Category - Prodigy News

Prodigy Sports Places Multiple Team Presidents

CONTACT: Megan Meisse, or 732.303.9950.

For Immediate Release


(Freehold, New Jersey, September 5, 2018) Prodigy Sports, one of the nation’s leading executive search and recruitment firms solely dedicated to the multibillion dollar business of sports, announced the placement of seven Team Presidents who will lead the business operations for The Alliance of American Football (AAF) in their respective markets.

The Alliance have named David Livingston (Atlanta), Tom Ward (Birmingham), Mike Waddell (Orlando), Scott Brubaker (Phoenix), Tyler Howell (Salt Lake City), Jeff Garner (San Diego), and Vic Gregovits (San Antonio) as Team Presidents in the new league, joining Kosha Irby (Memphis), who was announced as Team President in May.

In addition to the eight Team Presidents, Prodigy Sports recruited and placed Murray Cohn as Senior Vice President of Ticket Services for The Alliance. Cohn will oversee all aspects of ticket sales and team services, delivering his comprehensive league-wide strategies to help The Alliance achieve aggressive attendance and ticket sales goals for the new football league.

“As we look forward to the kickoff of our season in February, 2019, our Team Presidents are critical to the success of each market and to our league as a whole, as they will steer the leadership, engagement in the local community, and work within the framework we have put together for The Alliance to drive significant revenue and lead the team’s marketing efforts,” said Tom Veit, Head of Business Operations, The Alliance. “From the beginning, Prodigy Sports made every effort to ensure all qualifications for these hires were met, but they also fully understood the culture and importance of these positions of our organization, top to bottom.”

Founded by Charlie Ebersol and Bill Polian, and announced on March 20th of this year, the AAF will begin its inaugural season the week following Super Bowl LIII. The Alliance will be comprised of eight teams with 50-men rosters. The AAF will play in the following markets: Orlando, Atlanta, Phoenix, Birmingham, Salt Lake City, San Antonio, San Diego, and Memphis. With the leadership of accomplished coaches like Steve Spurrier, Brad Childress, Tim Lewis, and many other dynamic NFL players and coaches, each Team President will have a well-equipped team of General Managers, Head Coaches, and additional Executive staff members to expand the team’s and league’s reach throughout the United States.

Scott Carmichael, Founder & CEO of Prodigy Sports said, “It was and continues to be a pleasure to partner with The Alliance of American Football for their hiring needs to help launch their league early next year. With extensive networking, hundreds of applications and subsequent candidate engagements, we have uncovered tremendous talent in the sports and entertainment space and are proud to have these positions filled by senior industry executives with vast experience.”

As the Team Presidents settle into their positions and fully immerse themselves in the eight respective markets, they will continue to build their individual executive teams, incorporating their successful track records of building winning sales and management cultures to drive and increase all team revenue streams and the overall profitability of the franchise.

To see further on The Alliance of American Football official announcements of these hires, visit:


About the Alliance of American Football

Led by some of the most respected football minds in the game, The Alliance of American Football is a dynamic professional football league fueled by an unprecedented Alliance between players, fans and the game. Founded by TV and film producer Charlie Ebersol and Hall of Famer Bill Polian, The Alliance will feature eight teams with 50-player rosters playing a 10-week regular season schedule in the spring beginning February 9, 2019 on CBS, followed by two playoff rounds and culminating with the championship game the weekend of April 26-28, 2019.

About Prodigy Sports

With a staff that carries over 80 years of experience across multiple business segments, Prodigy Sports is a nationwide leader in senior-level executive search and recruitment, in which our distinction is Where the Best Brands Come for the Best Talent.

With thousands of deeply-rooted relationships with senior-level sports and entertainment executives and premier organizations, Prodigy Sports ensures our clients the most talented and accomplished candidates for their specific needs and corporate culture, resulting in a seamless, thorough and successful recruitment.




Lessons Learned on Corporate Culture

Workplace fit is critical in putting together ‘culture puzzle’

The following was published in SportsBusiness Journal on July 31, 2017, Vol. 20 — No. 15.

Prodigy Sports had the privilege of attending the 2017 National Sports Forum in Minnesota in February. This year, while at NSF, Prodigy’s very own Mark Gress Jr. hosted a roundtable discussion that carefully delved into the topic of corporate culture. In the following, Mark shares his results, conclusions, and lessons learned about corporate culture throughout the sports and entertainment industry.

If you have been on the conference circuit in the last few years, some of the buzzwords I’m sure you have heard ad nauseam are “millennial,” “content” and perhaps most of all, “culture.” Culture, like the other two, is an admittedly tricky topic and one that we at Prodigy Sports had a great deal of consternation about before presenting the idea to Ron Seaver for the National Sports Forum. The reason: Culture, unless discussed with specific, defined direction and purpose, can be too robust of a theme or too abstract of a concept to have value for those involved in the conversation.

