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Atlanta Hawks G League Executive Tori Miller Talks Start In Basketball And Challenges And Duties Of Her Job

Atlanta Hawks G League Manager Of Basketball Operations Tori Miller talks to Ridiculous Upside about her start in basketball, her duties and challenges with her G League job.

Robert Frank/Erie BayHawks

On Sunday morning, The Athletic’s Shams Charania tweeted out that Brooklyn Nets assistant general manager Trajan Langdon would become the new general manager for the New Orleans Pelicans. In that position, Langdon will work alongside the executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin, who took that role just one month ago.

While Langdon did some work at the NBA level to help Brooklyn, we mostly know him through his work as the Long Island Nets’ general manager. Within that role, he helped construct one of the deeper squads while giving head coach Will Weaver the necessary pieces to push the team to finish with a 34-16 regular-season record and a win away from winning the G League title. The G league awarded Langdon for helping Long Island succeed by naming him as their Executive of the Year for the 2018-19 season.

Langdon’s promotion shows that the G League is a great place for anyone to work on reaching their basketball goals, no matter if they’re a player, coach, or executive.

One woman that will hope to follow that same journey is Atlanta Hawks’ G League President of Basketball Operations/Player Development Liaison Tori Miller. Recently, Ridiculous Upside had the opportunity to talk to Tori about how she got her start in basketball, helping build an expansion team, and the duties of being a Manager of Basketball Operations.

Ridiculous Upside: What led you to get your start in pro basketball as an intern for the Phoenix Suns?

Tori Miller: My first goal when I got into college at the University of Miami was to be a sports agent. While I was there in Miami, I interned at a sports agency with an agent named Merle Scott, whose biggest client at that time was Lou Williams. I did that from my sophomore year into my senior year. Probably around my junior year was when I switched gears and wanted to get into the front office side as opposed to being a sports agent but still continued with that internship.

While I was there, I had the opportunity to meet Irving Roland, whose now the player development coach for the Houston Rockets and is James Harden’s right-hand man. Irv had his own player development company down in Miami called Blueprint Basketball, where pros would come down during the summer to train for the upcoming season. So I started to work with him while also still at that sports agency where I would help Irv organize everything with those workouts.

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Once I graduated, Irv ended up taking a position with the Phoenix Suns on their player development staff. SO when I was trying to get an internship with an NBA front office with some interviews set up, Phoenix ended up showing interest in me as Irv put in a few good words. Flew out, did an interview with everyone on their front office, and then eventually got that spot.

RU: What kind of lessons did you learn during your time with the Suns?

TM: I learned several different lessons. For one, I’m grateful for starting out with the Suns because it wasn’t really your typical internship with an NBA team. The Suns empowered me a lot because they gave me an opportunity to scout, helped with their pre-draft process, sit in at scout, and free agency meetings. I

was very hands-on as an intern in Phoenix, and the biggest thing that I learned was to be a sponge. Because when you first come in, you may think you know it all, but you don’t. So it’s best to just absorb everything that comes your way, which is something that I did with Phoenix. I was able to learn from Trevor Bukstein, Pat Connelly, Ryan McDonough, and a lot of others.

RU: What did you do between your time with the Suns and getting hired by the Phoenix Suns

TM: So when I initially went out to Phoenix, it was a one-year internship, but they liked me and offered a chance to go back for a second year, which I accepted. After my second year, the Suns didn’t have many full-time opportunities become open, so they gave me an opportunity to talk to other teams.

During that whole summer, I had that whole process over by sending out my resume and portfolio out to different teams. So by September when I didn’t yet have a full-time job with an NBA team, I figured that I had to do something to set myself apart as a female trying to break into this industry and take that next step. I decided to do my own unpaid scouting for a season.

With being born and raised in Atlanta, so I’d have connections with the colleges here with like Georgia Tech, UGA (University of Georgia), and Georgia State. So what I would do is go to all the local games, see some of the top talent and keep scouting reports that I’d send to all the individual NBA teams.

I also really honed in on the G League and would go to the games in Delaware and then send out monthly reports on all the players and would rank everybody by position. That lets the front offices know which players are hot this month, who’s coming into the league, the teams that were playing well, and guys that should be considered call-ups. A lot of the teams liked the information that I was sending out.

Malik Rose, who was then with the Atlanta Hawks, was one of the guys that I connected with that I sent those monthly G League reports to made sure to stay in contact with me throughout the season. When he was named as the GM of the BayHawks two years ago, Malik reached out to myself and offered me a position with Erie.

RU: What kind of duties do you have as Manager of Basketball Operations?

TM: Mainly, I basically handle all the day-by-day logistics from scheduling practices, arranging travel, coordinating and overseeing interns, managing relationship between business and basketball side of the team, and then leveraging how the Hawks want to utilize the G League team. Also, G League scouting is a big part of what I do as I help put the team together in regards to personnel.

RU: As you manage how players travel, what kind of issues do you have in regards to assignees and two-ways?

TM: Being in Erie, the only difficult part was actually getting to Erie. There’s actually only three airports that we mainly use: Erie International, Cleveland, and Buffalo. But pretty much when guys get assigned at like 10 PM at night, I have to coordinate with the Manager of Basketball Ops here in Atlanta to get on the same page and be like “Hey, what time can we get this guy in to Erie. I think we were able to do a really good job given the circumstances and the difficulty of travel

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RU: Over the past few years, there have basically been three separate versions of the BayHawks. Has that drastic and frequent change made your job any more difficult?

TM: With the different affiliations, each team does things differently. I think that it’s a challenge as expansion team, which we were two seasons ago, but it’s a fun challenge because you get to create something from scratch. You know, it feels like Erie has nine lives as it’s able to recreate themselves every few years, so that’s exciting for us.

The main goal was to bring excitement about the game of basketball back to Erie, and I think it’s something that we accomplished. But it was an exciting challenge to be able to start from scratch with the expansion draft, getting players through open tryouts, G League Draft, affiliate players, and two-ways. It was really exciting to be able to put that roster together.

RU: With the Hawks G League affiliate moving to College Park for the 2019-20 season, will you be moving to that team, or will you still be with the BayHawks?

TM: Actually, I’m an employee of the Atlanta Hawks. Right now, we’re transitioning to the College Park Skyhawks as we recently hired a team president (Dan Dial). We’re just in the process of making that transition right now.

RU: Looking forward, how excited are you about getting a chance to be in a situation where the G League franchise is close to the NBA?

TM: I’m definitely excited about being in close proximity to the parent club. After talking to a couple of other teams, something I have to be on the lookout for is last-minute assignments and recalls. With Erie, you had to do it ahead of time. But now that we’re 15 minutes away, our head coach Lloyd Pierce may wake up and decide to make a move that’s two hours before game time. So that’s something that I have to be on alert for.

RU: One of the most difficult things about following the G League is trying to keep track of how many days are left on a two-way contract. Is that something that you keep track of in your role as Manager of Basketball Operations?

TM: The Atlanta Hawks actually track the number of NBA days of service versus G League days of service. They communicate that to us, so we’re all on the same page of how many days left that this guy has compared to another prospect.