The rise of women in the executive branches of men’s pro sports continues with the Indiana Pacers hiring of Kelly Krauskopf as assistant general manager.
Kelly Krauskopf is the first woman to be hired as an assistant GM in NBA history. Her appointment is a watershed moment for women attempting to carve out a career in the NBA front offices.
Krauskopf, a native Texan, is more than qualified as she spent the last 19 seasons as the Indiana Fever’s president and general manager and COO.
She will work with the Pacers’ basketball operations staff, including president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard, general manager Chad Buchanan, and assistant GM Peter Dinwiddie.
In addition to pro hoops, Krauskopf has been involved with USA Basketball’s women’s national team and influenced the selection process for three gold-medal-winning Olympic teams. This is not her first gig with the Pacers.
In addition to her many obligations with the Fever, Krauskopf ran the Pacers eSports department, specifically the new NBA2K league team.
“Kelly has played the game, worked in the WNBA league office, helped build and run the Fever franchise from its beginning and eventually built a championship team,” Pritchard said. “She is very well respected in all basketball circles and she has great knowledge of our entire operation, so when we looked at this position, it made complete sense to just look in our own building.”
How did she get to that pinnacle of success?
Krauskopf attended college on a basketball scholarship, and says she “found her calling” after graduating and becoming an assistant to a Women’s Athletic Director, selling the first corporate sponsor packages for the program and creating “the first fundraising club for women’s sports.”
She became the President of the Women’s Sports Division for Host Communications, then a Director of Basketball Operations for the WNBA, from which she rose to head czar for the Indiana Fever who won the WNBA Championship in 2012.
The morning after winning the championship in four games with a win over the Minnesota Lynx, she received a call from President Obama, saying she and her team were a great example for his two daughters. That was followed by a trip to the White House and a personal meet and greet with the President.
In addition to her basketball savvy, intelligence, and executive leadership, Krauskopf’s business acumen — most specifically her 2013 marquee sponsorship for the Fever with Finish Line back in 2013– positioned her for this moment. That deal, which put the company’s name on the Fever’s jersey, was part of a significant financial bump for the franchise. The team’s revenue climbed 61 percent, and its season-ticket base increased by 25 percent.
Women Pioneering Pro Front Office Gigs
The NBA’s had a growing number of women assuming various front office and coaching roles over the past few years, but none have been assistant GM until now.
By contrast, Major League Baseball has had two women elevate to assistant general manager—Jean Afterman with the New York Yankees and Kim Ng with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Ng is currently the Senior Vice-President for Baseball Operations with Major League Baseball and the highest ranking Asian American female baseball executive.
Yankees GM Brian Cashman brought Afterman on to his staff in 2001. Nearly 16 years later, the duo has produced 12 playoff appearances, two pennants, and a World Series title. Afterman has been a trusted sounding board for Cashman and an indispensable contract negotiator.
On the NFL side, Amy Trask stands alone as the first female CEO in NFL history. Trask was with the Oakland Raiders for 16 years as the first woman to hold such a position in the league. Task is now Chairman of the Board of BIG3, Ice Cube’s 3-on-3 professional basketball league. She served as CEO of Big3 during its inaugural season that began in June 2017.
Krauskopf joins a Pacers team that’s riding high on a seven-game win streak and tied for second in the Eastern Conference with Milwaukee. The ink is barely dry on her contract and Krauskopf already has been welcomed into the mix by the team at practice.
The future is bright for the Pacers and their new assistant GM. Krauskopf’s opportunity is certain to open the doors of the NBA’s executive offices to other qualified women, who are increasingly being recognized for their talents rather than their gender.