John Hammond Returns to Greenville College
Homecoming weekend brings back many alums to the Greenville College campus each year. A lot of people from GC have gone on to do great things since graduating, but few are as distinguished as John Hammond. Hammond is the current general manager of the Milwaukee Bucks of the NBA, and a former winner of the NBA’s Executive of the Year award.
Hammond was in town for the Homecoming festivities, and mainly to help dedicate the new tennis complex on campus to Scott Burgess. Burgess and Hammond were roommates and great friends as freshmen basketball players at Greenville College in 1972. One day in practice Burgess collided with a teammate and suffered an injury to his brain, which caused him to die three days later. Hammond took the loss very hard, but the GC community helped to get him through the trial.
“I truly believe that if I would have been somewhere else, I might not have finished college,” Hammond stated. He noted how even students he didn’t know would stop and ask him how he was doing after the loss of his friend. Little things like that helped convince Hammond to stay at Greenville and begin the process of eventually becoming a top executive in the NBA.
Hammond grew up in Zion, Illinois, and never imagined he’d be where he is today. While attending Greenville College, he planned on being a high school or college basketball coach. “The NBA thing was never really a dream,” Hammond explained. “I used to walk into HJ Long Gymnasium and be in that gym at 10 o’ clock at night, and I used to shoot that ball and think, ‘Man if I could ever just catch a break.’”
Hammond started out his coaching career at a small high school in Nebraska, before becoming an assistant at Nebraska University, Houston Baptist, and Southwest Missouri State. He joined the NBA ranks after a childhood friend, Billy McKinney who played in the NBA, helped get him a job with the Minnesota Timberwolves in 1989 as an assistant coach and scout. He moved onto a similar job with the Detroit Pistons the next season. Then, he moved to a similar role with the Los Angeles Clippers as the scouting director and assistant coach, before eventually being named the top assistant. Hammond went back to the Clippers as an assistant coach, before moving back to Detroit to be the Vice President of Basketball Operations. The Pistons won an NBA title in 2004 during his time there. He was named the Milwaukee Bucks GM in 2008, and this past season helped the Bucks to a playoff appearance and a 26 game turnaround from the season before.
Speaking to GC students, faculty, and local media last week, Hammond stressed the importance of thinking of others and hard work to get to where he was. “I believe in leadership through service.” Greenville College athletic director Kent Krober, also a good friend of Hammond’s, had the chance to witness him put his words into action this past year when he visited Hammond during a Bucks game. Krober noted that he treated everyone, from people working in parking, to ushers, to security, with respect. “He called everyone by name,” Krober said.
Hard work has also been a staple of Hammond’s career. He told to students to always take advantage of any opportunity they might get and do it to the best of their ability. “I try to be the first one in the office and the last one to leave,” Hammond explained.
While Hammond has caught many breaks, he has worked hard to take full advantage of them and to get to where he is today. He has officially “hit the big time” but still remembers his roots at Greenville College, where he has visited several times since graduating. “This little place had a lot to do with the opportunities I have today.”
Here Hammond discusses the new players he helped sign and bring to the Bucks this upcoming season.