Cathy Engelbert talks to Front Office Sports about her upcoming role as WNBA commissioner

Photo Credit: Christa Neu/Lehigh University

One of the storylines of the WNBA’s offseason was former league president Lisa Borders departing from her role for a post at a women’s advocacy organization.

The question on everyone’s minds was if the W would have a new “league president” prior to the start of the season, especially with interim president Mark Tatum saying at the draft that he hoped the WNBA would have a new leader prior to opening tipoff.

It turned out that the league not only had a new leader in former Deloitte executive Cathy Engelbert, but a new title attached to that leadership role as Engelbert became the WNBA’s first-ever “commissioner.”

A lot has been asked about how the Engelbert era will be similar or different to previous league presidencies, particularly with the looming negotiations surrounding the collective bargaining agreement between the league and its players.

She spoke with Front Office Sports about her upcoming role and, among many things, what brought her to the WNBA. Engelbert says she was thinking of doing something different even while she was still at Deloitte.

I was thinking about what did I want to do next and I wanted to do something different with a women’s leadership platform – something I have a passion for .. this really met that and I think the league was looking for a female business leader with a passion for basketball.

–Cathy Engelbert, incoming WNBA commissioner

There are cities and markets that have robust WNBA fanbases – including Phoenix and Los Angeles who are the current leaders in the clubhouse for average attendance. But a lot has been made about how to broaden the attendance even more. Engelbert mentioned the CBA as well as improving the fan experience and team financials.

… all of that’s coing together I think at a good time where we can actually set them on a path forward to prosperity as well as, again, raising the brand and the brand relaunch … as well as these women.

–Cathy Engelbert, incoming WNBA commissioner

… we’ve got to drive corporate sponsorships and we’ve got to drive again the economics and the player and fan experience as well … a lot to do, but all around those areas.

–Cathy Engelbert, incoming WNBA commissioner
She also mentioned how she believed her starting in sports at a young age was the thing that gave her the confidence to ascend to the positions that she has risen to and that she can bring that combination of a basketball background and business acumen to the WNBA.

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