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Volume 21 No. 13
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JoAn Scott, NCAA

n the eve of the Dream Team’s Olympic gold-medal win in Barcelona in 1992, the team’s Reebok-supplied medal ceremony warmups sat boxed in JoAn Scott’s hotel room closet.

JoAn Scott
Led by Michael Jordan, the six Dream Team members who endorsed Nike had made it clear they would not accept their medals while wearing the Reebok marks. Heading to the gold-medal game, they agreed as a team to cover them up.

On game day, Scott, then an assistant to USA Basketball head Dave Gavitt, picked out the jackets one by one, pinning back each lapel to cover the Reebok logo. To give the players further cover, Gavitt sent Scott out to find American flags they could drape over their shoulders.

“I don’t know that I’m particularly proud of it today, but we did what we felt like we had to do,” said Scott, who, as fate would have it, later built a successful 17-year career at Nike, where she managed the brand’s relationships in college basketball. “Now, having worked for a manufacturer and understanding what they pay and what rights they get, I wouldn’t want that to happen to me. But remember, the players were pretty honest all along about where they stood.”

Three years ago, Scott left Nike to join the senior management at the NCAA, where she serves as managing director of the Division I men’s basketball tournament. Before she took the job, she sought advice from Tom Jernstedt, the former NCAA administrator who’s known widely as the father of modern-day March Madness.

“He reminded me that this is one of the jewels in all of sports,” said Scott, who came to the job with deep connections to college basketball. “There’s the Olympics, the Super Bowl, March Madness. To be in that company and still be in the world of men’s basketball was an amazing opportunity.”

— Bill King

  • An attribute I look for when hiring: Someone who thinks differently than I do.
  • A networking tip I’ve learned: Ask questions, which I think many women don’t normally do because it can make you look weaker.
  • Biggest challenge I face working in sports: Being judged. “What do you really know about basketball?” It’s frustrating when I’m not given the opportunity to share how deeply sports run through my blood.
  • Best advice I’ve received for career development: Don’t change for them. I’ve been told that I’m not “Nike enough.” I grew up in a small town and haven’t changed who I am.
  • Woman in sports business I’d most like to meet: WNBA President Lisa Borders.
  • Most memorable sporting event attended: The Dream Team gold medal game.
  • Groups supported: I’m on the board of the business school at Butler University, and I support my alma maters, including my high school.