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New Bulls general manager Marc Eversley makes history in Chicago

From Nike to Chi-town: The journey of the team’s first black general manager

Marc Eversley, the first black man to become general manager of the Chicago Bulls, will certainly be noticed in the Windy City, standing 6 feet, 8 inches tall. But in his quest to help rebuild the Bulls, he also hopes to be visible among Chicago’s black youth and use his story to inspire others.

“I am a black man who has a leadership position in a city with so many black youth,” Eversley told The Undefeated. “I see this as an opportunity. Being visible is important. My position with the Bulls provides resources to help drive change. We all can do better and I intend to do more.”

The Bulls officially named Eversley as their new general manager on Friday. It will be Eversley’s first general manager position after previously serving as the Philadelphia 76ers’ vice president of basketball operations. He becomes the seventh black general manager in the NBA and second in command to new Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas.

“Marc is a very versatile person with a great perspective on the league,” Karnisovas said. “He will play a key part in our organization structure as we move forward and build as a team. He has proven that he has a good eye for talent and he has a terrific ability to connect with the players and coaches.”

To understand how Eversley was groomed for this door-opening position with the Bulls, it is best to trace his steps from his humble beginnings in London.

‘They just taught us to work’

Clockwise from bottom left: Marc Eversley (left) as a boy, with his brother Tyrone, mom Quita and father Vince.

Eversley family

Eversley’s parents, Vince and Quita, were both natives of Barbados who moved to London, where they met and got married. They had two sons. Marc, the younger of the two, was born in 1969.

The Eversleys moved to Toronto in 1973 in hopes of a better life and more opportunity. Eversley’s dad worked as a postal delivery man, and his mom was a nurse.

“They were chasing the American dream, but they ended up in Canada,” Eversley said of his parents. “I wouldn’t say things were bad in London. I wouldn’t say we were living paycheck to paycheck, but we were struggling. They moved to Canada to explore a better life. Like most immigrants in the early ’70s in Canada, it was a better opportunity. As most immigrants, they saw it as a new beginning.”

The Eversleys first lived in a two-bedroom condominium in Jane and Finch, a predominantly black neighborhood with a lower family income than the Toronto average and lots of people squeezed into high-rise apartments.

“It was tough there,” Eversley said. “Nobody gave us anything. It wasn’t the projects, but it wasn’t Mayberry.”

The family moved to Brampton, Canada, a widely diverse Southern Ontario city, when Eversley was in the sixth grade in hopes of an improved life.

The one constant for the family was the bonding that took place over Caribbean meals — often with fried chicken, black-eyed peas and rice — cooked by his mom. It was during these precious moments with his parents that Eversley learned a lot about hard work and perseverance.

“They just taught us to work,” Eversley said. “You got to get up every single morning, strap on your boots and go to work. It may not be a good day, probably going to be a bad day, but you just got to keep persevering. That’s what I kept doing.

“This journey has not been easy. There’s been tons of ups and downs. You just got to keep grinding.”

hoops and dreams

Marc Eversley when he played for Urbana University in Ohio.

Eversley family

Eversley first fell in love with playing baseball and hockey during his youth. But he soon grew tall. He started playing organized basketball in the seventh grade and quickly fell in love with it. With no NBA team in Canada to watch at the time, he grew up a big fan of then-Los Angeles Lakers star Magic Johnson.

“I just loved hooping,” Eversley said. “I just loved being outside. Being with my friends [playing basketball]. I had one of those backboards that we tied to our balcony. I would make a lot of noise late at night. Neighbors would complain. But I loved to play.”

Eversley went to Central Peel Secondary School in the ninth grade before transferring to Cardinal Leger Secondary School, where he became a basketball star on a successful team. His parents, meanwhile, were constantly pushing him to focus on his education, unfamiliar with the basketball world. But as Eversley began getting interest from American colleges with basketball scholarships, his parents grew a stronger appreciation for the sport.

