The Playmaker: Bob Beaudine

From the boardroom to the basketball court, executive recruiter Bob Beaudine knows who belongs where. Most important, he knows why. CEOs anywhere can learn from his playbook.

Eastman & Beaudine was recently singled out by The Wall Street Journal as the top executive recruiting firm in college athletics, but you wouldn’t guess it by visiting the company’s offices. Instead, an unwitting visitor might think he’d wandered into a rich uncle’s game room. There, in the space perched just above the tony Shops at Legacy in Plano, are walls festooned with sports memorabilia—signed and framed athletic jerseys, team pennants, and head shots of Nolan Ryan, Roger Staubach, Arnold Palmer, and dozens of other familiar faces. A moose head hangs on the wall—a company “mascot” called Bradley—as does a blinking scoreboard. Baskets full of signed golf balls, tennis balls, footballs, basketballs, and baseballs sit on tables and desks. Standing in the middle of it all is Bob Beaudine, the architect of a burgeoning sports business you didn’t know existed. Unless, that is, you happen to be Tom Hicks, Mark Cuban, or a university president. For everyone else, Beaudine is something of a mystery man, which is fine by him.

As Beaudine sees it, most CEOs today are so busy they don’t have the time to think about what they want. “If you don’t have a plan for yourself,” he says, “someone else does.” 

“I have to work behind the scenes,” explains Beaudine, 51. “There’s no press following me around. No one knows who I am. That’s intentional. It’s by design. My clients and candidates appreciate confidentiality. These days, with 24/7 sports radio and ESPN and the like, names get leaked and people drop out of consideration. If they have a job, it’s like they’ve been caught cheating on their spouse.”

The movers and shakers of the sports world know who he is. He’s the one they call when they need to make a key hire. Beaudine put the John Hart-Grady Fuson team together for Tom Hicks and the Rangers (though he politely, ahem, refuses credit for the Jon Daniels hire). He’s put athletic directors in place at Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, as well as SMU, TCU, Rice, and Baylor. In fact, he’s placed ADs at nearly a third of all the major-conference universities. Beaudine also landed Billy Gillispie—the hottest basketball coach in the country after resuscitating A&M’s moribund program—his first coaching gig at UTEP before the Aggies lured him to College Station. Beaudine has placed ADs or coaches at more than 50 of the 326 NCAA Division I universities, which qualifies him as one of the most influential executives in college athletics. Whether you’re a booster, a board member, or a burned-out CEO, Beaudine and his impressive Rolodex want to help.

But helping an organization or turning a program around, Beaudine has discovered, isn’t always as simple as putting the right résumé in the right hands. What’s more, that’s when his job is only beginning.

A few short months ago, Beaudine recruited Steve Orsini from the University of Central Florida to take over the unenviable position of athletic director at SMU. Orsini, a backfield teammate of Joe Montana on Notre Dame’s 1977 national championship squad, had been a CPA and then a 10-year administrator with the Cowboys. During his four years at Central Florida, he oversaw a 70 percent increase in the athletic budget, a first-ever bowl game, and two straight NCAA basketball tournament appearances—all amid a move from the obscure Atlantic Sun Conference to Conference USA.

Seeking a similar turnaround in SMU’s anemic athletic fortunes, Orsini and Beaudine teamed to lure Matt Doherty, a former AP Coach of the Year while with North Carolina, to the Hilltop to replace Jimmy Tubbs, who was fired following an internal investigation that revealed NCAA rules violations. Understandably, Beaudine and Orsini faced a difficult sales job with Doherty.

“He said, ’No,’ initially,” Beaudine says. “The history at SMU had been that they wouldn’t put up the dollars or do what was necessary to take the program up a notch. But when he saw Orsini’s track record and talked with him, he realized that Orsini’s a winner who will give him the resources to do the job.”

Beaudine faced an even more difficult sales job at Baylor, where he was tasked with replacing basketball coach Dave Bliss, who was fired after attempting to cover up cash payments made to a murdered player. Lisa LeMaster, president of The LeMaster Group, a communications consulting firm that specializes in crisis management, worked with Beaudine during the travail to salvage Baylor’s program.

“Given the situation,” LeMaster says, “he couldn’t do a long, protracted search, but it was still amazing how fast he worked.”

LeMaster characterizes Beaudine’s role as “much more than matchmaking. It’s really getting a quick sense of what the clients need and being an advocate for them, but also communicating that to the candidates … becoming a coach for the candidates.”

