Wohl, the General Manager of the Los Angeles Clippers, came to our Sports Business Program this week to give us some insight into his career and the player operations side of professional basketball. Wohl knows basketball inside and out. He spent some time playing in the National Basketball Association in the 70s. Although he enjoyed his time on what he referred to as the “See America Free Tour,” after seven years Wohl decided to take his talents to coaching, where he spent several seasons working alongside Doc Rivers. After going through the good times of winning as a coach and the bad times of losing as a player, Wohl decided to take his career to the executive level.
David Wohl is currently going into his second season as General Manager of the Los Angeles Clippers. In his time with the Clippers, he worked under the tumultuous Donald Sterling regime and transitioned into the new Steve Ballmer ownership. In other words, he has seen a lot in his short time there. While Sterling never asked or valued, really, the opinions of any Clippers employees, Ballmer encouraged employees to contribute and make and impact on the team together. Between the change in ownership and his reunion with Doc, Wohl saw a bright future ahead for the Clippers.
Wohl said the new Clippers team has its foundations in shared leadership. Doc Rivers insists that the players to be invested in the team and demands that they make it their team. He challenges players to talk to each other and work things out. For example, Big Baby, Glen Davis was always complaining about have to do more workouts and the other players would tell him to do more, to do better. Policing each other holds each player accountable and keeps them invested in the greater good of the team, all egos aside. This shared leadership goes beyond the court, too. Wohl said he looks to different groups among the Clippers employees to take on new tasks and jump in together on projects for the greater good of the team.
When asked his opinion on analytics when it comes to choosing players, Wohl said that other qualities take priority over basketball analytics. Whether a player is coach-able, a good teammate, has good character, etc. is most important. The statistics come secondary. It’s all about the chemistry. Wohl also shed light on the importance of mentorship. The Clippers acquired Paul Pierce, so they will now have a hall of fame mentor at the three position. Wohl thinks it will be great to have another strong leader and mentor next to Chris Paul for the team to look up to.
By the end of his talk, Wohl addressed what he knew we were all wondering about: the Deandre Jordan trade. In short, he told us that it came down to showing Deandre the great situation he was in and the relationships he had made in Los Angeles. Deandre is a very important part of the Clippers and everyone is happy he is staying, including Deandre.
Wohl left us with some solid professional advice about breaking into the field: do something to get yourself noticed. The business is built on what is coming next; don’t show the employer what they have now, show them what the need.
Note: Article submitted by UCLA Sports Business student, Kinsey Burgess.