You have seen and read in these pages about the specific focus on culture with respect to Bill Sutton’s examination of space, office setup, and how teams are investing in the environments that they are creating for their employees (yes, some of whom are millennials). I assume, unless you haven’t been paying attention, that you have heard Scott O’Neil talk about the Philadelphia 76ers corporate culture and how “trusting the process” on the court oozes into the magic that they have created across sales, marketing, and their other business functions.

As indicated by the title of our recent session at the National Sports Forum, the approach was to focus on “Insights on Building and Maintaining a Winning Corporate Culture.” In daily communication with our clients (employers) and candidates (both active and passive job seekers), we focus intently on culture and we do so with both parties in mind. With our clients, we put aside the job description, the required skills, credentials and education, and we delve into what is most important and paramount. We want to know what type of candidate will thrive at an organization long-term. With our candidates, we listen to what they perceive to be the ideal ownership, organization structure, and core mission and values for them to succeed in their career. Putting the “culture puzzle” together is not easy but when done correctly can yield incredible results.

With that in mind, our session aimed to guide discussions with participants surrounding their individual philosophies and company’s efforts to maintain an environment that focuses on employing, training, and retaining the people who make it successful. The three key areas of focus were: 1) hiring and recruiting; 2) talent management, retention, and workplace performance; and 3) the daily/day-to-day cultural mindset, influence, and impact.

Some of the common themes from more than 50+ roundtable attendees were:

1. Respect and value diverse opinions regardless of title, seniority, gender, ethnicity, etc. Support independent thought.
2. Let employees own specific ideas and plans — it is theirs, let them run with it. Offer to aid but do not meddle.
3. Break down the “how we have always done things” wall; however, one must be tactful in their approach to disrupt “what got us here.”
4. Utilize and embrace various technologies to better communicate internally and externally; remember, it is 2017!
5. When hiring, paint an accurate picture and set clear, defined expectations; do not oversell a job or “over recruit” to land a name or close a vacancy.
6. Balance the “revolving door” and “no one ever leaves” reputation as a company; encourage exploration while maintaining stability — seek a middle ground.
7. Encourage “radical candor” from the top down and vice versa. Open and honest regular dialogue is not a “nice to have,” it is a “must have.”
8. Build a culture with different personalities but with the same values.
9. Bridge the gap, when possible, between millennials and baby boomers; find the connector internally and lean on them.
10. It is normal, and expected, for the culture of a specific department to vary somewhat from the overall company culture. Appreciate the differences between the two.

Shauna Gilhooly, Vice President of Human Resources for the Boston Bruins and TD Garden, broadly discussed her take on culture and eloquently stated:

“Culture is something that exists in every department and every organization without any effort. To shape and influence culture, on the other hand, takes tremendous focus, effort and time. Progress can easily be disrupted with something as innocuous and frequent as a new hire. That is why ‘fit’ is so critical in the recruiting process, because people are the real drivers and keepers of culture.”

Below are the results of a nationwide survey Prodigy Sports conducted with more than 100 sports industry executives prior to our session at the National Sports Forum –

Written text and graphic courtesy of Liz Spangler/SportsBusiness Journal. The above was published in SportsBusiness Journal on July 31, 2017.

SportsBusiness Journal July 31-August 6, 2017


CONTACT: Allie Koeck, or 732.303.9950.

For Immediate Release


(Freehold, New Jersey, May 14, 2018)   Prodigy Sports, one of the nation’s leading search and recruitment firms solely dedicated to the multibillion dollar business of sports, today announced that they have been exclusively retained by the Alliance of American Football (AAF) to lead multiple executive level searches in preparation for their forthcoming, and much anticipated, launch.

“As we build out all aspects of The Alliance, we needed a trusted partner with the bandwidth and resources to quickly source several key positions within business operations, sales and marketing for our member teams as well as our League Office. We could not ask for a better firm than Prodigy Sports, whose integrity and proven ability to fully understand the culture of a start-up league like the Alliance of American Football makes them an invaluable asset,” said Tom Veit, Head of Business Operations, The Alliance.

Founded by brilliant media mind and entrepreneur, Charlie Ebersol, and NFL Hall of Famer, Bill Polian, the AAF will begin its inaugural season in February of 2019. The Alliance will be comprised of eight teams, each with 50-men rosters. The AAF recently announced that their first city will be Orlando, and the team will be led by legendary Head Coach Steve Spurrier. They announced their second city to be Atlanta, with veteran Coach Brad Childress at the helm, and their third city is Memphis, coached by Super Bowl Champion Mike Singletary.