“Coaching” candidates sometimes involves coaxing them, as when Beaudine eventually lured Scott Drew to Baylor from Valparaiso. Drew insisted that his replacement not jeopardize the quality of the program he would leave behind in Indiana. So Beaudine first convinced Drew’s father, Homer, to come out of retirement to replace his departing son.

“Scott was such a person of integrity that he didn’t want to leave his team in the wrong hands,” Beaudine says.

Beaudine has a lot of help and a huge network of contacts. ESPN basketball analyst Fran Fraschilla met Beaudine at a coaching institute that Virginia Commonwealth University holds each year for the top assistants in the country. Beaudine and Fraschilla, who spent 23 years as a head basketball coach before picking up the microphone, are tasked with helping these young coaches prepare to become head coaches. Since that first meeting, the two have become close friends, to the point that Fraschilla is an “unofficial” advisor to Beaudine on many searches.

“He’s very intuitive,” Fraschilla says. “He has a knack for knowing people and what their strengths are. His greatest strength is people.”

Not surprisingly, people skills are what Beaudine believes set one candidate apart from another.

“When I interview basketball coaches,” he says, “I’m not asking them about Xs and Os. If they weren’t competent, they wouldn’t be sitting in front of me. When I interview coaches, I’m looking at character, integrity, leadership—the interpersonal skills. I’m interviewing for personal qualities that transcend the technical. Coaches who have failed spent all their time on the ’what’—the Xs and Os—and not enough on the ’who.’”

 Finding Your Next DREAM JOB

Beaudine reminds many of his CEO clients that their jobs are rarely lifetime gigs. Just as there are “seasons” to our lives, there are seasons to our jobs, and the CEO role is no exception. Sometimes, this may be because the CEO was brought in for a specific task, such as taking a company public or working a turnaround. Unfortunately, many top executives fail to recognize this and plan accordingly. Beaudine offers executives in search of a new start four pieces of advice:

Reconnect with your true, authentic network. These are the people with whom you have “clicked” in your life. It is family and friends and people who care about you. It isn’t business acquaintances. The isolation of the top job means CEOs are often no longer having any fun. They need to get back in touch with the people who matter most in their lives. The key to everything is “relationship.”

Get away for a few days to think about your life and remember your dreams. This might be a retreat in the wilderness, or it might be a hut on a lonely beach. The problem is that CEOs let themselves get too busy; they forget what they loved. It takes a few days alone with yourself to remember and recover what has been lost.

Create a personal board of directors. People have gotten away from this, but it’s a practice that can help avoid missteps and poor decisions.

Write down what you have always wanted to do. You can never get what you can’t see. 

Beaudine also preaches a similar message to CEOs, many of whom he sees focusing too narrowly on processes and failing to pay attention to or develop the interpersonal skills that he believes make the difference between failure and success. He points to Doherty, who after his firing from North Carolina spent six weeks at Wharton (the famed University of Pennsylvania business school) specifically to improve his leadership skills and refocus his efforts on the “who.” Beaudine refers to this as being in the “constant improvement zone.”

Beaudine’s most recent crowning achievement involved prying general manager Bryan Colangelo from the NBA’s Phoenix Suns to take the helm of the Toronto Raptors. Colangelo’s father, Jerry, owned the Suns and had brought his son into the organization as soon as Cornell slipped a sheepskin into his hand. Despite the fact that his father owned the team, despite the fact that he was the reigning NBA Executive of the Year, despite the fact that he had both the Coach of the Year and the league MVP (former Mav Steve Nash) in Phoenix, Beaudine was able to lure Colangelo to the lowly Raptors. How did Beaudine do it?

In this case, Beaudine brought Raptors chairman Larry Tanenbaum to Scottsdale to camp out in a hotel room while he shuttled back and forth between the two men until Colangelo’s interest was piqued enough for a face-to-face meeting. When all was said and done, Colangelo was on a plane to Toronto—along with $4 million of Tanenbaum’s money.

That’s Beaudine’s job in a nutshell: to know the key people and what they’re worth. Money isn’t what drives him, though. In fact, it almost drove him out of the business altogether, until he made a discovery that has kept him motivated and moving forward to this day.

