Alum finds traction in WNBA and NBA G League

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Shannon Norton ’13 (Courtesy: Shannon Norton)

By Leo Kagan, Staff Writer

Shannon Norton ‘13 was recently promoted to Operations Coordinator for two professional basketball teams, and is now aiming higher. 

 

Emerson alum Shannon Norton ‘13 is climbing the ranks in professional basketball management, aspiring to be a part of the development of women’s sports at the professional level. 

 

Norton played three seasons on the women’s basketball team and served as the team’s assistant coach for four more. As a player, she finished top 10 in career assists and 3-pointers made, and helped coach the Lions to three NEWMAC playoff appearances. 

 

She was recently promoted to Operations Coordinator for the WNBA’S Indiana Fever and the NBA G League’s Fort Wayne Mad Ants after being hired just this April as the equipment manager, which she explains provides some much-needed job security.

 

“A lot of [these] positions are seasonal,” she said. “There’s not a lot of full-time people except for the higher-ups and the head coaches.”

 

Norton, however, set herself apart with a strong work ethic and attention to detail, piquing the interest of fellow alum Chris Taylor ‘11, the General Manager for the Mad Ants. 

 

Taylor invited Norton to work with the Mad Ants, leading to a full-time position. She is now responsible for a variety of duties from equipment management, travel planning, and keeping statistics during games. One of the most interesting aspects of her job, she says, is her proximity to the coaching staff. 

 

“I have a coaching background and I’ve always been interested in that,” she said. “[Management] likes that and they allow me to be in coaches’ meetings. I get to see game plans [and] I’m in on pregame, halftime, postgame talks with the team. I don’t think that’s something a lot of equipment managers get to do in the league.” 

 

Norton isn’t just a spectator to these coaches meetings, she’s also contributing to key decisions.

 

“I [track] our lineup efficiency, which players are playing well together,” she said. “I keep that during the game so that I can tell our assistant coach at halftime.”

 

Norton gained experience watching and analyzing players as an assistant coach on Emerson. She joined Head Coach Bill Gould’s 2018 women’s basketball team after coaching for two seasons at Cal Tech. Gould says Norton developed into an excellent coach while he worked with her.

 

“She moved from just knowing [basketball] and doing it to becoming a really good teacher,” Gould said. “That’s not easy to do. That’s why you hear [that] sometimes great players don’t make great coaches. Shannon… really became both.”

 

Gould added that Norton was always a team player, referencing a game in Norton’s senior year where she tallied a career-high 23 points against her former team, the Suffolk University Rams. Gould said Norton was playing to prove that the Rams, who used her sparingly in her lone season at Suffolk, had been wrong to let her go. 

 

“She had a really good game and was clearly a factor in the win against Suffolk,” he said. “She played a big part and there’s no question, there was some extra motivation. But the game wasn’t selfish by any stretch. She wanted to prove [that], ‘You guys [Suffolk] made a mistake.’” 

 

Norton brings the same unselfish nature to her new position, serving multiple roles for the Fever and the Mad Ants. 

 

“[I do] all the little things people wouldn’t necessarily think of,” she said. “Anything that pops up with the players, they come to me or our [Director of Basketball Operations] and we handle any inconveniences.”

 

Norton is happy about her new full-time role, but she also has an eye on the future. 

 

“I think it’s going to come down to my decision on which path I’d rather take,” she said. “Whether I’ll be in operations, managing a team, or if I want to jump back into coaching. I might have to go back to [the collegiate level] to gain a little more experience.”

 

Her ultimate goal is to help expand the prevalence of women’s sports at the professional level. While she originally sought to prove to others she could take up space in a male-dominated profession, Norton said her intentions have since shifted.

 

“My main goal in coming here was to work for the WNBA and empower women,” she said. “Right now, it would be more empowering to help build up the WNBA. Even if I have a small role right now, hopefully I can climb the ladder and be in a bigger role to make changes within it.”