New EuroLeague boss Marshall Glickman is bringing some NBA thinking to Europe

Marshall Glickman lived a content life. He ran his own sports business consulting company, where he worked with franchises across the U.S. and Europe. He lived in Portland, where he was once president of the Trail Blazers, and was now his own boss.

Then he got a call earlier this year from EuroLeague Basketball, where he had been a consultant. After spending time as a voice from the outside, he suddenly had a chance to help run the operation from the inside.

“This was not what I was looking for or planning on doing,” he said in a call with The Athletic. “But it was just too damn tempting to say no.”

Last month, Glickman was named the acting CEO of EuroLeague Basketball, the top basketball competition in Europe, which pulls together the best teams across the continent. It is the latest stop in a career now in its fifth decade.

His resume already includes stops at the NBA league office and the Blazers, where he helped run the club in the late 1980s and early ’90s. Now, Glickman takes over at the EuroLeague at a critical time. Jordi Bertomeu, who was the EuroLeague’s first and only CEO for the last 22 years, left office this year, reportedly pushed out after a rift with some of the clubs. Glickman took over in his position, while Dejan Bodiroga, a Serbian star who won three EuroLeague titles, is the new president.

The EuroLeague is comprised of 18 clubs spread out across Europe. Thirteen teams are shareholders and long-term competitors, while the others can rotate in and out.

Glickman is not unfamiliar in his new role. He has advised the league over the last 20 years, including two years working directly for Bertomeu from 2002 to 2004. At G2 Strategic, his consulting company, he worked with La Liga, FC Barcelona, CSKA and other federations and clubs.

He now has growth on his mind, outside of just the markets that have been successful for the EuroLeague, and said he is looking at a “blank canvas.” Over the next three-to-four months, he intends to come out with a roadmap “for how to capture the hearts and minds, particularly of Gen Z, and kind of the alpha behind them where I think there’s whitespace.”

He has also considered expansion. Despite EuroLeague’s reach and its status, it does not have licensed teams in some of the biggest cities in Europe, something Glickman has already thought about changing.He mentions that EuroLeague commissioned a study by Deloitte four years ago that yielded insightful research and opportunities in large, global cities.

Glickman said the study shows that EuroLeague can move further into Germany, where it already has Bayern Munich and Alba Berlin as members. There is also room to grow in France, where ASVEL, owned by former Spurs great Tony Parker and situated outside of Lyon, is a member.

“That leaves Paris as an opportunity and Paris is a diverse and large market,” Glickman said.

He adds, “the London market is also high priority. It’s not known or doesn’t certainly have a reputation as basketball market. But if you really look at the market and demographics, from all things it suggests that a well-managed professionally run basketball club playing in the EuroLeague side should have success. London is a little problematic with venue; it’s not as it is in Paris.”

One of the EuroLeague’s shareholder teams, CSKA Moscow, was suspended from the league in February when Russia began its invasion of Ukraine, along with two other non-licensed Russian teams. Glickman said he thinks CSKA will return to the EuroLeague when the war ends.

Part of his mission, he believes, will be to find a middle ground between Europe’s largest clubs and some of its smaller ones. In Europe, there is no salary cap as there is in the NBA.

“Growth is always the word but it’s got to be managed growth,” he said. “We have to get control of salaries, because right now you have big football clubs — Real Madrid and Barcelona being the most notable but also (Turkish club) Fenerbahçe — where basketball is really subsidized by football. They have other clubs in places like Greece and Turkey that are owned by companies in some cases, very wealthy families in some cases, but then you have other clubs that are more independent. So the spread between the haves and the have nots isn’t too fair. The economic spread. So we need to do something to promote competitive balance.”

Glickman is not opposed to a salary cap, though higher salaries are sometimes a draw for luring players on the fence between the NBA and Europe. He said the goal would be to find a balance that can satiate both sides. His argument is that a cap has benefited NBA players as revenues have grown exponentially in that league.

He said he would even entertain it with the EuroLeague Players Association. The two sides signed their EuroLeague Framework Agreement in April, a first-of-its-kind bargaining deal for a union that just sprouted up four years ago.

“It’s not a European thing, but in my mind, and maybe I’m gonna get smacked for saying it, I think yes,” Glickman said. “I don’t mean it’s gonna be a cut and paste from the NBA. It’s not … I just think as a matter of principle if the players recognize that they are financial partners and it’s then in their interest that we grow — in the context of that we put some constraints on the top end, but also put some constraints on the bottom end — think they’ll ultimately see it’s hopefully to their benefit.”

Glickman was adamant that he thinks the current financial system, which allows Europe’s largest basketball clubs to use their economic muscle to bring in the best players, can continue. Players, many of whom are the beneficiaries of those large salaries, may disagree. Still, he said he thinks something will have to change.

Glickman admitted, however, that it is a complex issue, burdened in part by the different tax laws in each country with a team in the EuroLeague.

“I don’t think it’s sustainable that we have a situation where certain clubs can pay whatever,” he said. “And then other clubs just don’t have the resources and then we have a big gap between the haves and have nots, I don’t think that’s healthy.”

Now nearly a month into the job, Glickman is enjoying his new challenge. He spoke with a reporter from a hotel room in Athens as part of his tour of EuroLeague cities.

In his first week on the job, he met with players from some of the league’s clubs. It seemed like serendipity. One player, Luke Sikma, a forward for Alba Berlin, was born in Washington state, and played at the University of Portland — a neat tie for Glickman to his own roots in that city. Glickman told Sikma that his dad, Jack, a seven-time All-Star with the rival Seattle Supersonics in the late 1970s and early 1980s, used to beat up on the Blazers when Glickman worked for them.

“It’s easy to make recommendations as a consultant,” he said. “I thought what the hell, let’s see if I can actually implement something. They’ve given me a lot of rope and I’m having fun and I get to see these amazing cities and eat a lot of great dinners. So I’m not complaining. I just look at it as a journey. I’ve been kind of a traveling man for a long time. I ran an NBA team back in the day, but it seems like a century ago. It’s very different. I don’t think there’s many NBA executives that have had this journey.”

by Mike Vorkunov