Group Created with Sketch.
Volume 20 No. 42
  • Created with Sketch.
  • Created with Sketch.
  • Created with Sketch.

My first job in sports: Chris Wright

Chris Wright, a former soccer player and coach, made his debut as an executive in that sport before moving to basketball. “You come in and learn,” Wright says. “You have to be prepared to change and to be nimble.”

Wright’s a longtime basketball exec, but he hasn’t forgotten his soccer moves.
LEARNING CURVE: I handled player contracts and the back end of the business operations and from that [owner Edward DeBartolo Sr.] gave me the ability to run the front office as well. I had no idea what it took to sell a ticket or run public relations or handle broadcasts, but Mr. DeBartolo gave me my Ph.D. by giving me the job.

PATH TO GM: I was a soccer player in England and I got into the coaching side very quickly. I kept coming over to the U.S. to soccer camps and got to know a lot of people in Pittsburgh.

FIRST-DAY NERVES: I walked into “The Igloo” [Civic Arena] and wondered what I was doing. I was walking into an arena that looked like a spaceship where I had doubts about the job. But I kept reminding myself that I knew a lot about soccer and DeBartolo wouldn’t have hired me if he didn’t think I could do it.

FIRST ORDER OF BUSINESS: What I realized very early was that I needed to find people who were passionate about the game and knew the business functions. That seemed like it would be difficult.

HOT ROD: As an English guy, I loved the singer Rod Stewart so I decided that our theme would be “Hot Legs” after his music. The player introductions were to the “Hot Legs” music and we had a Miss Hot Legs contest. At halftime, I used to drive around the arena with Miss Hot Legs in the car, much to the chagrin of my family.