Like in most professions, transitioning from being a wide-eyed rookie into a polished professional isn’t easy. Just imagine how much more difficult it is for collegiate players who just signed a fresh NBA contract for the first time.
From the drastic change of pace to the massive media attention, life as a professional athlete in the United States can overwhelm even the best of us. Luckily for players, franchises typically have directors of player development – mentors and role models ready to lend their expertise to players who need a little guidance.
What is a Director of Player Development?
Directors of player development are responsible for overseeing the growth and development of all the franchise’s players, both on and off the court. This typically entails helping players manage their financial, personal, and sometimes even spiritual needs. In a way, they’re the unsung heroes working behind the scenes to ensure players are able to navigate the big, bustling world of professional sports.
In terms of on-court development, directors may also step in to help players grow into their potential. For example, they can develop specialized training sessions that aim to target specific skills for a particular player. For example, if a big man with great interior defense needs to be more of a scoring threat from the post, a player development director may suggest the hiring of a specific coach that specializes in that area.
In a way, player development directors occupy a space between executive leadership and coaching. This makes the position a crucial link between the two branches of the organization. A good player development director, therefore, is an asset for an NBA franchise that can directly translate to winning championships.
Role of Director of Player Development in the NBA
The Director of Player Development in the NBA has profound responsibilities and is essential in player growth and progress. So, what is the role of director of player development in NBA franchises?
To put it in general terms, his or her main role is undoubtedly in shaping the career of each player on the team. This means the director has to carefully craft and execute programs designed to improve the players’ skills and help them reach their full potential.
In addition to helping players improve athletic performance, the director’s role also involves catering to players’ personal development. As mentors or advisors, they guide players in areas such as goal-setting, career planning, and more personal aspects, providing them with essential support.
A crucial element of this role is mentoring and looking after the younger and newer members of the team, as they’re the ones often most in need of development. Player Development professionals are particularly focused on helping these young players adapt to the league, prepare for the long season, and learn the team playbook and schemes.
Overall, the role of a director of player development in an NBA franchise is dynamic and entails a good blend of athletic development and personal growth. This ensures that players, especially newer ones, can thrive on and off the court.
How to Become a Director of Player Development: Qualifications
There’s no one sure track to becoming a player development professional. Some people, such as former pros, find themselves in a unique opportunity to help younger players. For others, the player development field is a passion that they intentionally pursued through advanced degrees in psychology and other related fields of study.
Here’s a breakdown of each of the three major qualifications:
1. Bachelor’s Degree
Whether it’s sports management, kinesiology, psychology, or any other field, a bachelor’s degree is the bare minimum for player development jobs. It does not only demonstrate a candidate’s knowledge, it also shows grit and commitment in pursuing a worthwhile goal.
2. Playing or Coaching Experience
“Experience is the best teacher”, the saying goes. This is true for the player development field as well. This makes former athletes who have played or coached at the professional level attractive candidates for this position. They’ve been in the player’s shoes and faced similar challenges, which makes them uniquely equipped to relate and help athletes through their careers.
3. Leadership and Management Skills
The ability to manage, lead, and mentor others is essential for directors of player development. These individuals must be able to communicate effectively to establish a rapport with the players. They should also be able to motivate their teams while ensuring they meet individual goals at the same time.
It’s safe to say that a player development director in the NBA should have a wide and varied background. They’re not one-trick ponies who specialize in just one particular area.
What is the Average Salary of NBA Director of Player Development
Only 30 Player Development Director jobs are available in the NBA, one for each team. So, it’s one of the most in-demand front office jobs that an individual can pursue. Plus, the fact that it’s a well-paying position with a lot of career advancement opportunities makes it an even more attractive option for aspiring basketball executives.
The highest-paid player development directors in the NBA are paid around $700,000 in large market teams such as the Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks. However, for small-market teams, the pay can be as low as $75,000 for first-time hires. On average, NBA franchises pay around $200,000 – $300,000 annually for this position.
Of course, there are factors that come into play in determining salaries, such as the size of the organization, experience, and educational attainment.
Player development directors can come from various educational backgrounds, depending on the goals of the general manager. The most common route is through sports management or sports science degrees. However, some GMs choose candidates with psychology or related degrees because they’re more in tune with the player’s needs off the court.
It can either be experience on the court, such as what Kyle Korver brought to the table in the Atlanta Hawks’ organization in 2022, or experience as a player development professional like Seth Cooper for the Golden State Warriors franchise. Both experiences can be a driving force in terms of salary negotiations.
Size of the Organization
What a team can pay their player development directors depends on the size of the organization. The bigger the organization, the more money it can afford to pay. But it’s not just about the size of the paycheck that makes a job attractive. Because of the scope of the job, directors of player development are often the first in line when the GM position becomes available. Elton Brand, for example, briefly served as a player development director for the 76ers in 2016 before becoming the team’s GM in 2018.
Wrapping Things Up: What Does a Director of Player Development Do
The player development director is one of the most crucial jobs in the NBA. They ensure players have a stable growth as professional athletes and as valuable assets of the organization.
The scope of a director of player development’s responsibilities is vast and dynamic and heavily focused on the holistic development of the players, ensuring that the players are well-rounded both on and off the court. So, the next time you witness a rookie developing into a respected veteran, you’ve got his player development director to thank.
We hope you enjoyed this post! If you did, be sure to check out our other basketball FAQ articles here.