Scott Carmichael, Founder & CEO of Prodigy Sports said, “We are thrilled and honored to be working with true trailblazers, Mr. Ebersol, and Mr. Polian, on this exciting new venture.  We are grateful for Tom Veit’s trust and confidence in Prodigy Sports.  Tom is a respected industry veteran whom we have known for many years and consider to be one of the most talented executives in sports and live entertainment.”

About the Alliance of American Football

Led by some of the most respected football minds in the game, The Alliance of American Football is high-quality professional football fueled by a dynamic Alliance between players, fans and the game. Fans will be able to stream Alliance matchups live via the free Alliance app while accessing integrated fantasy options with real rewards — for themselves and the players they are cheering on. Players will have state-of-the-art protection on the field and ample opportunities off it. The Alliance will provide players a comprehensive bonus system, post-football career planning as well as counseling and scholarship support for post-secondary education. Founded by TV and film producer Charlie Ebersol and Hall of Famer Bill Polian, The Alliance features eight teams, under a single entity structure, playing a 12-week season kicking-off February 9, 2019 on CBS and culminating with the championship game the weekend of April 26-28, 2019.

Be sure to connect with the AAF on Twitter at @TheAAF and visit their website at

 About Prodigy Sports

With a staff that carries over 80 years of experience across multiple business segments, Prodigy Sports is a nationwide leader in senior-level executive search and recruitment, in which our distinction is Where the Best Brands Come for the Best Talent.

With thousands of deeply-rooted relationships with senior-level sports and entertainment executives and premier organizations, Prodigy Sports ensures our clients the most talented and accomplished candidates for their specific needs and corporate culture, resulting in a seamless, thorough and successful recruitment.



PS10: Top 10 LinkedIn Tips

As Prodigy Sports celebrates our 10th Anniversary, each month leading up to our celebration, we will be highlighting our “Top 10’s” of Prodigy Sports’ first 10 years.

In March, we are recognizing our Top 10 LinkedIn Tips. These helpful tips have been designed by our senior staff of recruiters here at Prodigy. While there are many other tips and tricks to the perfect profile, these are the top 10 our recruiters look for and to keep in mind.

LinkedIn logo

  1. Update your profile so that it is current and not outdated when taking a new role.
  1. Always stay connected and engage with your professional community. Social media is the greatest networking tool – so use it!
  1. Fill out the descriptions of roles with accurate information and keywords. We want to understand your roles of what you do day-to-day.
  1. Build relationships and add connections by showing value and offering a win-win. The benefit of LinkedIn is you can see what connections you have in common. (mutual connections, tiers of connections).
  1. Provide your contact information including your personal email address and cell phone. Let’s chat – you never know where it will lead to or who you may share connections.
  1. Check your account regularly (for messages, comments, requests).
  1. Include links to professional websites, work portfolio, and other useful articles. Show off your work. If you are a sales professional, share your numbers. If you are a marketing professional, what makes your profile unique?
  1. Have an appropriate and formal headshot.
  1. Network even when you don’t need something – congratulate people on their successes, wish them well in their new jobs, and engage in industry conversations. Even if you are not in the hunt for a new opportunity, meeting people can always benefit your career in one way or another.
  1. Leverage LinkedIn as a gateway to emails, phone calls, and in-person meetings. At the end of the day, you made your LinkedIn profile for some reason. Take advantage of the millions of people on this great social platform.


Stay tuned next month for more of our Prodigy Sports Anniversary Countdown!

If you have any questions regarding our 10th Anniversary, please contact Megan Meisse at


PS10: Top 10 Innovative Clients

As Prodigy Sports celebrates our 10th Anniversary, each month leading up to our celebration, we will be highlighting our “Top 10’s” of Prodigy Sports’ first 10 years.

This month, we are recognizing our Top 10 Innovative Clients. These clients have been in the forefront of the technology space, either with their companies, their stadium/arena, or their recent partnerships. 

Please note: the below clients are listed in alphabetical order.

Dallas CowboysDallas Cowboys – The Star In Frisco

The Star in Frisco is a 91-acre premier sports and entertainment district for the Dallas Cowboys. Built in 2015, The Star is headquarters for the Cowboys, but also offers corporate offices and their practice facility, the Ford Center, a state of the art indoor football stadium that hosts a variety of events, restaurants, shops, hotel, medical center and more. With 12,000 seats in the Ford Center, 30 meeting spaces and a 60,000-square foot gym, The Star in Frisco is estimated at $261 million for the headquarters. With AT&T, the Cowboys installed interactive video walls, multi-touch displays and the ability to stream up to 16 different video applications feeds at the same time.

Experience – Company WebsiteExperience Logo

As a rapidly growing company, Experience utilizes their fan engagement platform at over 300+ sports and music live event partners around the world and allows fans to personalize their live event experience right from their mobile device. This young, growing company has recently signed partnerships in live entertainment, like the NFL, Ticketmaster and Live Nation, MLBAM and, FELD Entertainment, Spectra, and Veritix.

