Mark Warkentien

SMWW Mentor & Former NBA GM, 1953 - 2022

Mentor Definition: A mentor may share with mentee information about his or her own career path, as well as provide guidance, motivation, emotional support, and role modeling. A mentor may help with exploring careers, setting goals, developing contacts, and identifying resources. Greg was everything you want in a mentor and so much more.

"Hello, this is Mark Warkentien of the New York Knicks. I will return this call within 24 hours, guaranteed."

That was Mark's voicemail and an example of how Mark constantly strived to be the best version of himself. A person that would not rely on the up-and-down nature of motivation, instead cultivating habit as the basis to excel. He has taught this to students at the SMWW basketball GM & Scouting class each Sunday since 2012. Ultimately Mark saw himself in his students, people who loved basketball so much that they were willing to sacrifice nearly anything to be near it for a career. For these people, he was their steward.

On December 23rd, 2022, Mark passed away. These thoughts and those that follow will show a glimmer of this man and his legacy across the sport he loved and the continued impact he had on those pursuing working in and around it. Mark was always about self improvement, service, and education to draw people together. In the words of Toronto Raptors Coach Nick Nurse:

"Mark was a true connector of people and always had time for a chat. He provided people with a boost of confidence through his kind words. I took courses with Mark at the Concordia University of Chicago, as he was a huge believer in education and lifelong learning. He was always an inspiration to others."

Mark never wanted to plateau. For him, it was always about moving forward and getting better. Or, as Mark would say, get 1% better, but with a caveat, a 1% better each day at one thing. Mark always sharpened the saw and pushed himself. The following from his LinkedIn profile:

Mark always said his best and worst ability was simplifying things. Constantly getting better at what you do and love is a way to honor it; that was the simplicity and complexity of his worldview. It served him well in basketball, whether working shoulder to shoulder with legendary coach Jerry Tarkanian at UNLV for some of the most iconic college basketball teams ever in the 1980’s or winning the 2009 NBA executive of the year as the general manager of the Denver Nuggets.

Known by other basketball executives as "the scout," Mark, in the words of basketball analytics pioneer Dean Oliver, was one of the best basketball talent evaluators in the world. He proved again and again, whether it was drafting Zach Randolph or Jermaine O'Neal outside of the draft lottery. Just being there was never enough; he wanted to excel, and for that reason he excelled in his chosen vocation.

Professional accomplishments come because of character, not vice versa, and Mark's greatest ability was making people feel present. He was warm, gregarious, charismatic, and always ready to laugh, live, and learn. He was the embodiment of an SMWW instructor. The success of others and his students gave him so much satisfaction. His ability to motivate was such that he even spoke at the SMWW baseball and football conferences. He had a way of making people believe that their dreams could come true. Perhaps that was his ultimate legacy! We will continue applying this pathos to every student that comes to SMWW. Mark's example and legacy demand it.

Thanks, Wark; you will be missed dearly.

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