Sue Bird has announced that she will be joining the Denver Nuggets front office staff as a Basketball Operations Associate for the rest of the 2018-2019 NBA season. Bird is a three-time WNBA champion with the Seattle Storm, winning her latest title this past season, and an 11-time All Star. The sixteen-year WNBA veteran enters the role with a wealth of knowledge of the game and will begin her off-the-court career in the NBA while still remaining an active WNBA player for the 2019 season.
Sue discusses this new role with the Nuggets as she embarks on this stage of her career.
When did you first hear about this potential role?
About a month and a half ago or so. The president Tim Connelly and I were able to connect through one mutual friend. He’s really big on keeping players involved and giving them an opportunity to gain some experience on the other side of the ball, if you will, while simultaneously understanding that I’m still playing. It was really a great opportunity that fell in my lap and I’m super thankful for it.
Did your relationship with the organization extend past that, and how has it been established since accepting the position?
No actually – this all really came together in the last month and a half or so. Pretty much after I got back from Spain (for the World Cup) actually. After the initial call, I went and visited Denver for a couple of days, caught a couple games, met everybody and the rest is history.
What have you seen in this Nuggets team so far this season?
First and foremost, they’re fun to watch. They have a core group of young talent, and I think whenever you have that it’s just going to be an exciting brand of basketball. Obviously, they’re led by (Nikola) Jokic, and they have some great guard play whether it’s Jamaal Murray, Gary Harris, Malik Beasley, you name it. One of the best things about this team is the depth. Unfortunately they’ve got hit with the injury bug a little bit. When it’s all said and done though, I think you’re going to see that depth come through. And of course, I’m a little bit biased to the old man on the team even though he’s not that old, Paul Millsap. He kind of holds it down as the veteran. It’s just a really good mix, and in every season you’re going to see up and downs, but what you’re seeing now is a really good brand of basketball.
What are you looking to gain out of this role?
Honestly – I’m just going in there wide-eyed. I think it’s an amazing opportunity to get first-hand experience, see things with my own eyes, and just get a better understanding of what this world is all about. In my opinion basketball is basketball, men’s or women’s, it doesn’t really matter, but obviously the NBA is an entirely different league. It’s going to be great to get to learn it, to get to know the players, other teams, styles, you name it. All I’m really looking to do is learn and make the most of this.
Is there anyone on this staff or front office that you’re particularly looking forward to learn from?
It’s really been fun to get to know Tim Connelly who has a really cool story in terms of leading up to getting this job which he’s had for multiple years. That’s been cool, you know, because he’s seen it all. Right underneath him is Calvin Booth, a former player, and really there’s a lot of former players in that front office. It’s just an instant connection and respect, so I’m really looking forward to learn from everyone. Coach Malone is actually somebody I met a long time ago when he was with the Knicks, so it’s been great to see him again. Obviously Isaiah Thomas is someone I know from Seattle, so I’m looking forward to seeing him progress and getting back on the court. Everything across the board has been so much fun so far and just can’t wait to help in any way I can.
Is there any front office area you’re hoping to gain knowledge on?
I think all of it. A lot of it is scouting, and I think because I’m still an active player and because of my experience as a player I bring a little bit of a unique perspective. Anytime I can share that point of view will be great. Really just excited to learn it all. The NBA is obviously a business with a lot of moving parts and it’s a game of chess, a puzzle, it’s everything combined, trying to put a team together. There’s a lot that goes into it and there’s definitely a lot to learn.
With an already successful 2018 between the WNBA Championship and bringing home the FIBA World Cup gold, where does getting this opportunity lie?
It’s huge. I think what’s so unique about this, is it was so unexpected. I always had it in my mind that if I was going to coach or be in the front office at any level, it was going to be something that I’d do after I retired. ‘Okay I’ll kind of look into that after I retire’ is what I would think. It never crossed my mind to do it while I was still playing, and then Tim called. It was music to my ears, because he offered an opportunity where I could do both. I’ve had a great summer and then the icing on the cake was getting this role with the Nuggets.
You’re arguably one of the best basketball minds in the game and have coached on the court for so many years in the WNBA, how are you hoping to apply those experiences into this position?
I think that’s where my unique perspective comes from. I’m at a point in my career where I’ve seen it all, I’ve done it all, and with that you just have different eyes on the game. These past couple of seasons I’ve been in situations where the head coach has allowed me to expand on that on-court role. To be more vocal and talk about what I’m seeing, because there’s really nothing like the eyes of someone that’s playing. I definitely see that. It’s so different when you’re on the court, because you just see things differently. This is something Kristi Toliver and I have talked a little bit about, because she also has a new role as well with the Wizards. Sometimes it’s easy for us as players to imagine ourselves as the point guard out there, and that connection right there is what makes our perspective invaluable. We can put ourselves in a player’s shoes and have a true understanding.
How has the news breaking unfolded from you?
I was actually joking with Tim, like ‘man, this is even better than my birthday.’ I’m getting more love today than I did on my birthday. It’s been amazing. A lot of people have been reaching out and texting saying congrats. Super supportive. It’s been nothing but good stuff.