Fanatics – Partnfanatics-logo-1erships

As the world’s largest collection of official fan gear from leagues, teams and players, Fanatics is the newest market leader for authentic, officially licensed sports merchandise. Fanatics operates more than 300 online and offline stores, for all major professional sports leagues, media brands and over 200 collegiate and professional team properties. Their latest partnerships include the NHL, MLB, NASCAR, NBA Store, just to name a few.

FAN MANAGERFan Manager – Company Website

With Fan Manager, sports and entertainment properties can understand who their fans really are. With offices in New York and Boston, Fan Manager, collects data from teams, leagues, social websites, mobile apps, e-commerce platforms and much more to identify key areas of fans to increase revenue. Fan Manager identifies fans who show specific brand preference, merchandise buyers, ticket and season ticket buyers, all to help teams and properties capitalize on these fans.

HeatMiami Heat – eSports Misfits investment

In early 2017, the Miami Heat acquired stake in multigame eSports organization Misfits. The Heat now assists in managerial duties around the brand, including a new rebrand to match the Heat colors, marketing, brand promotion and sponsorship. The Miami Heat taking on the dynamic world of eSports and hopefully expand the Misfits organization into a global eSports brand and company.

pgatourPGA TOUR – Skratch TV

Skratch is owned by the PGA and engages a younger demographic through digital content that covers the world of golf beyond the PGA TOUR and their competitions. Skratch features daily golf video comprised of original and curated programming, PGA TOUR highlights, and special production from events. “As younger fans find new ways to follow their favorite sports, it’s important to deliver great golf content to platforms that they use and in a voice that resonates with them,” said Tim Finchem, former PGA TOUR Commissioner.  “We believe Skratch TV will provide a tremendous new platform to effectively speak to this audience.”

sacramento_kings_logoSacramento Kings – Golden 1 Center

The Sacramento Kings were selected by Sports Techie as the most tech savvy team of 2016. This year alone, the Kings created a new standard with one of the most advanced venue, Golden 1 Center. The Kings debuted the NBA’s largest videoboard and the first to feature 4K Ultra HD resolution, development a dual-mode team and venue app and created a dual virtual reality broadcasts on emerging trends.

seatgeek_logoSeatGeek – Company Website

SeatGeek has recently been recognized by Glassdoor as Top 5 Best Places to Work in 2017. Not only is SeatGeek a leader in the digital ticketing space, but just recently launched a new way of giving ticket buyers a better sense of their seat with the 360-degree view of the empty venue, called Pano. With SeatGeek’s Open platform, launched in 2016, the company now entered the primary ticket sales space. With SeatGeek Open, venues can sell tickets directly from their own websites, apps and social media accounts, and wherever else they might want to sell online.

word-logoSportsdigita – Digideck

Sportsdigita is an interactive sports agency that specializes in digital sponsorship, ticketing, and fan engagement for teams and companies. Founded in 2011, Sportsdigita quickly grew a name for themselves, with their marquee product, the Digideck Platform. The Digideck is a cloud-based presentation platform that blends analytics, CRM integration and custom design to all branding and content needs. With their recent announcement with their new partnership with Learfield, Sportsdigita will now bring their Digideck platform to 120+ intercollegiate athletic department partners.

UntitledTD Garden – Arena Renovation 

New England’s largest sports and entertainment arena, TD Garden is home to the NHL’s Boston Bruins and the NBA’s Boston Celtics and hosts over 3.5 million people a year. From sporting events, iconic concerts, family shows, ice shows and much more, TD has hosted over 200 events a year. In 2014, owner and operator Delaware North invested over $70 million for an arena-wide renovation to upgrade the fan experience including redesigned concourses, new concession offerings and upgraded technology. The award-winning state-of-the-art TD Garden is a year-round, 19,600-seat arena, fully equipped with three private restaurants, 90 executive suites, 1,100 club seats, a multi-million-dollar high definition video scoreboard and complete 360-degree LED technology.

Stay tuned next month for our Prodigy Sports Anniversary Countdown for our

Top 10 LinkedIn Tips from our recruiters!

If you have any questions regarding our 10th Anniversary, please contact Megan Meisse at



CONTACT: Megan Meisse, or 732.303.9950.


For Immediate Release


Long-time veteran search executive Dan Rossetti to join Prodigy as President

(FREEHOLD, NJ) – September 18, 2017 – Prodigy Sports, one of North America’s leading preeminent executive recruitment firms solely dedicated to the multi-billion-dollar business of sports, today announced the acquisition of Ascension Sports Partners, a boutique search firm led by veteran Dan Rossetti. Rossetti, who has led Ascension for nearly 10 years, will assume the role of President of Prodigy Sports.

