The Storm revamped its front-office to ultimately replace Karen Bryant, the organization’s first employee hired in 1999. Bryant, 46, announced in January she would resign as team president and CEO on July 31.
Alisha Valavanis, a former Cal assistant athletics director of development, was named Storm chief operating officer on Wednesday. She’ll oversee all business-related and basketball operations.
“In this hiring process, our ownership group was looking for someone to come in with new ideas and the ability to embrace what it takes to run a sports organization,”co-owner Lisa Brummel said in a released statement. “Alisha has a true passion for what we do and a strong commitment to drive this business forward. She is an exciting addition to the Storm family and will be a great community leader here in Seattle.”
Valavanis, 37, oversaw annual giving, alumni relations and development operations for all sports at Cal. She was responsible for the annual fundraising efforts, ticket-based donation program, and established new courtside scholarship programs for both men’s and women’s basketball.
On Monday, the Storm promoted Shannon Burley to senior vice president, marketing and business operations. The organization returned Nate Silverman as vice president, marketing partnerships. He was previously a top revenue producer in ticket sales, leaving to work in other ventures the past seven years.
Burley was a candidate to replace Bryant.
Bryant is departing after 15 years to seek other opportunities. She plans to remain visible at games, however, and will be honored July 31 when the Storm hosts Indiana. Valavanis’ first day is July 1 but she will be in attendance for Seattle’s matchup against Minnesota at KeyArena on June 27.
“I’d love to build on what is already a very, very strong foundation,” Valavanis said via phone from California on Thursday. “So much credit to Karen Bryant and the work she’s done over the last 15 years. I’ve certainly been watching from a distance and she’s a critical player in the broader WNBA landscape. My hope is to come in and really honor that brand.”
Valavanis is married to Kai Felton, an assistant women’s basketball coach at Cal. Felton will remain in the Bay Area, however, to coach the 2014-15 season.