FEATURED PROFILE: Orlando Magic SVP Pat Williams Share PDF Print E-mail
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patwilliams608It's been 30 years since Pat Williams left his role at the General Manager of the Philadelphia 76ers to move to Orlando and begin laying the foundations for what would become the Orlando Magic. 

The NBA's expansion in 1989 saw the team accepted into the league and the rest, as they say, is history.

iSportconnect sat down with Pat to learn about the history of the Magic and the future of the NBA.

iSc - With the Magic playing in the most recent Global Games, do you see this as something which will continue to grow?

PW - I don’t think there is any question this concept is going to grow. Adam Silver is asked frequently will there ever be an NBA team in Europe, I think maybe not in the foreseeable future - however I think we will see a lot of games played across the world, both pre-season and during the season. That’s going to continue at an aggressive level because the growth of the NBA through televised games and novelties, all these things that go into promoting a sport, t-shirts, hats and jackets; that’s at a very high level internationally as well. Of all the sports in America I think it’s evident the NBA is having the biggest impact around the world.

iSc - You are listed as a co-founder of the Orlando Magic, how difficult is it to ‘find’ a franchise?

PW - It was 30 years ago this week that I resigned my position as the GM of the 76ers in Philadelphia and moved to Orlando and hooked up with some business leaders here and we made an announcement that we were trying to bring a franchise to Orlando Florida.

The Orlando of 30 years ago was a small community – it’s nothing like it is today but for the better part of a year, we rallied the community and tried to sell what we had here to NBA owners and David Stern.

In 1987 about 10 months after we started our effort, the NBA awarded franchises to four different communities – Minnesota, Miami, Charlotte and Orlando. It’s the first time a major league team had come here, we’ve played 27 years now, we’re in our second arena. The growth has been exactly as we promised. We said to the NBA look at where we are in 20 years  or 30 years from now – look at the community, it’s getting bigger and they are very excited about our basketball team.

We had a big job to do to rally the community, sell them on the fact we could make this happen and they could help make it happen by putting a deposit down on season tickets. We went to the league and said we had deposits of 14,000 tickets and they realised something was going on round here.

iSc - Orlando City have recently started in the MLS, do you think that’s a good thing for the Magic?

PW - We had proven that major league sports could work here and soccer is a perfect fit in our off-season. Soccer fills that niche – the MLB isn’t going to come here and there are 3 NFL teams in Florida so they probably won’t come.

I think that soccer feels the niche when the Magic aren’t playing and they’ve given Orlando a great boost when it comes to sport.

iSc - What are the biggest issues that the people behind the scenes of a modern sports team face?

PW - The biggest issue is winning. We’re doing everything in our power to produce a winning ball club and get to that championship level. Everyday our people are coming to work with two things in mind; how can we help the Magic win games and how can we sell tickets. Our staff from top to bottom are focused on them two issues.

“There’s no question that the technology available to our scouts for example is amazing and then in this building which is wired to handle the latest in technology, we do everything we can to make this helpful to our fans. Who knows where it’s headed? It’s anybody’s guess.”

iSc - You’ve led a lot of teams and for the foundations for the Magic, what makes a good leader?

PW - Leaders need to have vision, leaders see before others. They see further down the round from others. They see in vivid technicolour while the rest of us see in black and white. Walt Disney, for example, would be a visionary leader – when he took a tour over Central Florida and all he saw were swamps and trees and field, but yet he said I have a vision for a theme park – in other words he had a vision for what the land would become.

I learnt about the vision for creating this team that did not exist; where there was no place to play the games and we had to sell tickets. There’s one thing to have a vision but you have to be able to communicate it otherwise that vision would die. So that is something I have learned about leadership. When I think of leadership I think of two things; vision and communication.


iSc - How difficult was it to attract players to a team that didn’t exist?

PW - Well we had the expansion draft from the current teams in the league and I think most of them players were happy to come here. To see something new and the enthusiasm of the fans to see something new. Orlando is a great place to live –great weather, no state income tax, you’ve got everything going by living here.

iSc - Are the Magic where you’d thought they’d be when you first started the franchise?

PW - I think so. We’ve got to the finals twice. Our goal is to win a championship and we’ve had some teams that were very good. I think we have a loyal fanbase. So I’d say looking back I think the Magic have been everything we could’ve possibly imagined.

In the beginning we were in competition with these three other potential franchises and the NBA never tipped there hand. There were many rumours – we heard every rumour in the books. The thought of having four teams come in at once was something the NBA was very quiet about and didn’t reveal until the last minute.

We’d worked so hard to bring a franchise here so when they said they would take all four teams, it was a great relief.

iSc - One of the things changing in the league is jersey sponsorship , what do you make of that?

PW - That’s going to be fine, it will be a little patch, the sponsors are going to pay which is good for the teams. The 76ers led the way but the other teams are all out there shopping and looking at sponsors, it will be interesting at the start of the season to see which teams have a sponsor.

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