The Sixers have made a pretty important hire and in light of the global COVID-19 pandemic that has occupied... well everything recently, it has flown relatively under the radar. A 76ers Team Official has confirmed for Liberty Ballers that back on January 27th the team hired Rob Newson to serve as Sixers Vice President of Strategy and Vision. Originally the plan was to give Newson a month or so before announcing his hiring to get acclimated, get to know his new colleagues and ramp up, then the team chose to hold off announcing his hire when the COVID-19 crisis arose.
Newson’s resume doesn’t quite match one of your typical NBA front office executive. He’s a bit of an out-of-the-box hire. He has had an extensive and decorated career in military and defense. For more than 30 years, Newson has held a global senior leadership role as a Navy SEAL officer and as a Department of Defense senior civilian executive, spanning 14 countries across five continents. He has led the White House Military Office, including Air Force One, Marine One, Camp David and more. His decorated career includes being awarded the Bronze Star for acts of heroism, acts or merit, or meritorious service in a combat zone, as well as the Defense Superior Service Medal, a senior military decoration awarded for superior meritorious service in a position of significant responsibility.
He has served during multiple Presidential Administrations, most recently serving as Deputy Director of the Whitehouse Military Office from 2018- 2019, where some of his responsibilities included providing military support to the president and managing the Whitehouse Medical Unit.
After eleven months serving the Trump Administration, he decided to take leave and explore other opportunities where he might leverage his vast leadership skills and resources. He was pursuing a PhD when the Sixers utilized a search firm to identify candidates like Newson for this high-level role. After connecting with him, they decided he would be a tremendous resource for the team.
So how does someone with this type of resume fit in with the Sixers?
Team owners Josh Harris and David Blitzer are known for preferring a collaborative approach with multiple voices occupying diverse backgrounds and experiences, and at least trying to build towards a consensus. (Our writers at Liberty Ballers rarely reach consensus on anything except the question “are Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons very good?” so good luck to ya). And around these parts, team General Manager, Elton Brand is known for extolling the virtues of four key tenets: leadership, culture, strategy, and innovation. Team officials believe that those four values are precisely Newson’s area of expertise, mesh with Brand’s vision, and so are excited to have his voice in house.
Now the Sixers Executive page on NBA.com lists Newsom’s name and title just below Brand’s, Alex Rucker’s, Ned Cohen’s, and Marc Eversley’s. And we can infer this is roughly the team’s chain of command in the front office:
Which means Newson already occupies a very high-level role with the team. Indeed, Team Officials have confirmed that Newson will direct oversight of the medical staff, and performance teams, so Scott Epsley, Medical Director, and Lorena Torres Ronda, Director of Performance, and their respective teams will now report to Newson.
The core reason for the hire initially, before the pandemic, was to leverage Newson’s ideas for best practices and innovation. He would manage structure, communication and focus on driving innovation and collaboration to ensure best-in-class support and care of 76ers athletes, that might include things like new science or technology to enhance player performance.
And that’s all still true. But because of the current situation, Brand has tasked Newson to lead the COVID-19 crisis response for Basketball Operations and prioritize that, so Newson has spent the last few months liaising with public health officials and medical experts.
He has already proven to be an invaluable resource there, per the team.
In this talk he gave with the WashPo on Twitter, he offers advice for anyone to help get through a crises, stemming from his SEAL and war experiences. He offers:
- you have more in common with warriors than you know
- shorten your time horizon, (in short think now and not the next few weeks)
- focus outward (focus on your teammates or loved ones before yourself)
- self-care is essential
- you were made for this moment, believe it and live it
football coach of all time, and General Manager of the Patriots, Bill Belichick, has been known to make out-of-the-box hires on occasion. Mysterious figures with unique backgrounds like Ernie Adams or Berj Najarian (who has a Public Relations background) are often rumored to be top consiglieres for Bill. And Belichick is known for building his leadership philosophy on “The Art of War,” and devouring both ancient and modern wisdom from military strategists then applying the principles to the Patriots.
If only we were in different times, I’d love to go grab a couple of Yuenglings with Newson, and ask him off-the-record what super-tech he’s working on. Like can we get a fleet of mini-drones and hide them on rival mascots to spy on the Bucks, Celtics, or Heat? Whatever Bango sees or hears goes right to an ear-piece Brett Brown has in. Let’s Go!