Carmichael (left) & Rossetti (right)

“As Prodigy Sports celebrates our 10th anniversary in 2017, we’ve continually explored ways to bolster our business and broaden our reach within the recruiting industry,” Prodigy Sports’ Founder and Chief Executive Officer Scott Carmichael said.  “By acquiring Dan Rossetti’s Ascension Sports Partners firm and folding his successful boutique practice and deep client base into our growing agency, Prodigy Sports is poised to continue its aggressive growth and expanding market share even further. I could not be more thrilled to add the talents of Dan and his firm into an already extremely talented staff here at Prodigy.”

Rossetti will remain headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio, giving Prodigy Sports, located equidistant to both New York City and Philadelphia, a broader base across North America. Some of Ascension’s clients who will now fall under Prodigy’s already impressive list of partners, include Professional Bull Riders, USTA, Bellator MMA, Planet Hollywood, ISC Motorsports, Speedway Motorsports, Richard Childress Racing, Circuit of the Americas, and many others.

Dan Rossetti President

“We’re excited to join Scott and his diversely talented team at Prodigy Sports,” Rossetti said. “They have continued to prove themselves as one of the leaders in executive search within our industry. We share many of the same philosophies as it relates to taking care of clients as well as the candidate throughout the search process. I look forward to furthering the growth of Prodigy Sports into the future.”

In conjunction with Ascension’s clients, Prodigy Sports has longstanding partnerships with iconic organizations, including On Location Experiences, AEG, New York Yankees, TD Garden & Boston Bruins, PGA TOUR, Engine Shop and SeatGeek. Within their esports recruiting division, Prodigy most recently completed a Director of Esports search with Monumental Sports & Entertainment and is soon to be engaged with other esports teams on executive search projects.

About Prodigy Sports
With a staff that carries over 80 years of experience across multiple business segments, Prodigy Sports is a nationwide leader in senior-level executive search and recruitment. Prodigy Sports brings a personal touch to each search by adapting to the unique personality and culture of the client, knowing successful executive recruiting comes from thoroughly understanding the team culture, the intricacies of the sports business and the extensive professional qualifications and skills needed to fill a role. Founded in 2007, Prodigy Sports has grown into a nation-wide leader within the sports and entertainment industries.



SBJ: Diversity: Front and center

Subject comes up in every meeting – here’s what firms are doing

By John Lombardo, Staff Writer, SportsBusiness Journal

The following was published in SportsBusiness Journal on July 31, 2017, Vol. 20 — No. 15, Page 24. Prodigy Sports is not responsible/attributed for the original creation of this article.

Longtime sports industry recruiter Buffy Filippell has spent decades handling countless job searches, and she knows all too well the challenge of bringing diversity into the industry.

Some years ago, she was hired by the LPGA for an executive placement but finding qualified female candidates proved difficult.

Progress has been made since then, but increasing diversity remains a major issue within the sports executive recruitment industry.

“The challenge for the recruiter is to take one more step and keep digging for the next diverse candidate,” said Filippell, founder of the TeamWork Consulting search firm. “Then there is the challenge of how do we keep them.”

Diversity has become such a priority that most search firms will recruit diverse candidates regardless of client demands.

“One of the trends we are seeing is more and more of our clients are asking us [to present diverse candidates],” said Billy Dexter, a partner at Heidrick & Struggles and co-leader of the firm’s diversity advisory services practice. “In taking on a search, we focus on diversity because of client requirements but in general because it makes sense. We are seeing barriers go down.”

Tying a recruiter’s compensation to their search for diversity is one method that is pushing search firms to boost their inclusion efforts.

At Diversified Search, managing partner Tracy Murdoch O’Such is evaluated on her diversity efforts with a portion of her pay tied to diversity.

“We have our own criteria and we as managing partners are graded by our firm on diversity,” she said. “Every search I do, I have to do a diverse slate when a client asks for it or not. Diversity is front and center.”

Search firms are devoting more research resources to increase their pool of diverse candidates through bigger databases while also increasing networking across the industry with the difficulty of a gender or ethnicity search depending on the type of position. O’Such said that female candidates for senior level technical jobs are a particularly difficult search.

“We have a robust database of names who we flag in terms of gender and ethnicity,” said Scott Carmichael, founder of the Prodigy Sports search firm. The company has nine staff members, including four researchers, whose duties include focusing on diversity efforts. “It is about going out and finding more people.”

It is also about the willingness of an organization to focus on inclusion.

“It takes top-down behavior modification,” said Michele James, founder of James & Co. search firm, adding that in the last 10 searches her company has handled for the NBA, seven of the placements were diverse candidates. “That comes from a culture that wants to mirror its fans through its brands,” James said. “It is good for business.”

The pressure to deliver those diverse candidate slates demands a deeper pipeline of diversity, part of the reason why CAA is planning to launch a new program next year to attract minority and women candidates.

