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updated: 7/8/2011 8:45 PM

Richie's talk intrigued WNBA

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  • Laurel Richie, president of the WNBA, chats with team personnel prior to a Chicago Sky game at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont this week.

      Laurel Richie, president of the WNBA, chats with team personnel prior to a Chicago Sky game at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont this week.
    JOE LEWNARD | Staff Photographer

  • Laurel Richie, president of the WNBA, chats with team personnel prior to a Chicago Sky game at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont.

      Laurel Richie, president of the WNBA, chats with team personnel prior to a Chicago Sky game at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont.
    JOE LEWNARD | Staff Photographer

  • Laurel Richie, president of the WNBA, gives an interview prior to a Chicago Sky game at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont.

      Laurel Richie, president of the WNBA, gives an interview prior to a Chicago Sky game at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont.
    JOE LEWNARD | Staff Photographer

 
 

The next time you give a speech, consider this: you might also be interviewing for a job.

That's what happened to Laurel Richie. Not that she knew it at the time.

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Richie, the WNBA's new president, was a high-level executive for Girl Scouts of America last winter when she was giving a speech for the Seattle Council at its annual fundraising meeting.

"Normally, I would just talk about the (Girl Scout) brand and marketing and things like that," said Richie, who was the organization's Chief Marketing Officer. "But this time, they asked me to talk about my own personal leadership journey, which is a fairly daunting thing to do publicly."

But Richie, who was at a Chicago Sky game on Tuesday as part of her 12-stop "listening tour" to every WNBA city, was apparently as compelling as a winning half-court shot at the buzzer.

Also at the conference that day were the owners and president of the WNBA's Seattle Storm, which was fresh off its 2010 league championship victory. They were all impressed with Richie's speech.

"The women from the Storm were being honored that day and the president gave this great speech about how they were trying to build a dynasty in Seattle," Richie said. "I told them afterwards that I really enjoyed the speech and that I wanted to stay in touch with them because they are great women.

"They said that they really enjoyed my speech, too, and we ended up talking with each other for awhile."

Richie then left Seattle, went home to New York and went on with her business with the Girl Scouts.

Two weeks later, she got a call from the WNBA, which was looking for a new president. Donna Orender stepped away from the job in December after six years in order to spend more time with her children. Richie was asked if she was interested in interviewing for the position.

"Unbeknownst to me, the women from the Seattle Storm went home after we met and put together this packet on me," Richie said. "They sent it off to the league office and told them, 'You should talk to her (about the president's position).'"

Before Richie knew it, she was knee-deep in basketballs, high tops and hoopla, trying to get herself ready in less than a month for the start of the 2011 season.

"It was crazy, amazing," Richie said of her unexpected opportunity. "But I am loving this."

Richie says she has already fallen in love with the players. She sees a lot of similarities between them and the aspiring young girls she worked with at the Girl Scouts.

"There are amazing parallels between the Girl Scouts and the WNBA," Richie said. "The Girl Scouts teach girls to be strong, athletic, healthy, funny and a little sassy, too. That's what the women of the WNBA are. They are the role models for today's Girl Scouts.

"Their ability on the court, their leadership ability, their ability to give back to the community is all very inspiring to girls of all ages."

Richie, meanwhile, is hoping to do some inspiring of her own.

She wants to develop a league marketing campaign that will inspire people who have never tried the WNBA to at least give it a shot.

"All of our research, anecdotal and otherwise, tells us that when we get people to a game and they see the level of play, they have fun and they want to come back," Richie said. "The goal now is just to get more people to come out to their first game."

Interestingly, Richie had never been to a WNBA game before she took her new job.

"That's part of what really intrigues me about this opportunity," Richie said. "Given that I love sports and I'm a fan of sports and I have supported women and women's causes, it's interesting to me that I had never been to a WNBA game," Richie said. "I think there are a lot of people like me out there and the question is how do you reach people like that? All you need to do is reach them.

"I've been thinking a lot about that and that's what we're going to work on."

• Patricia Babcock McGraw, who covers the WNBA for the Daily Herald, also provides color commentary for Chicago Sky broadcasts.

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