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Tori Miller’s journey to the College Park Skyhawks

Tori Miller, ex-Basketball Operations with the Phoenix Suns, is introduced into Atlanta as the Assistant GM for the new College Park Skyhawks. Photo Courtesy of Krystal White

Tori Miller is the new assistant general manager of the College Park Skyhawks. As a front office employee, Miller has helped the new franchise find its feet. I had the chance to sit down with Miler, who talked about her journey to the position wherein she now finds herself.

 

Krystal: You were born and raised in Atlanta. Is this a surreal feeling working for your hometown team?

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Tori: It’s definitely a surreal feeling. Being able to come back home and work for the Skyhawks in front of my family and friends [means a lot]. 

Krystal: Was the Atlanta Hawks always your favorite team? 

Tori: No, I can’t say that. I always root for the home team, but the Hawks were not my favorite.

Krystal: Who was your favorite?

Tori: I kinda bounced around. I liked the old-school Sacramento Kings, with Bobby Jackson and Mike Bibby.

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Krystal: What’s your favorite memory from that team?

Tori: When they lost against the Lakers, that hurt me. I was hurt for a while.

Krystal: The saying in Atlanta is, “Atlanta can’t run without Grady.” Are you a Grady baby? 

Tori: I am not. 

Krystal: What was your childhood like growing up in Atlanta?

Tori: I am from Decatur, Georgia. I’m the baby of the family. I am a little spoiled. I love my family. We are very tight, close-knit. 

Krystal: You went to college at the University of Miami to become a sports agent. What took you out there? 

Tori: My sister went to the [University of Georgia]. My husband went to Georgia Tech. I wanted to break the mold and go somewhere else. I really did not like the college-town vibe. Miami is a city similar to Atlanta, with a big-city vibe. At [the University of North Carolina], it was cold, rainy. I didn’t really like it at all. I went to Miami [for] the palm trees and nice weather. 

Krystal: What made you want to switch from being a sports agent to wanting a front-office position?

Tori: Both industries are tough. I interned at a sports agency with an agent named Merle Scott, whose biggest client at that time was Lou Williams. I was there from my sophomore year to my senior year. We would do different projects. I would go through players’ contracts to try and find other contracts that are similar to the players we have. As I was doing it, I fell in love with the team side of it. This is when I made the switch. I liked to evaluate talent from when I was young. The office is more of the path I wanted to go on.

Krystal: What was the biggest challenge during that time? 

Tori: Being told, “No,” by the clients when you were recruiting them. We come so close, but it’s like, “Alright, we are going to go with someone else.” It’s a fun thrill to be able to chase, which is something I enjoyed. I don’t know if that is crazy or what. Being able to hear, “No,” that helped me in the future with my career. I was told, “No,” a lot of times when I wanted to land internships and full-time positions. Just being able to already have that thick skin propelled me and helped me. 

Krystal:  What advice do you have for someone who is getting told, “No,” repeatedly?

Tori: Don’t quit. If you quit, you are obviously cutting yourself short. I think those who give up are making it easier for everyone else. Always try to be the last man or woman standing, and you will find your way. 

Krystal: After you graduated from Miami, you interned with the Phoenix Suns for two seasons. You learned to be a sponge. Who were you trying to gain the most knowledge from? 

Tori: Everyone in the organization, from General Manager Ryan McDonough and Assistant General Managers Trevor Bukstein and Pat Connelly. Everyone had a different [role] in the organization, but we were all working towards the same goal. That was big for me because when I transferred to the basketball operations role for the Erie Bayhawks; I wore all of those hats in one. So being able to be around to listen and learn from them helped me to the position I’m in. 

Krystal: What was something they taught you? 

Tori: Being ready for whatever. No two days are the same when you are working in the NBA. My day yesterday was different from my day today. Know how to carry yourself in the NBA. Just listening, always being able to adapt and communicate with your group [is important]. 

Krystal: After your time with the Suns, you weren’t with an NBA team for a year. To step out of the box, you did unpaid scouting and sent the reports to NBA teams. How was that process like?

Tori: I packed up my car and drove cross-country from Phoenix to Atlanta. I went through the process of trying to land another full-time job with a team. After I did not land a full-time position, I decided to do unpaid scouting for a season. 

Krystal: What is the biggest difference in working with a G League team and an NBA team?

Tori: In the NBA, there are probably ten of me that do my one job. In the G League, you have to be active, work on the fly and be quick on your toes. I love it because I get to see how all aspects of the team work. One day, I want to be a general manager, so I’ll know the importance of hiring the right people.

Krystal: 2 Chainz is the co-owner of the Skyhawks. How did that happen?

Tori: I honestly don’t know. He is a College Park native. He was brought in early in the process. He wants to be active in the community. His album was like, “Rap or go to the league.” He is very invested in basketball. It was a natural partnership for the group.

Krystal: Win everybody over. Why should we come to support the Skyhawks?

Tori: We are building something great here. Like you said, 2 Chainz [is here]. The buzz around our team is insane. I go out to G League events and everyone is talking about the Skyhawks. If you want to see the future stars of tomorrow, come out to a College Park Skyhawks game.