What Is an ‘Executive Director of Research and Identity,’ and Why Did the Los Angeles Clippers Hire a Magazine Writer to Be Theirs?

DALLAS, TX - FEBRUARY 09:  The Los Angeles Clippers logo worn by Chris Paul #3 of the Los Angeles Clippers at American Airlines Center on February 9, 2015 in Dallas, Texas.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
The Clippers hired Lee Jenkins, formerly of Sports Illustrated, to fill a new role.
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Clippers made a most unusual offseason signing last week when the team hired Sports Illustrated writer Lee Jenkins to become their Executive Director of Research and Identity. It’s a newly invented job title for Jenkins, who is best known for his engaging, soft-focus profiles of basketball superstars. Jenkins is a talented feature writer, but will he make a good, uh, Identity Director?

Jenkins has a knack for getting close access to NBA stars. For example, when LeBron James returned to the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2014, he announced the move in a first-person story written with Jenkins. The Clippers, it seems, want to have someone in their ranks who knows how to understand players at a certain level. “[Reporters] try to put it together like puzzles until we’ve formed a portrait of a person,” Jenkins told ESPN last week. “I’m going to try to bring that same process to the Clippers in hopes it will complement what their incredible group of evaluators already accomplish.”

Jenkins’ new title is vague and, by the sound of it, so is the job it describes. “It’s not sports psychology,” he told the New Yorker’s Ben McGrath. “When it comes to identity, they’re trying to figure out where they’re headed.” He noted that the Clippers are a tough squad. “There’s a culture to build around that, and there are elements of the organization at large that will dovetail with that. It won’t all be player-based. There are ways to help build a story.”

McGrath doesn’t mention Jenkins’ new salary, though he does throw out a guess of “a few hundred thousand dollars, or whatever the Clippers are paying Jenkins.” That’s all I need to hear. It is time for me to follow in Jenkins’ footsteps and join an NBA franchise. Seeing as he’s got the Executive Director of Research and Identity corner covered, I humbly offer these alternative job titles to my future employers:

—Executive VP of Friendly Gestures and Brief Check-Ins

—Assistant Chairman of Optimism Integration and Implementation

—Ghost President (I hang around the office going “whoooooooooo” all day)

—Director of Focus, Attention to Detail, and Focus

—Cake Boss

—Head of Cutting Loose and Taking the Guys to Benihana Every Now and Then

NBA teams should email me directly with their offers. Please put “Ghost President” in the subject line.