Brandon D. Williams likes to believe he’s gone about rising in the ranks professionally with a smart approach.
But there was a time Williams admits he was “insane.”
That’s when, while working for the NBA league office, he decided to attend law school at Rutgers, where he earned his law degree in 2012. That meant staying on task as associate vice president of basketball operations while studying, too.
But the insanity was worthwhile.
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Williams’ latest career move has him joining the Kings as assistant general manager, leaving the Philadelphia 76ers’ front office where he also served as general manager of their G-League team, the Delaware 87ers.
Williams’ insanity was part of his plan to diversify his skills as an executive so that when an opportunity like the one in Sacramento opened, he’d be ready.
“I wasn’t just looking for an opportunity,” Williams said. “I wanted to be good and stick at it. I’ve had great examples, and I wanted to be able to steal – like players should – steal from those players that you respect.”
Williams worked in compliance during part of his time with the NBA, which meant dealing with appeals and working with lawyers, so what better way to deal with that than going to law school?
That Williams would figure out how to juggle law school and long hours with the NBA is no surprise, given his background.
He was undrafted from Davidson in 1996 and eventually worked his way onto three NBA rosters, appearing in 18 games from 1998-2003 while also playing in the CBA and overseas.
While at Davidson, he was an intern at the White House for the Domestic Policy Council during President Bill Clinton’s first term.
Those experiences, along with his time with the 76ers, are how Williams prepared himself for this role with the Kings.
“I was not going to be able to lean on my professional playing career to deliver me a great job,” Williams said. “What I’d have to do is, piece by piece, step by step, kind of add the skills that I’d think would earn me respect and, hopefully, at some point deliver me an opportunity. ... I feel like now is the time.”
Williams’ hiring came after spending last weekend with general manager Vlade Divac and his staff. Williams said he felt a good “rhythm” with Divac and the rest of the Kings’ front office, one that had been maligned before this summer.
“I started to feel like I know what a lot of people outside of the organization know, and reading reports. And who knows if that’s true?” Williams said. “There’s always a little bit of truth, but who knows until you’re a part of it? And what I felt being around him and others is that the organization might be a little bit misunderstood.
“I do think there’s a real strong desire to put good people in place and to compete for something special, and there’s certainly no disillusionment that it isn’t going be hard. It’s going to take a lot of grinding effort.”
Williams has been entrenched in a grind since 2013, when he joined the 76ers organization. Philadelphia piled up losses and the organization was mocked by the phrase, “Trust the Process.”
The 76ers appear to be on track now, but the pain of rebuilding was evident. His time with a lot of players in Philadelphia should help with the Kings, who will have 10 players with three years or fewer in NBA experience. Williams said “it’s going to take a very systematic approach and no fear” as the Kings go through their rebuilding process.
“There’s some commonalities for sure in the boldness and excitement and the belief in being king of the hill,” Williams said. “And I think that’s what was really attractive. If this in any way felt depressing, if it was about the small market, ‘woe is me’ and ‘we’re the underdog’ and ‘people don’t take us seriously,’ I wouldn’t have been as attracted.”
Williams said he never worried about when a job like Sacramento would be available for him. He’s proud of his work with the 76ers organization and looks forward to this step in his career.
He didn’t sit around worrying about what others were doing, believing with all the tools he’d picked up that his skills would be recognized.
“And that’s what I want to impart on our players,” Williams said. “We won’t spend any time looking at the big-market teams or the sexy teams or the flossy teams now. We’re going to work on the things we can control. We’re going to get better and, at some point, the whole thing. The story is compelling, they won’t be able to deny it and that’s why I was excited about taking this opportunity.”