For Kean Business Graduate, Networking Paved the Way to Leadership Roles in the NBA
Steve Senior made it from the Kean University basketball team to the front office of the Minnesota Timberwolves by building and maintaining relationships with people he met along the way.
The 2003 Kean graduate, who earned a Bachelor of Science in management and played guard for the University’s basketball team, is now assistant general manager of the NBA team.
"If you told me that I'd be able to make a living off basketball, this game that you could just play in your driveway, I'd tell you there's no way,” Senior said. “Watching and evaluating basketball, and talking basketball for a living, has been the ultimate blessing."
Kean Athletics will honor Senior with the Pat and D’Ann Ippolito Legacy Award, an annual award being introduced this year to recognize individuals outside of the athletics department who made substantial and enduring contributions to the department and University. The award will be given to Senior and four others at a ceremony on Sunday, October 15.
Senior, 42, is a natural networker. He still speaks regularly with his basketball coaches from high school and from Kean, as well as with the many NBA professionals who have hired him over the years for roles within their organizations.
In the course of his career, he’s worked for J.B. Bickerstaff, now head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers; and Allan Houston, special assistant to the general manager of the New York Knicks.
“I want to treat everyone right,” Senior said. “I want to carry the same positive energy each day and serve others by connecting the dots between people and building communication between groups.”
Senior, who lives in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, with his wife Andrea when he’s not in Minneapolis, credits those leaders, his parents – Granville and Paulette Senior – his sister Patrice and his Kean professors with inspiring his approach to work.
"I can't stress enough the communication I had with my professors at Kean. I communicated a lot more in college than I did in high school in terms of class participation, and I felt like I really thrived."
Senior said he also learned from his childhood friend in North Brunswick, former U.S. World Cup goalkeeper Tim Howard. Through Howard, Senior met broadcaster and New York Giants great Michael Strahan, whom he now counts among his mentors.
Howard said Senior “always made time to connect with people in all walks of life.
“Not only does he have a tireless work ethic, but in a world where everyone is trying to be first, he has an incredible ability to listen and be compassionate,” Howard said.
The son of Jamaican immigrants, Senior became fascinated with basketball at age 5, when his aunt took him to New York Knicks games “to get a glimpse of Patrick Ewing because he was from Jamaica.”
Senior played for Kean’s team for two seasons, but left in 2000 when a conversation with an NBA Entertainment official during a Nets game landed him a job – NBA live-action photographer. It launched his career.
Courtside, he befriended influential people like Artie and Jason Rabin, who became second majority owners of the Nets. They hired Senior at their apparel company, Kids Headquarters.
He kept in touch with players, guiding summer workouts for some of them, most notably current ESPN NBA analyst Richard Jefferson. In 2011, Senior returned to the NBA. Bickerstaff, then an assistant coach for the Houston Rockets, offered him a role as the team’s video coordinator. It meant a drastic pay cut, but Senior saw it as a way to get his career in basketball back on track.
From there, he was a video coordinator for the Knicks for six seasons. He joined the Timberwolves last spring after four years with the Memphis Grizzlies, where he was first involved with player development and then served as a pro personnel scout.
“He’s excelled in every role,” said Sachin Gupta, the Timberwolves’ executive vice president of basketball operations. “But what really makes Steve special are his attitude and infectious personality. He is humble, kind and eternally positive — a leader who puts others first.”
Senior said he loves guiding young players, building relationships on the road, and advising high school and college students. He suggests they invest the time in finding a gratifying career path, even if it means delaying their financial goals — and that they network diligently.
“I tell them it's not just who you know, but who remembers you,” he said.