“It is massively relevant,” said Joe Becher, who co-leads the recruiting practice at CAA. “It literally comes up in every meeting. We are launching a diversity effort next year to be a catalyst to bring more diverse talent to the sector from other businesses. The way to look at it is two-pronged: There needs to be a focus to bring in talent, and there needs to be a focus on nurturing talent.”

While increasing diversity is growing more important, it often means a more expensive effort.

“If you do a gender-based search, it is a smaller candidate pool and you have to cast a wider net,” said Becky Heidesch, a former sports marketing executive who is North American practice leader of diversity and inclusion for the executive search firm Stanton Chase. “It can be four or five times more exhaustive. You put more research into a diversity assignment, and it will be a lower return on investment.”

Heidesch cites progress made over the past few years, but diversity is still an issue plaguing the industry.

“It is changing, but there is a long way to go,” she said.

There is a greater need for midlevel diversity hires, particularly in sponsorship sales, according to Liz Boardman, senior client partner for global sports at Korn Ferry.

“There is a need for more women,” she said. “One of the things I am working on is getting midlevel talent to groom talent. It is very personal to me and important to me that I help with client diversity.”

SBJ: Biz side vs. performance side

Biz side vs. performance side: Why the searches are so different

An executive search on the business side is far different from a search for a performance-side position such as team general manager or head coach.

Turnkey Sports & Entertainment has worked on a variety of searches over the last 16 months in Atlanta, ranging from the Hawks’ general manager and chief financial officer to the head of business for Atlanta United FC to the athletic director at Georgia Tech. Each search came with its own set of nuanced challenges, said Len Perna, Turnkey’s president and CEO, and highlighted the differences between the searches.

For the AD job at Georgia Tech, Turnkey vetted 30 potential candidates, which represented a large pool to start with. From there, references and backgrounds helped Turnkey whittle the list to 12 and ultimately the final five who interviewed with school officials.

The Yellow Jackets eventually hired Todd Stansbury from Oregon State, giving the school a sitting power-five AD who also graduated from Tech and played football for the school.

The Hawks’ GM job was drastically different. Simply finding qualified candidates was difficult for one of the most demanding jobs in pro sports.

“It’s super-competitive,” Perna said. “When you’re a GM, you’re playing a chess game against 29 other teams. It’s multiplayer chess. Most of the candidates we talked to did not have the skill set to be in a game of chess with 29 other players. They know basketball, they know players, they know the salary cap, but to compete with 29 other clubs, that’s a level of expertise that’s really hard to find, and it’s slim pickings, quite honestly.”

Travis Schlenk, who spent 12 years at Golden State and apprenticed under GM Bob Myers, rose to the top of the Hawks’ list — a short list of only five or six serious candidates.

That’s different from the club’s search for a CFO, which resulted in the hiring of sports executive Thad Sheely, who subsequently was promoted to chief operating officer.

“We literally started with hundreds,” Perna said. “There are a lot of financial executives out there to talk to.”
Speed in the performance side search is also a defining factor.

“A search on the business side can take an average of two months to three months in order to vet, present and close,” said Scott Carmichael, founder and chief executive officer of Prodigy Sports. “That would be a lifetime in the world of coaches or general managers. The performance types are very fast because they need to be.”

Confidentiality is also heightened among performance side searches given the speed of the hires as well as the smaller pool of talent within the coaching and general manager professions.

“One of the tactical differences is that head coaches’ and general managers’ searches are very intensive,” said Liz Boardman, senior client partner for global sports at Korn Ferry. “Business side searches are intense, but it is more of a process. With a head coach or a general manager search, you have to act extraordinarily fast. If confidentiality is blown, the whole search can go sideways.”

But with coaching salaries at both the professional and collegiate levels skyrocketing, the use of search firms is becoming more prevalent on the performance search side of the industry.

SBJ: The new creativity in executive search

Zeroing in on culture, delivering diversity help drive the industry

Forty-five days later, Nolan delivered a far different-looking short list to the client, featuring candidates hailing from five countries, some of whom had no specific industry experience. Eventually, the hire was made from the sport of cricket.

The approach stemmed from what Paul Nolan, chief executive officer of Nolan Partners, calls getting under the hood of a client in order to match a company’s culture with executive skills.

“The business of sports has become more mature,” Nolan said. “In the past, it was kind of one-dimensional in the way they searched and appointed organizational leaders. They are far more willing to be imaginative now. There is competitive advantage in it.”

At Korn Ferry, Liz Boardman’s current search to find the right fit for the athletic director’s job at Fairfield University has meant multiple visits to the school, dinners and lunches with the school president and multiple meetings with the former athletic director, the associate athletic director and other executives familiar with the job.