“Two parents who grew up in Barbados, they didn’t really know what a scholarship was,” Eversley said. “When they finally connected the dots and figured out that it was going to pay for school, one, they were proud and, two, they were happy because they weren’t going to have a bill to pay at the end for my education.”

Eversley began his college basketball career as a redshirt for Daemen College in Amherst, New York, during the 1990-91 season, but never played there. He transferred to Saint Mary’s College in Orchard Lake, Michigan, in 1991 and played during the 1992-93 season. After Saint Mary’s discontinued its basketball program in 1993, he transferred to a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) school, Urbana University in Urbana, Ohio. Considering that Urbana was not a hotbed for NBA talent, Eversley was more focused on earning a bachelor’s degree in business marketing in 1995 than learning post moves.

“I was an OK player. I probably could have played a lower level in Europe, but being in college in the NAIA, it’s not the highest-caliber basketball,” Eversley said. “I noticed when I got to my junior year this is more of a means to an end. And the end was getting a degree. I never had the fantasy of playing in the NBA, and focused more on making sure I got an education, made proper choices, not getting somebody knocked up, not getting stuck spending the rest of my life in Urbana.”

getting closer to the stars

After graduating from college, Eversley moved back to Brampton in 1995 in need of a job. While reading the newspaper one day, he saw a classified ad for a supervisor job at a new Nike outlet store that was opening at a mall in Cookstown, Ontario. Soon, he was back among basketball shoes.

“I was in charge of everybody out on the floor while they were selling shoes,” said Eversley, who worked at the store from 1996 to 2002. “The cool thing about that was we literally built the store. We walked in, it was drywall, and a frame. We were responsible for everything that is entailed in starting a new store. Receiving product, putting in registers, putting together fixtures, loading the floor.”

But during his time with Nike, Eversley dealt with personal tragedy when his brother, Tyrone, committed suicide in 2001 at the age of 36.

“I got an early morning call from my parents and thought, ‘Why are they calling me so early? What’s going on?’ ” Eversley said. “They told me my brother had taken his life. He was a gifted athlete, he was a runner, he was fun, loving spirit, he was a man of the arts, he was a musician, a DJ. …

“He fell into depression and he ended up taking his own life. That hit me hard, for sure. You only have one brother. We used to share a bedroom when we grew up in Jane and Finch. We used to fight, laugh, play and now he was gone. That hits you hard, that takes a toll.”

Eversley would continue to work for Nike, getting to know executives in the process. And, in 2002, he was hired to work at its headquarters in Portland, Oregon, where he managed the sports marketing deals for the Toronto Raptors, Vancouver Grizzlies and Canada’s national basketball team, colleges and high schools.

Eversley would later work closely with two NBA standouts — Phoenix Suns guard Steve Nash, who was from Vancouver, and then-Raptors star Vince Carter. He said he learned a lot about dealing with star players from working with Carter, who he became close with in Toronto.

“You learn how to speak to them on their level to where they truly understand and appreciate you for you,” said Eversley, who is the godfather of Carter’s daughter. “That’s not an easy thing to do. With Vince, I always positioned myself as somebody who was going to be a provider or somebody who was going to provide solutions or results for him, as opposed to somebody who was always asking him for something. Often with stars, anybody who gets close to them is always either looking for a picture, an autograph, or something.”

from nike to the nba

In 2006, then-Raptors general manager Bryan Colangelo was looking to hire someone in basketball operations that not only knew the game but had Canadian ties and could help players get adjusted to Toronto. Then-Raptors scout Jim Kelly recommended Eversley. After interviewing with Colangelo at a Starbucks in Phoenix, Eversley was hired as director of basketball operations with the Raptors.

“After one meeting, I realized that his local ties, an ability to identify basketball talent and relate to modern-day players through his experience at Nike, not to mention his physical presence and poise, Marc identified as an ideal fit,” Colangelo said.

During seven years with the Raptors, Eversley would be promoted to vice president of scouting and assistant general manager. At one point, Eversley and Masai Ujiri both worked under Colangelo as assistant general managers.

