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David Wagner is the Associate Vice President of Player Operations for the developmental league of the National Basketball Association also known as the, G League. He transitioned early in his career from legal operations to leadership roles within professional sports leagues. David’s unique perspective shapes the NBA G League through strategic player contract management and compliance. He previously spent six years with the United Soccer League and now dedicates his expertise to nurturing talent and driving success within the NBA’s development sphere. With a strong belief in innovative team management and proactive talent retention, David continues to push the boundaries of sports administration.

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Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • [2:15] How the NBA G League handles player contracts differently from other leagues
  • [3:45] David Wagner talks about the unique work-from-home perspective of a top sports league executive
  • [5:03] How staff growth and operations evolved in USL compared to NBA G League
  • [7:03] How effectively leading remote teams can boost organizational performance
  • [11:40] The realities of the “sports tax” and how it affects talent in the industry
  • [17:06] David’s practical tips for providing constructive feedback as a leader
  • [19:08] Improving employee retention in sports through transparency and goal clarity
  • [24:42] The value of escapism and stepping away for mental clarity while working remotely
  • [43:29] Embracing innovation and new ideas in the workplace

In this episode…

The sports industry is evolving rapidly, and so are the strategies for developing top talent. How can innovative leadership strategies drive success and cultivate high-performing teams?

According to David Wagner, a seasoned expert in player operations and development, embracing innovation and inclusivity is key. He highlights the importance of creating an environment where employees feel comfortable sharing their ideas and contributing across various areas. This approach not only fosters creativity, but also empowers team members, leading to a more dynamic and collaborative workplace. By encouraging open communication and valuing diverse perspectives, organizations can drive growth and cultivate high-performing talent.

In this episode of the WRK & WIN, host Corinne Milien sits down with David Wagner, Associate Vice President of Player Operations for the NBA G League, to discuss cultivating high-performing teams in sports business. They explore different ways to innovate in talent development, the significance of providing constructive feedback, and strategies for retaining top talent in the competitive sports industry.

Resources Mentioned in this episode

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Quotable Moments:

  • “You don’t need to be the smartest person to be in a leadership position, you just need to know when to pass the ball.”
  • “If you just stand here in front of your computer the whole day, you’re gonna go crazy.”
  • “Everything’s not gonna click until you actually go through it.”
  • “Nobody wants most of the jobs that they’re in to be their last job.”

Action Steps:

  1. Regularly schedule informal catch-ups with team members to discuss both professional and personal topics.
    • Encouraging open communication enhances team cohesion and provides opportunities for mentoring and feedback, which fosters employee growth and satisfaction.
  2. Create a culture where every team member feels empowered to share ideas and contribute to different areas.
    • Innovative cultures promote employee engagement, can lead to organizational improvements, and develop a sense of ownership among team members.
  3. Communicate transparently about advancement opportunities and performance expectations.
    • Clarity in career progression helps employees stay motivated, align their goals with the organization, and reduces turnover due to uncertainty or unmet expectations.
  4. Establish routines that include breaks and non-work interactions, and tailor the remote work environment to suit individual needs.
    • Creating a positive remote work culture can lead to higher productivity, better mental health, and greater job satisfaction for employees.
  5. Advocate for fair compensation and professional development within the sports industry.
    • Challenging and changing the notion of the “sports tax” can attract a more diverse talent pool, improve equity, and increase the industry’s overall talent caliber.

Sponsor for this episode…

This episode is brought to you by WRK.

Managing a successful business is about more than just the bottom line — it’s about the people who make it happen.

WRK is your go-to partner for people-powered HR and staffing solutions, designed to overcome your toughest workforce challenges.

From fostering employee engagement through positive employee relations to developing future leaders with their Leadership Development programs, WRK‘s services are designed to maximize the performance of your team and ensure a vibrant, inclusive work culture.

This isn’t just HR — it’s HR reimagined.

Go to to learn more.