When David Magley was leading the Bradenton Christian boys basketball team through its most successful era, he also was building a reputation as a difference-maker in the business world.
Magley came to be known as a "turnaround guy," taking floundering companies and giving them new life through his innovative ideas and work ethic.
Now the 55-year-old is faced with a daunting challenge as commissioner of the National Basketball League of Canada (NBLC), which is dealing with its biggest crisis since the nine-team league was launched in 2011.
Game 7 of the league's championship series ended in a forfeit. The Halifax Rainmen did not show up because they claimed the roughhouse play of their opponent, Windsor Express, was getting out of hand. The situation was inflamed by a scuffle between the teams earlier in the day of the final game.
At the time, the NBLC did not have a commissioner. Not long after, the owners got together and asked Magley, the head coach and general manager of the league's Brampton A's, to be the commissioner.
"There was a real sense of urgency, and the league needed somebody to take over. My business background lent itself well to this situation," Magley said from Canada. "I love the league and felt if anybody can get it stabilized, it was probably me. Once I got my mind past coaching, I really got engaged and excited about it."
It's a different role for Magley, whose basketball life centered around being a player and coach. A high school phenom, he was named Indiana's Mr. Basketball in
1978 and had a solid career at Kansas, where he was an Academic All-American, followed by a stint in the NBA. In 11 years at BCS, he took the Panthers to four state final fours, amassed 247 victories (22.5 per season) and sent 27 players to college, including five to Division I schools.
"I don't know if I will go back to coaching. This is interesting and something I can for two years or 20 years," Magley said. "I don't think it hurts me careerwise. I could go to college and be an AD, coach at a small school, but now my focus is on the task at hand."
The biggest challenge for Magley is restoring faith in the league and convincing fans this won't happen again. He is going to borrow some of the things the NBA did after its famous 2004 brawl when players fought with fans at the Palace of Auburn Hills, home of the Detroit Pistons.
"If there was a commissioner in place, I don't think this would have happened because the physical play that escalated from Game 1 to Game 7 would have been nipped in the bud," Magley said. "To deal with it going forward, you have to accept that it happened. The narrative is that there was a fight, and that tends to have people use terms that this is a thug league. So for us, we want to make sure play is fast and aggressive and strong and clean."
Magley is using his sales skills to convince the owners it's in their best interest to work together despite their competitive nature to win the league, which leads to individual agendas.
"I am taking over at a great time with the league's board of governors," Magley said. "Now the owners are coming together and seeing themselves as one entity, wanting to build the league first instead of taking care of their own agendas."
He has the support of the league owners, particularly former boss James Tipping, owner of the Brampton A's, whose son, Jameson, was a standout player for Bradenton Christian.
"I believe so much in this league that I have offered up one of my biggest assets (Magley)," Tipping recently said to the Canadian media. "I believe what he offers as a person, his basketball knowledge, his knowledge of our league and his previous business background, make him a perfect choice to solidify this league."
Magley is touring Canada and setting up town hall-type meetings to get his message across and hear from the fans. He would like to do something similar to what the NBA did after the "Malice At The Palace" when it created NBA Cares and got more involved with the community and helping kids.
He plans to set up combines this summer to find players, including one that will be held for local players at the Impact Academy in Sarasota. The salary range for NBLC players goes from a minimum of $1,600 per month to about $8,000 in a four-month regular season that expand to about 5½ months with playoffs. The salary cap is $150,000 per team.
Magley's wife, Evelyn, a former teacher at BCS, worked with the Brampton A's and could assume a role in the commissioner's office. His children are scattered all over the country: Jennifer is married to former Western Kentucky player Desire Gabou ,and they live in Indianapolis with their two sons (Blake, 3, and Grant, 1); Jessica is married to Manatee grad Michael Galvin and lives in Long Beach, Calif.; D.J. and his wife, Emily (a WKU grad), have a 7-month-old daughter named Sadie Grace and live in Indianapolis; Daniel, the youngest of the Magley children, will be entering his senior year at Park University in Kansas City, where he is on a basketball scholarship.