Q&A: Tori Miller on ‘breaking the mold’ to become first female G League GM

Since her sophomore season at the University of Miami, Tori Miller knew she wanted to become a general manager. She wanted to construct rosters, and she wanted to help a team win a championship. 

It didn’t take all too long for Miller to work her way up, as the 29-year-old from Decatur, recently was promoted to GM of the College Park Skyhawks, the first woman to hold the title of GM in the history of the G League. 

In years past, Miller interned for the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association, spent two seasons as a basketball-operations intern for the Phoenix Suns and did her own unpaid scouting work in Atlanta and Delaware, honing in on the G League, which eventually opened the door for her becoming manager of basketball operations with the Erie BayHawks three seasons ago. She became assistant GM of the Skyhawks in July 2019, as the franchise rebranded and moved from Erie to College Park. 

Miller answered a few questions from the AJC about her new role:

Q: What was your reaction to being named Skyhawks general manager? 

A: We had been discussing it that week, and (Hawks general manager Travis Schlenk) reached out saying everything had been finalized earlier that week and we were going to move forward. They were going to move forward naming me GM of the Skyhawks. At the time, I was excited, but it was just like, “OK, it’s a promotion.” … Once everything was out there, I didn’t really understand the magnitude of the moment until I saw the texts, all the calls, all the emails, all the posts. And then, from the young girls who were saying that I was an inspiration giving them hope that maybe one day they could work in the NBA. That’s when it really just hit me that this was a big moment. These past few days have just been a very humbling experience for myself. 

Q: What kind of support and messages have you gotten since the news broke? 

A: The amount of support has been unreal. Today it has slowed down a little bit, but my LinkedIn is still going crazy. Texts, I had over 100 texts, 150 text messages, emails, phone calls, it’s been crazy to say the least, but like I said, it’s been humbling experience, just to see the outpouring of support, especially from the young girls, just to be someone like a role model, to look up to and kind of reach out to if they need advice. I’m always wanting to pay it forward.

Q: What does it mean to you to be the first female GM in the history of the G League? 

A: It means a lot. It’s honestly hard to put into words. Just to be able to be a pioneer and be a trailblazer for young women and women who want to work in the industry, it means more than I can honestly put into words, just to know that the hard work that I’ve put into reaching my goals, just to have the belief that the Atlanta Hawks, it’s something that I couldn’t even ask for. 

Q: What are you most looking forward to about becoming GM?

A: I’m just excited to be able to be able to do the thing I love and get back to playing basketball. Watch basketball games, scout basketball, just to be around the game. Just to have the opportunity to help grow not only our players, but our staff as well. To help build an organization because this is just our second year here in College Park. So just to be a part of something that’s in such an infancy stage, to help it, to see it grow, I think that’s probably what I’m most excited about.

Q: What are some things, people, philosophies, that helped you get to where you are today? 

A: One thing that I always try to stick with and stay with is just, “Put in the work, be confident in your abilities and live with the results.” Because at the end of the day, if you work hard, if you’re good at what you do, someone eventually will take notice. And that’s kind of how I attack things. I pretty much just keep my head down and keep working. Eventually, your time will come and when your time comes, be ready for the opportunity.

Q: Is it disappointing at all that there aren’t more female GMs out there who can act as role models? 

A: I wouldn’t say disappointing, I would say, people just don’t know. Someone has to break the mold, you see what I’m saying? There always has to be one person to kind of say, “OK, this person is breaking the mold, and now here comes other women.” For example, you see an increase in women in coaching positions in the NBA. All it takes is one, and that one does a good job, and then it opens the door for other women. While it is a little, I wouldn’t say disappointing, you would like to see more, but I think there are definitely more coming, for sure. There’s more coming.

Q: What do you envision for the Skyhawks moving forward? 

A: I think No. 1, we just want to play basketball again. That’s the first thing that we have to do. Obviously safety and player safety and team safety are the most important. In College Park, I think the goals when we first moved the team here was to first educate people on the G League. A lot of people don’t know what the G League is, and it’s Atlanta’s first time having a G League team so close. So, I think in our first year, we just wanted to educate everyone, fans, everyone in the city on what the G League was, as the future stars of tomorrow. And that’s kind of how I like to talk about the G League. 

Because obviously, you guys were able to see Brandon Goodwin this year start on a two-way with us. So the people who came to a Skyhawks game, you were able to see Brandon Goodwin before he became the Brandon Goodwin you saw with the Atlanta Hawks. So that’s what we kind of strive to do each year, to help grow our players, especially for the Atlanta Hawks, because that’s the end goal. Whether it’s Bruno (Fernando) here on assignment, whether one of our two-way guy’s is up or whether it’s a G League guy getting a call-up to the Atlanta Hawks, we’re all about developing talent for the Atlanta Hawks first and foremost. And then obviously just bringing awareness of the G League and just continuing to grow our fan base here in College Park, I think those are the main items that we’re looking to do this season.

Q: Was it special to you when the team moved close to Atlanta?

A: Absolutely. For one just to be able, my family and friends, they know what I do, but they never get the opportunity to come see me up close, unless they come out to Phoenix when I was out there or they come up to Erie, if they brave that weather. But just being able to come back home and for them to come to games and just see me on a daily basis, and to see me in my element in a sense, it was great. And obviously, I’m from Decatur, but the South Side, I played AAU on the South Side over in College Park, so we actually practiced at North Clayton High School, which is 2 Chainz’s alma mater. I have some ties to the area. My grandma lives over there, so just to be able to come back home in a sense and to have everyone, my family and my friends, be able to see me in my element, it’s been truly a great experience. 

Q: What are some of your ultimate goals in the industry? 

A: My ultimate goal would be GM of an NBA team. … I’m not rushing it. If it’s five years from now, if it’s 10 years from now, whatever the timeline is. I’m not rushing it. I’m just focused on being in my role and being the best GM I can be for the College Park Skyhawks and helping to grow players and our staff. But ultimately I do want to be the GM of an NBA team.

Q: What’s some advice you could offer to anyone, but especially young women, looking to break into the NBA world?

A: I always tell all the young girls who reach out to me to just embrace your uniqueness. Embrace your uniqueness as a female. Just know that when you go in for an interview, when you’re applying for a job, nine times out of 10, you’re the only female that’s applying or the only female that’s made it that far throughout that interview process, so just embrace it. Be you, and you already have something that separates you from your peers that are vying for that same opportunity. I also tell them to get accustomed to hearing “no,” and being OK with hearing “no” because there is some progress with “no’s.” I’m a firm believer in it. Every “no” that I’ve received has helped me in some way for my next opportunity. Don’t be afraid of “no,” get accustomed to it, and just say “OK, next.”

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