Climbing the NBA ranks

Tommy Sheppard’s ’91 love of sports has guided him throughout his life. It set the foundation for a career that began at NMSU, where he worked in sports media relations as a student, and led him to the NBA, where he has spent the past 26 years working as a top executive for two teams.

Sheppard, an Albuquerque native who earned a bachelor’s degree in community health and played football for the Aggies for three seasons, was named general manager of the Washington Wizards in July 2019.

“I’ve been in the NBA for 26 years. This will be my 26th season. It was always a goal of mine to become a general manager in the NBA,” Sheppard says.

Sheppard credits the opportunities he received as a student at NMSU for kickstarting his career.

“Steve Shutt helped change my life,” he says, referring to the former longtime assistant athletic director of media relations at NMSU. “He gave me an opportunity to work during my senior year as I was graduating. It was just tremendous. He gave me this whole career in athletics.”

Sheppard worked as Shutt’s student assistant for two years, during which time he developed an interest in pursuing a career in sports media relations. He says, “NMSU gave me an incredible opportunity to learn and be around fantastic people,” including Shutt, Darryl Seibel ’90, former NMSU football head coach Jim Hess, former NMSU information services director Eddie Groth, who died in 2013, and current NMSU athletics director Mario Moccia ’89.

When he left NMSU after graduation, Sheppard took a job at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, as an assistant sports information director. He was quickly promoted to sports information director and held the position until he joined the Denver Nuggets in 1994.

“I started in media relations, and I expanded into scouting and working with the front office,” Sheppard recalls of his time serving as the senior director of Team Services and Player Relations for the Nuggets. “It was basically creating a new department within a department. We were team services, so we helped our players in every area as they moved and transitioned into the NBA.”

Sheppard spent nine years with the Nuggets before joining the Washington Wizards, owned by Monumental Basketball, in Washington, D.C. He served as the team’s senior vice president for basketball operations for 15 years until he was promoted to interim general manager in April 2019. Three months later, he was named general manager, joining the leadership team of Monumental Basketball.

In his new role, Sheppard oversees strategy, analytics, player personnel, scouting and coaching for the Wizards; Capital City Go-Go, the Wizards’ NBA G League affiliate; and Wizards District Gaming, a professional NBA 2K League team based in Washington.

Carlos Andres López ’10

Washington Wizards 2019 draft pick Rui Hachimura (center) poses with head coach Scott Brooks (left) and general manager Tommy Sheppard during an introductory news conference in June 2019 at the Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C.

Washington Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard introduces 2019 NBA draft pick Rui Hachimura during an introductory news conference in June at the Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C.