“You’re working for your hometown team, the game you love, you got a pretty good position with a growing organization, you’ve got a boss who’s giving you autonomy to grow and he’s giving you a platform to grow,” said Eversley, who lists being part of the drafting of DeMar DeRozan as his greatest accomplishment in Toronto. “It was perfect, it was tailor-made. At the time, we had a little bit of brand building to do with the franchise in the organization. Trying to put Toronto on the NBA map. …

“I worked with Chris Bosh, who was an emerging star, he was about to become an All-Star, developed a great relationship and friendship with him, which I still have today. I just learned a bunch of different things.”

Eversley left for to the Washington Wizards in 2013 to work under Ernie Grunfeld as vice president of scouting. He returned to work with Colangelo with the Sixers in 2016 as senior vice president of player personnel. But in June 2018, Colangelo resigned from his position as president of basketball operations after his wife admitted to operating Twitter accounts that criticized team members and offered positive words about her husband.

Eversley said that was the toughest part of his career, as he was saddened about Colangelo and worried that it could have a negative impact on himself.

“The Bryan situation was tough,” Eversley said. “There’s a dear friend, mentor, who I love. He got into a really difficult situation. With that, I’m sure there was a little bit of residue where people are looking at me like, ‘What’s up? You involved in this?’ That was probably the most difficult part thus far, but again, he and I remain very close.”

Eversley interviewed for Colangelo’s opening and also for a general manager opening for the Charlotte Hornets, but did not land either job.

Soon after, the Bulls would come calling.

‘he was ready’

After Karnisovas was named the Bulls’ executive vice president of basketball operations in mid-April, he reached out to Eversley about taking the general manager position. Eversley interviewed with Karnisovas, Bulls president Michael Reinsdorf, new assistant general manager JJ Polk and vice president of player personnel Pat Connelly over the phone and Zoom because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Eversley shared his vision in a digital presentation.

“I love his experience at Nike,” Reinsdorf said. “It shows his ability to connect, not only with players but also with their families and support teams. When it comes to working in the NBA, he hasn’t skipped any steps. He methodically worked his way through different organizations gaining tremendous experience.”

Karnisovas called Eversley on the night of April 26 to offer him the position.

“As he’s saying that, my jaw is dropping and I’m like, ‘This is really freaking happening,’ ” Eversley said. “After eight or nine days of not sleeping, studying, it just became real in that moment. You try and contain your emotions and try to stay cool in the moment.”

An elated Eversley accepted the position and made his first call afterward to his “big brother” Ujiri, who paused a movie he was watching with his wife to pick up the call. Ujiri said he was ecstatic to get the good news.

“I felt strongly about Marc. I felt he was ready,” Ujiri said. “He has gone through the learning, growing and dynamic process of getting to where he is.”

Said Carter: “When I met Marc many years ago, I knew he was destined to lead, direct and support on this level.”

It’s uncertain when Eversley will get to Chicago, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But he is ready to make an impact in his new role.

“Arturas is the final decision-maker,” Eversley said. “That’s the one thing that I don’t know if it needs to be said, but needs to be understood. He’s the guy. My job is to support his vision, work in lockstep with him to help grow this program. I’ll have a voice in the draft room, trades, free agency.”

And he is hopeful to have a voice in the Chicago community, too. For starters, he said, he would like to get involved with the Obama Foundation’s efforts in Chicago.

“I’ve got a responsibility to a lot of kids, to a city, to a championship city, to a city that is burning for the days of The Last Dance,” Eversley said. “You look at Chicago as a city and some of the socioeconomic challenges they’ve had over the last few years, what can I do, or potentially do, to help alleviate some of that pain? Perhaps, you can do it through basketball. That provides an unbelievable opportunity for myself, everyone in the front office and in the organization to help make change.”

Marc J. Spears is the senior NBA writer for Andscape. He used to be able to dunk on you, but he hasn’t been able to in years and his knees still hurt.