Oct 10, 2014, 10:35 AM EDT
The following feature on Pat Garrity (’98, basketball) was written by Craig Chval (’15), and first published in the football program for the Notre Dame vs. North Carolina game on Oct. 11, 2014. This weekend, Garrity will be among those on campus for a men’s basketball program reunion.
From former University of Notre Dame basketball standout Pat Garrity’s résumé, comes the idea he wasn’t one of those kids who knew exactly what he wanted to be when he grew up.
The 1997 BIG EAST Player of the Year graduated magna cum laude from Notre Dame with a degree in pre-professional studies from the College of Science in 1998. He played 10 years in the NBA before earning an MBA from Duke University and moving on to Bridgewater Associates, a Connecticut-based investment company.
And last month, Garrity made yet another career turn when he became the Detroit Pistons’ new director of strategic planning.
“I learned a lot in the field (of finance) and met some great people,” Garrity says. “But it got to the point where I was missing basketball, especially the NBA, and then this job came along.
“It was just one of those things where there was an opportunity for me and it was the right time to make a move. It was in my heart. I don’t feel it’s necessarily that I’m jumping around, but it’s more of the case of this situation coming around at the right time for me.”
The former Irish forward and current treasurer of the Notre Dame Monogram Club works under Stan Van Gundy, his former coach when he played for the Orlando Magic. Van Gundy serves in a dual role for the Pistons as the team’s coach and president.
Garrity’s job title doesn’t adequately explain his new responsibilities, but he will be an important addition to Van Gundy’s new regime.
“We have a completely new group here in the front office. A new general manager and several new scouts and assistant general managers,” Garrity says. “I have been brought in by the organization to examine the ways things are being done on a daily basis and to identify areas where we can be better and improve what we are doing.
“My job isn’t about evaluating players. It’s more about improving the operation of the organization and making it run more efficiently. In many ways, it’s sort of like being an internal consultant, a problem-solver.”
With his new career, Garrity joins an impressive list of Irish alumni who serve in the front offices of professional sports teams. The group includes John Paxson (Chicago Bulls, vice president of basketball operations), Stan Bowman (Chicago Blackhawks, vice president and general manager), Jed York (San Francisco 49ers, CEO), Ted Phillips (Chicago Bears, president and CEO), Crane Kenney (Chicago Cubs, president of business operations), John McHale Jr. (Major League Baseball, executive vice president and chief information officer), Lake Dawson (Tennessee Titans, vice president of football operations), and Brooks Boyer (Chicago White Sox, vice president and chief marketing officer).
It isn’t by chance or coincidence that so many Notre Dame graduates have found success at the executive level in many different sports.
“There are so many individuals who are associated with Notre Dame and the athletic department all over the world,” Garrity says. “It seems that wherever I have been, I’ve had the opportunity to interact with people associated with the University and the athletic department in some way or another. With many athletes and alumni involved in sports, it makes it easy to take advantage of the networking opportunities.”
Garrity’s four years at Notre Dame also have given him skills that have been useful throughout his career in the NBA and in his job in the financial world.
“The most beneficial part of being a student at Notre Dame was the broad-based education I received,” Garrity says. “It prepared me in terms of how to communicate and write, as well as time management and understanding the importance of meeting deadlines.
“Playing a varsity sport at Notre Dame and going to school creates many long days for a student-athlete. I look at my experience and I think back to the intensity of the workload. The quality of expectations both as a student and athlete prepared me well.”
At Notre Dame, Garrity never shied away from a heavy workload, juggling time on the court as the face of the Irish basketball program with time in the labs completing organic chemistry research.
He put his intellectual drive to good use as a member of the NBA Players Association for six years, serving as both secretary and treasurer of the organization.
“My time working on the executive committee appealed to me from a leadership standpoint,” Garrity says. “It offered me the chance to be in a position where I had the responsibility of representing a broad group and communicating to them the issues and decisions that were important at that time.
“I learned about the economic system of the NBA and how the owners and the NBA approach the game from a business side. There was no better way to get a lesson on the way the league operates from those perspectives than to be a part of the union.”
Just a month into his NBA front-office career, Garrity is still a long way from joining that list of general managers, presidents and CEOs who have come from Notre Dame. But with his record, don’t be surprised to see him move up the ranks.
“If you look at the guys who have become GMs of teams, they’ve worked a long time to get to that spot, so a lot of experience is required,” he says. “And I would like to maybe one day be able to do that. At least right now, three weeks in, I love what I’m doing.”