Former NBA Commissioner David Stern Looks Back On Career in Keynote at UMass Amherst

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Photo Credit: UMass Amherst

(UMass Amherst is a proud partner of Front Office Sports)

Future sport industry leaders are cultivated through a critical understanding of the past, coupled with an innovative and curious eye towards the future. 

As the Mark H. McCormack Department of Sport Management at UMass Amherst welcomed NBA Commissioner Emeritus David Stern to the stage to deliver his signature address, titled “The NBA: Technological Innovation, Social Responsibility and Grass Roots Activation Lead to Global Success,” students leaned in to listen from a seminal figure in the commercial sports industry. 

Speaking on the NBA’s ability to leverage new and emerging technologies to grow the game, Stern noted, “It’s really been a wonderful ride adapting to the benefits that were conferred upon us by the evolution of technology. Globalization and technology are the NBA’s friend.”

Stern served as the commissioner of the NBA from 1984 through 2014 and recently embedded himself into the fabric of the world’s #1 ranked sport management program during his Executive in Residence visit to the UMass Amherst campus. McCormack students in Sport Leadership and Sport Marketing classes gleaned firsthand business insights from Stern, who also joined roundtable discussions with McCormack club leaders, met with MBA and PhD students, shared insights with McCormack faculty, and submitted his oral history to the McCormack Archives. 

Stern’s innovative methods remade the model for professional sports league operations, public service, marketing, media distribution, digital technology, and international expansion. His visit is a testament to one of the UMass’s long rivaled competitive advantages: a strong sport industry alumni base of more than 3,000 professionals. Carolanne McAuliffe, VP of Marketing at the NBA and one of many involved and loyal UMass alumni impacting the sports industry, worked under Commissioner Stern for years 13 years and helped arrange the visit. 

From Left to Right: Todd McCormack (Mark McCormack’s son), Janet Fink (McCormack Dept Chair), David Stern, Steve McKelvey, Carolanne McAuliffe, and Lisa Masteralexis (Isenberg Associate Dean). Photo Credit: UMass Amherst

The platform is illustrative of the larger value proposition of UMass Amherst’s leading sport management program. McCormack Department students are granted a seat at the table and gain invaluable guidance from alumni and their extended sport industry networks. This exposure is paired with challenging theoretical foundations in the classroom, creating a blended student experience that develops strategic and well-rounded sport industry entrants. MBA consulting projects, industry site visits, and a dedicated 1:1 industry mentorship program are several key components of alumni integration that McCormack graduate programs director Steve McKelvey engineers into the student experience.

“We are honored to have David Stern join us as the McCormack Executive-in-Residence this fall, adding to the impressive group of speakers who have already shared their stories of innovation and career insights with our students and faculty,” said McKelvey. “His eye for innovation, anticipation of the digital age, and commitment to social responsibility exemplify the spirit of the sports industry. It’s the kind of leadership that remains the hallmark of Mark McCormack’s legacy, and a lesson in excellence for our students to learn from.” 

Photo Credit: UMass Amherst

Past McCormack Executive in Residence guests have included George Bodenheimer, Val Ackerman, Mike Slive, Harry Edwards, and Barry Frank. The program was founded in 2011 as part of UMass Amherst’s naming rights agreement with IMG-founder Mark McCormack’s family trust. 

Stern’s keynote address concluded with Q&A from the packed auditorium, and, yes, the China question was asked. Stern closed his address with the same diplomatic and candid tone that personified his career in sports.

“I’m very proud of the way the NBA has handled itself. I think there’s an opportunity to work out something which is akin not to one country two systems, but two countries two systems, and our system includes the freedom of speech which is dear to us and will continue to be upheld with the NBA as the representative,” Stern said.

Learn more about UMass Amherst’s #1 ranked sport management masters program