Beaudine’s father, Frank, had become one of the pioneers of executive search when he founded Eastman & Beaudine in Chicago in 1967, personally drafting many of the guidelines that executive recruiters still live by today. But unlike Bryan Colangelo, Bob didn’t join the family business. When Beaudine graduated from SMU in 1977, executive search was not a young man’s industry. Recruiters typically were experienced consultants or former CEOs, so the thought of joining his father’s firm never really crossed Bob’s mind.

Instead, Beaudine joined Carnation (now Nestle) as a sales rep in its Dallas office, where his first task was selling canned food to cafeteria ladies in school districts across West Texas. He quickly rose through the ranks to become a brand manager for the company’s frozen fries (“I was the king of spuds,” he jokes), but soon realized he was facing a lifetime of moving dog and cat food. By then, his father was opening a Dallas office, so Bob made the leap to executive recruiting.

Those early years of working with his father had a profound influence on Beaudine’s style.

“My father had a rule,” he says, “that if someone came into the office, they were treated as important. Do you know how vulnerable people feel when they’re out of work? He would tell me, ’No matter who you meet, they have something great to give. It’s your job to find it.’ That still inspires me today.”

Beaudine built the Dallas office into a thriving business, concentrating first on real estate placements, then expanding to retailing, and later including insurance brokerages among his clients. From all appearances, life was treating him well, but as Beaudine remembers it, “All of a sudden I started to get this feeling like I was running in place. Life was just a constant pace of placements and fees.

“The thought kept coming back to me: Can you match what you love with what you do? It was heartbreaking to field all these calls from people who seemed trapped in a maze and didn’t know the way out. So I went to my dad and said, ’I’m going to quit.’”

But his father, as fathers are wont to do, talked Bob out of his rash decision. During their conversations, Beaudine realized that if he could match his love of sports with his desire to help people find their paths in life, he could create his dream job.

One thought kept intruding into his mind: the icons of business were also the team owners. He talked it over with his father, who advised him to “keep doing what you’re doing. Create good relationships with people, and once they know you and understand you, they’ll throw you a bone.”

His father proved prophetic in 1992 when Fay Vincent abruptly resigned as commissioner of baseball. Beaudine had done previous work for Bill Bartholomay, the vice chairman of a large insurance firm who also just happened to be chairman of the Atlanta Braves baseball club. Bartholomay was on the owners’ committee searching for the new commissioner. Beaudine contacted him and was awarded the search. “How do you like that for coming out of the block?” he asks.

Looking back on that time, Beaudine isn’t surprised how things turned out. The businessmen who are involved in sports “are sometimes more passionate about their sport or university,” he says. “If you do well in a search for one field, that brings opportunities in the other.”

Although Beaudine presented candidates such as George W. Bush, then the owner of the Texas Rangers, and Colin Powell to the search committee for baseball’s next commissioner, the head of the committee, Brewers owner Bud Selig, was somehow chosen as—surprise!—the best man for the job. By then, however, Beaudine had landed assignments from U.S. Open tennis and the PGA Tour, and he’s never looked back.

“Because I love what I do,” he says, “it becomes easier. Giving the time and having the passion is easier. Before, it was just placements and fees. For my first 10 years in the business, I would complete a search and get a tour of the plant. Now I do a search for the NBA and get tickets to All-Star Weekend. I not only get to do the things I love, but I get the perks of hanging out with those guys.”

Those perks extend to Beaudine’s family as well—his wife of 24 years, Cheryl, and his daughters Allison, 21, Jenny, 19, and Rachel, 16—who also reap the benefits of Beaudine’s line of work.

“I’ll ask them, ’Hey, do you want to go to the Final Four or the Superbowl?’ And they want to know who’s playing at the halftime show,” he says with a laugh.

Ironically, Beaudine has placed basketball coaches at both of his college-aged daughters’ schools, Baylor and Missouri. Depending on where his youngest enrolls, he might make it three for three.

While there are many great candidates for jobs, Beaudine says the hardest aspect of his job these days is locating the select few who can turn around a team or a company’s stock, and such people don’t move for just any reason.

“The best candidates have a much more holistic view,” he says. “Whatever you’re offering has to touch them. They can tell if you’re just talking to them about position, power, or money. …CEOs are not necessarily looking for another ’big’ job. They’re looking for balance and significance … maybe fun balance and significance. They’ve lost the fun. They love the perks and the money, but they miss their family, their friends, the people in their lives. They’re asking, ’How can I live an integrated life?’ It’s a real quandary. They need an exit strategy.”

