Publish date:

READY TO ROLL

Author:

CATHY ENGELBERT THE NEW WNBA COMMISSIONER (AND EX--POINT GUARD) PLANS TO MAKE HER LEAGUE BIGGER AND BETTER

SI: You just finished a four-year term as CEO of Deloitte. Why did you want to take on this new challenge?

CE: After more than three decades in the corporate world, I was looking for something different with a broader women's leadership platform. And it's a sport I have passion for, having played college basketball. What better time to work with the sport I love at a moment when there's a broad social conversation around gender and women and leadership.

SI: What's the best thing about the WNBA right now?

CE: The league stands for the power of women. It's such a diverse league with talented, elite athletes—college graduates, very smart. There are so many angles we can use to elevate the brand and build the WNBA into a sustainable business model.

SI: What are your first priorities?

CE: First up is the All-Star Game in Las Vegas on July 27. That will give me the opportunity to meet players, coaches, owners—everybody in the ecosystem of the WNBA—and really start my listening tour. I've made no secret about what the priorities are: Look at the financials, and make sure we're building a league worthy of these elite players. Put more fans in the seats, work on the player experience, and in the backdrop, we have the collective bargaining conversation going on.

SI: What lessons from playing sports have helped you in your career?

CE: I was a captain my senior year at Lehigh in both basketball and lacrosse, and I think all the time about how those formative years gave me the confidence that, when I joined the business world and saw mostly men around me, I could succeed. Before that, I grew up playing against my brothers in the backyard. My mother always said, "You've done well because you grew up alongside five boys and you had to be competitive, but at the same time be a team player."

SI: Do you still play?

CE:[laughs] No. At my age [54], I couldn't keep up with the girls today. At 5'10" I was one of the tallest point guards in the league; now I'd be one of the shortest. I never lifted a weight. These girls now are all so tall and so strong. We have a hoop in our yard and I'll play around with my son. I coached my daughter's middle school basketball team for four years, and that was one of the biggest challenges of my career.