When the NBA draft begins tonight at 8, among those paying close attention to the outcome will be Charlie Stevens ’20, who works as a basketball operations assistant within the scouting and strategy group of the San Antonio Spurs.
Stevens defied the odds to secure a position with the team in the spring of 2021. Former shooting guards from Division 3 schools do not typically land with NBA franchises, whose jobs commonly go to graduates from Division 1 colleges with bigger programs, wider alumni basketball networks, and deeper access to the league’s decision-makers.
But Stevens had two key Clark allies, whose mentorship and connections proved invaluable.
Men’s basketball coach Tyler Simms met regularly with Stevens to help map out his career and “put me in contact with just about everyone he knew who worked in the NBA,” he says.
In his junior year, Stevens, a political science major, took Marketing to You, a class taught by Lawrence Norman ’94, MBA ’95, a former Adidas executive who played on the Clark basketball team during his student years. Norman brings prominent businesspeople from a variety of areas into his classroom to share their expertise and advice.
“All the speakers in Lawrence Norman’s class were compelling and engaging regardless of their industry,” Stevens says. “The lessons and takeaways from that class were transferable to anything you wanted to do.”
Simultaneous internships during his Clark years — with Excel Sports Management, a top basketball agency, and with a professional team in Israel — gave him insight into the worlds of player development and basketball operations. Stevens began compiling 40-page scouting reports of players he believed had the potential to compete in the NBA. He submitted the summaries with his résumé to teams throughout the league “to show that I had a real passion for the work while also showing what I was capable of, even though I still had much to learn.”
“No one asked me to do this,” he says, “but I figured if I include work samples with my résumé, maybe it separates me from the thousands of kids also trying to break into this industry.”
Once he was hired, Stevens, a Bronx native, made the move across the country and got adjusted to an unfamiliar city with assistance from people in the Spurs organization, which he describes as “forward-thinking and empathetic.” He has adopted what he describes as a “small-school approach” toward his job.
“When you play Division 3 ball, you develop the mentality that you’re not bigger than any one task,” he says. “Being part of the Clark men’s team taught me that. You needed to sacrifice your time and exert mental and physical energy over the course of the season. It was an excellent simulation of what life outside of college can look like.
“What I’m doing with the Spurs is not dissimilar to what I was doing at Clark — being competitive, functioning in a team setting, and working toward a common goal.”
While the competition in the NBA is intense at every level, Stevens is hoping for a long career in basketball operations. When asked about his future plans, he laughs, and notes that his answer to the question is always the same: “I want to ride it out as long as I can and see where it takes me.”