“We’ve met with 30 different people and have been on campus three different times,” said Boardman, senior client partner in Korn Ferry’s global sports practice. “It is multiple reps for this. We really embed ourselves with the client and make it so we become part of a team. I have worked with clients that weren’t as interested, and the searches don’t go as well.”

Both searches reflect the changing approach in how executive recruiters fill jobs at teams, leagues, colleges and other sports properties. More than ever, the emphasis is concentrated on the importance of defining and matching corporate culture to qualified candidates. Firms must now provide deeper searches that include candidates from outside the sports business and are mindful of diversity, an issue that continues to challenge the industry. The focus on culture also has created more demands on search firms but also greater opportunity as clients increasingly look for more expertise in attracting top talent.

“The value proposition for executive search has proven to be strong, so that’s what has attracted so many firms,” said Len Perna, president and CEO of Turnkey Sports & Entertainment, which has been in the search business for 21 years. “Ten or 15 years ago, there was this feeling that you could post a job and the world would beat a path to your door. That’s proved to be false. There are certain jobs you can post and ones you can’t because you have to — have to — get them right. Posting a job doesn’t get you the best of the best. It gets you the best of the people who are looking for a job.”

In many instances, even for the highest level of searches, finding candidates who fit the job description can be the easiest aspect of an executive search. Matching the candidate with the company’s culture can be far more complex.

“One of the things we are finding is that our clients are asking us to think outside the box,” said Joe Becher, who along with Asher Simons, runs CAA’s human capital division. “They want to see more people from diverse backgrounds. There is the continued focus in the sports industry on analytics, and it is getting smarter and being held to higher standards. Private equity and venture capital demand more rigor. They are much more open-minded.”

Methods to measure culture and ensure a good executive placement vary, driven mainly by the client. Some demand detailed quantitative testing in their recruiting, meaning search firms might use a variety of methods such as IQ testing and the use of industrial psychologists to measure personality profiles. Other firms rely on the interviewing process to gauge the best fit.

“You know what to listen for and what questions to ask, and it is a skill of listening and understanding,” said Scott Carmichael, founder and CEO of Prodigy Sports.

Orlando Magic CEO Alex Martins used search firms in the team’s recent hiring of general manager John Hammond. Martins has also used executive recruiters for senior-level business jobs.

“The No. 1 priority is finding the right individual that is the right culture fit,” Martins said. “You look at the depth and the magnitude of the searches. The one thing they bring is the data and intelligence gathering. What are their relationships, and how are they able to secure a strong pool of candidates in a confidential manner, so that you know you can rely on them to bring you a depth of candidates you wouldn’t do on your own.”

But finding the proper match between candidate and company culture can be an inexact science. One search firm executive recounts a search in which a candidate moved from a high-level sales job at a large New York property to take a job at a small agency. The motivation for the job change was more about leaving a job where the executive was unhappy than it was about embracing a new opportunity.

“It was about getting out from underneath one extreme culture and going into a startup,” said the search executive, who requested anonymity because he didn’t want to talk on the record about his firm’s involvement in an unsuccessful placement. “It was less than a year when he landed back with another big firm.”

Many search firms also create their own research templates to measure culture. For example, Heidrick & Struggles has developed its Leadership Signature product to measure executive leadership skills. Spencer Stuart also has developed its own cultural assessment questionnaire that is administered to candidates.

But nothing is more important than the executive search firm’s ability to get access to their client to gauge the company culture.

“There are key culture diagnostics that are crucial and the need for quantitative data is critical, but it has to be supplemented with a boots-on-the-ground mentality,” said Jamie Crittenberger, co-leader of Spencer Stuart’s sports practice. “That is the only way that a client feels a sense of partnership.”

No longer is executive recruitment a purely transactional process where a search firm is simply selling an empty seat in an organization.

“We move far beyond that,” said Dany Berghoff, principal at RSR Partners. “We spend an extraordinary amount of time learning about our client. It is the only way to do the search well.”

 According to Berghoff, past performance of a candidate isn’t always a clear indicator of future success. It is just as vital to understand the motivation of the candidate, which he said is best measured through interviews.

“The easiest conversation is the competency part,” Berghoff said. “What is paramount is digging in and assessing for potential. Think of it like a scout operates in football. It is not about the obvious.”

As soon as Chuck Cain lands a search for his Harvard Group International firm, he calls his travel agent. While placements in the financial industry and other sectors rely on a battery of quantitative testing of candidates, Cain bases a sports executive search effort on interviewing the client as much as the candidate.

“We get on a plane and spend a day with the company,” said Cain, who is managing partner at the firm. “We request to meet everyone that touches the role. For a CMO search, we want to talk to sales, corporate partnerships and finance, and on the team ops side we talk to the GM and the coach and find out how they interact. It is much more about interviewing. Teams don’t do much testing.”

