Jeff Zillgitt | March 7, 2017
Byron Spruell envisioned a career in professional sports. He just thought it would be on the football field 30 years ago following a college career and education at Notre Dame.
That never happened, so Spruell embarked on a career in professional business services, most notably a 20-year career at Deloitte where he served in several high-level positions, including chief of staff to Deloitte’s U.S. CEO, head of Chicago’s Deloitte office and vice chairman/central region market leader and global financial services executive.
Then last year, he received a call. Did he have an interest in joining the NBA as president of league operations in charge of basketball ops, referee ops and basketball strategy and analytics? He did and was named to the position in June.
“It’s almost like being drafted into the NBA, professionally,” Spruell said. “To be part of this is very special. To be a part of the mosaic of talent that (NBA Commissioner) Adam (Silver) and (Deputy Commissioner) Mark (Tatum) have put together around the executive leadership table is really special.”
A Cleveland native, Spruell is the son of an engineer and seamstress. In high school, he excelled in academics, football and basketball and chose Notre Dame for college. Spruell, who played on the offensive line, was part of Lou Holtz-led teams that returned the Irish to national prominence following some mediocre seasons. He was a co-captain on the 1987 team.
He majored in mechanical engineering at Notre Dame, and when the NFL didn’t work out, he pursued an MBA at Notre Dame and embarked on his business career. At Deloitte, he learned to lead and improve business. There, he prospered in an environment where “Performance, performance, performance really mattered,” he said.
Spruell, who is married and has two children – one a football player at Notre Dame and daughter who is a high school basketball player – was happy at Deloitte and wasn’t looking to leave. Until the NBA called.