Korn Ferry Taps NBA Executive for Vanderbilt Athletic Director Post

January 3, 2019 – Universities continue to turn to executive search firms to find new athletic directors. Recently, Korn Ferry placed Malcolm Turner as the new vice chancellor for athletics and university affairs and athletics director of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN. The current AD, David Williams, is retiring in May. Jed Hughes, who heads Korn Ferry’s sports practice, led the assignment alongside senior associate Kyle Bowlsby.

“I set out to find a thought leader with the skill-set and vision to manage the next stage of transformation for Vanderbilt athletics, and that’s exactly what we found in Malcolm Turner,” said Nicholas Zeppos, the university’s chancellor. “Malcolm is a proven executive with deep expertise in multiple business disciplines including management, marketing and development across the sports landscape of teams, leagues, facilities and major events.”

“He also carries a deep and personal commitment to education, evidenced by his own academic achievements and his extensive community service,” said Mr. Zeppos. “His exceptional skills, combined with his passion for education and drive for excellence, will bring immense value not only to the Vanderbilt Commodores, but to the rest of the university and to the entire Nashville community.”

Diverse Set of Candidates

Vanderbilt interviewed a number of highly accomplished candidates, ultimately deciding that Mr. Turner was the right fit for the job.

“The level of interest in this role from a superb and diverse set of candidates was nothing short of remarkable,” Mr. Zeppos said. “This was a testament to what I believe is an inspiring and distinctive approach to the student athlete experience that I call ‘the Vanderbilt Way’ – a deep commitment to the comprehensive development of student athletes to excel on the field of play, academically and in life.”

Related: Turnkey Sports and Entertainment Finds Director of Athletics for UNC Charlotte

Mr. Zeppos said Mr. Turner was the right choice to take the university’s commitment to student-athletes to the next level and achieve success on and off the field. “Malcolm is a problem solver with a unique ability to bring people together around a common vision,” said Mr. Zeppos. “I am confident that he will have an immediate and profound impact on the Commodores’ success as an elite athletics program by building new relationships and new sources of revenue, while recruiting and retaining extraordinarily talented coaches, students and staff.”

The Right Fit

“Malcolm was a unique candidate and is a perfect fit for taking Vanderbilt athletics forward,” said Vanderbilt University board of trustees member John R. Ingram, who served on the search committee and also chairs the board’s athletics committee. “I’m excited to assist and support Malcolm as we write this next chapter in Commodores history.”


Sports and Entertainment Expansion Elevating Search Business

Over the last quarter century, the sports sector has grown into a formidable global industry. Historically, professional sports teams operated on a relatively modest level, with league officials, team owners, managers, and coaches surrounding themselves with people they knew and trusted from their own small worlds. College sports teams relied on in-house search committees and word-of-mouth recommendations. Much of that has forever changed.

Teams with tremendous followings like the Dallas Cowboys, Real Madrid and Manchester United have seen their valuations soar into the billions of dollars. That’s attracted search firms – big time. Seasoned recruiters now provide strategic planning advice, in addition to talent identification services, with the capability of applying their findings to speed along the process in the hunt for talent. Here’s some further reading from Hunt Scanlon Media.


Mr. Turner, who joins the school in February, is a proven and highly accomplished sports business executive with a passion for the transformative power of education. He currently serves as a member of the NBA’s senior leadership team and president of the NBA G League. Under Mr. Turner’s leadership, the NBA G League has enjoyed unprecedented growth across all areas of its business and basketball operations. Prior to joining the NBA, Mr. Turner worked at Wasserman Media Group, where he helped build the firm’s preeminent consulting division as its managing director, creating and managing sports, entertainment, venue and new product launch strategies

Related: Ventura Partners Leading AD Search for University of Utah

“Malcolm is an exceptionally talented executive and an all-around great person,” said David Stern, NBA commissioner emeritus. “The NBA benefited tremendously from his leadership, acumen and collaborative mindset – he’s one of a kind. He expanded the NBA’s development league in unprecedented ways to form the successful G League, and enhanced the league’s commitment to player, coach and staff development. I have no doubt he will bring that same commitment to excellence and impact to Vanderbilt’s athletics program.”

Korn Ferry proved to be an invaluable partner in the search for the right athletic director. “The key to our choosing Korn Ferry to assist with our search is the firm’s demonstrated ability to recruit a pool of candidates with diverse experiences and backgrounds,” said Mr. Zeppos.

Mr. Hughes, of Korn Ferry, is renowned for identifying, assessing and developing leaders for sports organizations. His relationships within sports and intercollegiate athletics are extensive, having spent 20 years coaching in professional and intercollegiate football and working for five Hall of Fame coaches. Jason Belzer of Forbes has called Mr. Hughes the most valuable connector of the sports industry. Mr. Bowlsby is also experienced in managing high-profile executive transitions at the collegiate level, joining Korn Ferry’s global sports practice in 2015.

Related: Eastman & Beaudine Lands Athletic Director for University of South Florida

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor; and Andrew W. Mitchell, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

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