As Beaudine sees it, most CEOs today are so busy they don’t have the time to think about what they want. “If you don’t have a plan for yourself,” he says, “someone else does. I’m sure your board will have plans for you.”

He points to three reasons why people don’t get what they want: First, they don’t ask; second, they ask the wrong people; and third, they ask in vague generalities.

“I have people come to me all the time and say, ’Bob, I’d like to be in sports.’ I say, ’Great. Do you want to be a referee? Do you want to hand towels to players?’ ’No,’ they say, ’I want to be president of a team.’ Well, you didn’t say that. The problem with CEOs is that they’ve forgotten how to dance. They’ve forgotten how to court. They see the writing on the wall that their season may be over at a place, but they’re not designing the life that they want afterward.”

Beaudine spends about a third of his time as a career and life coach for CEOs and others at the top of their professions. Former Maverick great Rolando Blackman is one beneficiary of Beaudine’s investments in people. While Blackman, who recently was promoted to the post of director of basketball development for the Mavs, is “not yet” an official client, he constantly turns to his friend Beaudine for advice.

“He understands what I’m trying to do in basketball and in life,” Blackman says. “He’s also an extremely principled person, and that’s important to me. He has a total understanding of the spirituality of the people he’s working with. He knows who you are on the inside, and he tries to match that essence with what you’re trying to accomplish.”

Beaudine’s spiritual side—he’s a devout Christian—is a big part of what makes him such a well-rounded businessman. He understands that success cannot be truly measured by power, income, or the number of toys in the garage. Beaudine achieved his own success by nurturing his relationships, which is something his CEO clients have grown to appreciate.

Visitors, too. As you make your way out of his office, take a closer look at those baskets full of signed golf balls, tennis balls, footballs, basketballs, and baseballs. Pick up a few and see if you recognize the names. You may know a few, but the majority won’t ring a bell. That’s because all of those balls, the centerpiece of Beaudine’s offices, are autographed exclusively by his friends—the “who” in his life.

He may have turned his love for sports into a lucrative business. He may even have collected enough memorabilia to fill a couple of sports bars. But what Bob Beaudine truly loves—and collects—are friends.

Hire Power
Beaudine shares his thoughts about some of his recent all-star placements:

Steve Orsini
SMU Athletic Director
“What clearly marked Steve Orsini as the right man for SMU was that he is one of the top marketing and sales executives in college athletics. He knows how to raise money, build state-of-the-art facilities, fill the stands, and market successful athletic programs in highly competitive professional markets like Dallas. His mentor was his old boss, Tex Schramm.”
Matt Doherty
SMU Head Basketball Coach

“SMU was looking for a difference maker—a recognized winner. They found that in Matt Doherty, a former National Coach of the Year. You feel the magic the moment you meet him. … Matt brought SMU a name, a reputation of winning, and a system that can play at the highest level—and do it with character, integrity, and respect.” 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



 

 

Billy Gillispie
Texas A&M Head Basketball Coach

“I was fortunate to place Billy Gillispie in his first head-coaching role. The moment I met him, I could tell he was something special. His reputation even before UTEP and A&M was that he would outwork you. Practices for his team are full-speed. They are intense, single-minded, and with one goal—to prepare you to be your best. No detail is overlooked, no stone uncovered. He will win a national championship.” 
Bryan Colangelo
Toronto Raptors General Manager
“The opportunity at the Raptors is ideal for him on both the personal and business side. Many don’t know that Toronto has the second-largest Italian community outside of New York. Bryan’s wife is Italian. His newly recruited assistant GM, Maurizio Gherardini from Benetton, was possibly the most powerful GM in the world outside the United States, and he is from Italy. And, yes, Bryan used the Raptors’ first overall pick in the 2006 draft on the highly touted Italian forward Andrea Bargnani. He just happened to be the best pick, to boot. On the personal side, Bryan is a relationship guy. The minute you meet him, you like him. He’s easygoing, down-to-earth, and cares about people.” 
Scott Drew
Baylor Head Basketball Coach

“Scott was ideal for Baylor on several fronts. He is one of the best recruiters I have ever been around. After meeting him I didn’t know whether to introduce him to Baylor or try to get him to join Eastman & Beaudine. What Scott Drew has done at Baylor University in his first two years is truly amazing. He is the total package. Don’t be surprised if he has the Bears playing in the Final Four soon.” 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Editor’s note: The author of this article is presently editing a forthcoming book by Bob Beaudine.

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