Student spends day in the eye of Seattle Storm

Seattle Storm CEO Karen Bryant talks Wednesday with Cedar Heights Middle School student Breanna Leonard. Leonard won an essay contest, earning her the right to spend a day job-shadowing someone who inspired her. She picked Bryant, for her dedication. CharlEs Cortes, Kent Reporter - Charles Cortes/Kent Reporter
Seattle Storm CEO Karen Bryant talks Wednesday with Cedar Heights Middle School student Breanna Leonard. Leonard won an essay contest, earning her the right to spend a day job-shadowing someone who inspired her. She picked Bryant, for her dedication. CharlEs Cortes, Kent Reporter
— image credit: Charles Cortes/Kent Reporter

At the center of the Storm, it is anything but quiet.

With the draft approaching and the team’s superstar free agent still unsigned as the June season opener approaches, the new Seattle Storm offices in Seattle’s Interbay neighborhood seem to buzz with activity.

At its center is team CEO and President Karen Bryant. And for one day last week, Cedar Heights Middle School eighth-grader Breanna Leonard was on hand to shadow her day.

And while members of the team were not on hand during her April 8 visit to the team’s headquarters in Seattle’s Interbay neighborhood, Leonard got a behind-the-scenes look at everything that goes into running a championship franchise as it prepares to embark on its landmark 10th season, as a job shadow for Bryant.

Leonard was selected to shadow Bryant due to an essay she wrote as part of the Macy’s “Follow a Leader” program. The student said she chose to write about Bryant because she sounded like an inspiring figure who was dedicated to her job.

As an added bonus, Leonard is a Storm fan.

The day began in Bryant’s office, decorated with team mementos, such as bobbleheads, a book shelf filled with books on sports, business and the business of sports (“Moneyball”) and a small replica of the team’s 2004 WNBA Championship Trophy.

Bryant, a lifelong-Seattle resident, sat Leonard down and explained the organization through a flow chart, as well as how everyone relates back to Bryant.

As the team’s president, Bryant handles all aspects of the business, from preparing for Thursday’s draft (Leonard was even sworn to secrecy as to what was discussed) to overseeing a new marketing video to approving a video to convince Storm center Lauren Jackson to re-sign with the club, to even making an appearance at the Interbay Neighborhood Association meeting.

“I thought it was interesting to learn about her job and all the positions under her,” Leonard said after her day with Bryant.

Bryant sits atop the team’s organization chart with seven department heads sharing space below her. Much of the day was spent in meetings with various levels of the top brass discussing strategy.

“I knew it would be business-like, but I thought more would be basketball,” Leonard said.

Much of the discussion revolved around getting Jackson - who has spent her entire career with the Storm and is finally able to seek free agency - to come back. Among the ways was a book of letters from the owners, fans and former Seattle Sonics superstar Gary Payton, talking about the love he experienced from Seattle fans.

“It really underscores what a special place Seattle is,” Bryant told Leonard.

The team also is hoping to bring Jackson back with a special video of her career highlights and statements she made about playing here, which Leonard got a sneak peak of.

Bryant even asked Leonard her opinion on a new marketing video being created for when (fingers crossed) Jackson re-signs with the team.

Throughout the day, Bryant kept Leonard in the loop, often explaining team strategies or briefings and asking for feedback from Leonard.

And while she expected there to be more basketball than business, Bryant is a businesswoman first. It just so happens that her business is basketball.

“At the end of the day, it matters very little that I played college basketball,” Bryant said.

Bryant was a star player in high school and college, but at the time she graduated, there was not a professional option for her in the United States. Instead, she went into communications, figuring the closest she could get to sports was as a reporter.

From there, she worked her way through the Sonics organization and into a lead role at the Storm so that this year, the Storm’s first as an independent team (not associated with an NBA ownership group), she is running the whole show.

But Bryant is not the only woman in a position of power at Storm headquarters. Of the 26 full-time employees, only eight are men and of the eight leadership positions, five of them are filled by women (not counting Trooper the Cat, of course).

It was a fact not lost on Leonard.

“To know this is like, all girls, is pretty cool,” she said.

Leonard said the most interesting part of Bryant’s job was watching her run meetings to make sure she was on top of everything happening with the team, while the public speaking - even at the neighborhood association- was a scary thought.

That didn’t stop Bryant from calling Leonard up at the meeting, however, to surprise her with an official Storm jersey, complete with her name across the back, something that made even the shy middle schooler smile.

(Editor's note: The Storm picked up Florida State's Mara Freshour in the third round, and California forward Ashley Walker as a 12th-round pick in Thursday's draft. As of Reporter press time Friday, the Storm was still waiting on a decision from free agent Lauren Jackson.)

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