Search firms increasingly are pressured to match company culture with the candidate faster than in years past.

Last year, Tracy Murdoch O’Such, managing partner at Diversified Search, handled two sponsorship searches for the World Surf League with the expectation that she present an initial slate of candidates within two weeks. A few years ago, O’Such would have had about six weeks.

“The industry shift is that clients are looking for faster but equally high-quality solutions,” O’Such said. “Speed to solution is key, but at the same time it has to have quality. That wasn’t necessarily the case. Gone are the days of six-month searches. The stakes are so much higher and the money is so much bigger. It’s not just ‘Hey, what is your brother-in-law doing?’”

Prodigy Sports Announces First esports Executive Placement

Leading Boutique Agency Places First Director of Esports Position with Monumental Sports & Entertainment

(Freehold, New Jersey, August 15, 2017) – Prodigy Sports, one of North America’s leading search and recruitment firms solely dedicated to the multi-billion dollar business of sports, today announced the placement of Grant Paranjape as Director, Esports Team & Business Operations with Monumental Sports & Entertainment (MSE).

The landmark placement marks the first dedicated hire by Prodigy Sports within esports following their January announcement of a dedicated division. “As we launched into the esports world in January of this year, we are tremendously humbled by the trust of Monumental Sports & Entertainment to partner with us on this project,” said Prodigy Sports founder and CEO Scott Carmichael.

In addition to a first for Prodigy Sports, with this hire, MSE becomes one of the first ownership groups in the NBA to hire a full time director to oversee the management and growth of its NBA 2K operation. In addition to NBA 2K, MSE also owns a stake in esports organization Team Liquid, which this past weekend had the single most profitable day in the history of competitive gaming. In his new role with MSE, Paranjape will report directly to Zach Leonsis, SVP and General Manager of Monumental Sports Network, and will be responsible for building out the NBA 2K team while additionally exploring and building future esports related opportunities.

Paranjape comes to MSE from Splyce Inc., where he secured partner relationships, lead strategic business initiatives, and worked with team managers to create an industry leading experience for players across 11 titles.  He has previously worked with to manage content creation by top esports players and Caerus Management as a research analyst.  Paranjape is a graduate of Tulane University, where he received both a Bachelor of Science degree and an MBA.

“While esports is a fast-emerging business within the sports industry, identifying candidates who have both a knowledge of esports and also the ability to direct business strategies is a unique combination. While challenges do exist in this uncharted territory, we are proud to announce Prodigy’s first esports placement and a first for Monumental as well,” said Carmichael of Prodigy Sports.

Prodigy Sports has recently completed executive level searches for organizations ranging from the On Location Experiences, Boston Bruins, Miami Dolphins, New York Yankees, to SeatGeek, in which the esports practice will fit into the needs of both current and future clients, some of whom are entering the traditional sports space for the first time.

About Monumental Sports & Entertainment

Monumental Sports & Entertainment (MSE), located in Washington, D.C., is one of the largest integrated sports and entertainment companies in the country with one of the most diverse partnership groups in all of sports. MSE owns and operates five professional sports teams: the AFL’s Baltimore Brigade and Washington Valor, NBA’s Washington Wizards, NHL’s Washington Capitals and WNBA’s Washington Mystics. The company just recently purchased an NBA G League development league team, is co-owner of aXiomatic, which has controlling interest in global esports franchise Team Liquid, and also owns and operates Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C. Monumental Sports & Entertainment also manages Kettler Capitals Iceplex, the state-of-the-art training facility for the Capitals and EagleBank Arena on George Mason University’s campus.

In 2018, Monumental Sports & Entertainment will bring the Mystics and the G League team to a new state-of-the-art Entertainment and Sports Arena being built by Washington, D.C. and Events DC at the St. Elizabeth’s campus in Ward 8.  The Wizards will also practice there.

Monumental Sports & Entertainment co-owns and operates Monumental Sports Network with the NBC Sports Group. Monumental Sports Network is the mid-Atlantic region’s top direct-to-consumer destination for exclusive fan experiences and original sports content across desktop, tablet, mobile and OTT streaming devices.

About Prodigy Sports

With a staff that carries nearly 60 years of experience across multiple business segments, Prodigy Sports is a nationwide leader in senior-level executive search and recruitment. Prodigy Sports brings a personal touch to each search by adapting to the unique personality and culture of the client, knowing successful executive recruiting comes from thoroughly understanding the team culture, the intricacies of the sports business and the extensive professional qualifications and skills needed to fill a role. Founded in 2007, Prodigy Sports has grown into a nation-wide leader through the sports and entertainment industries.


For any additional questions regarding Prodigy Sports’ esports division, please contact Arin Segal at

For further information regarding Prodigy Sports’ press relations, contact Megan Meisse at