June 28, 2016
Trent Redden ’06, assistant general manager for the Cleveland Cavaliers in the locker room with the Larry O’Brien Trophy after the Cavs won the NBA championship.

Trent Redden ’06, assistant general manager of the Cleveland Cavaliers, in the locker room with the Larry O’Brien Trophy after the Cavs won the NBA championship June 19.

What’s it like to be at the center of 1.3 million ecstatic fans? SMU alumnus Trent Redden, assistant general manager of the Cleveland Cavaliers, was with the team in a parade on June 22 celebrating the Cav’s National Basketball Association (NBA) championship.

“It’s such a cliché, but words are really hard to come by in trying to describe the experience,” Redden says. “The outpouring of love for the team has been amazing.”

The Cavaliers made NBA history on June 19 after charging back from a 3-1 finals deficit – no other team has ever rebounded from such a lopsided start – beating the Golden State Warriors, 93-89, in Game 7 of the finals. They also lifted the legendary “Cleveland sports curse,” a 52-year title drought for its professional teams.

“There may be other championships, but this moment can never be replicated,” Redden says. “Fifty-two years of suffering by one of the most passionate fan bases in the country is over. Some people might think sports don’t matter, but when you see how happy the city is, you know they matter. And I feel so lucky to be a small part of it.”

As assistant GM, he’s involved in trades and hiring, including coaches and players, and free agencies and helped build the winning team. For six of his 10 years in the NBA, he has worked with superstar LeBron James, who famously returned to the Cavaliers in 2014 from Miami with a future championship in mind.

“We’re all fortunate to be around him,” Redden says. “He’s a great person and a great player. He makes us all look good.”

Redden hasn’t had much time to savor the victory, though. After the team returned to Ohio on June 20, he hit the ground running to prepare for the NBA draft on June 23 and free agency period starting July 1. After that, his attention turns to the NBA Summer League, July 8-18. If he’s really lucky, Redden will be able to sandwich in his first free weekend since September.

The lion’s share of his job focuses on professional and college scouting. He’s on the road 20 days a month, checking out talent across the United States and scouring Europe for prospects.

I had other opportunities, but SMU bet on me on a level that no one else did by giving me a President’s Scholarship,” says Trent Redden ’06. Now he’s paying forward that vote of confidence through the Trent D. Redden Endowed President’s Scholarship. “It’s my way of thanking SMU for the scholarship and a great education.”

His path to the NBA started at SMU. Redden grew up in Portland, Oregon, where he excelled in the classroom. When it came time to select a university, the choice was a no-brainer.

“I had other opportunities, but SMU bet on me on a level that no one else did by giving me a President’s Scholarship,” he says. Each year SMU invites 20 to 25 of the most gifted first-year students to receive President’s Scholarships. The academic scholarships provide full tuition and fees.

He’s paying forward that vote of confidence through the Trent D. Redden Endowed President’s Scholarship.

“The University thought enough of me to make that commitment, and I will always be grateful and indebted,” he says. “It’s my way of thanking SMU for the scholarship and a great education.”

While earning bachelor’s degrees in accounting and public policy, he had internships with two powerhouses: Haynes and Boone, an international corporate law firm co-founded by SMU alumnus and board chair Michael M. Boone ’63, ’67, and KPMG, a global accounting services company.

“They were great experiences, and I learned a lot,” he says. “And they helped me focus on what I wanted to do after SMU.”

He landed on the NBA. Thanks to his academic training, he had developed the front office skills, and basketball was a game he loved and played. He was a walk-on at SMU, joining the Mustangs for two seasons, 2003-2005. After graduating magna cum laude, he applied for a paid basketball operations internship with the Cavaliers. He interviewed three times before he was hired in 2006.

“If I had known what I was up against, I might not have pursued it,” he jokes. “We never advertise the positions, and we get 300 to 400 résumés each year from very qualified people.”

That internship has evolved into a high-profile career. In 2007 Redden became a full-time basketball operations assistant. He has risen through the ranks and was promoted to his current role in 2013.

By his own admission, he’s living the dream. “I’m so fortunate. I get to do something that I enjoy every day.”

With the NBA regular season starting in late October, he doubts he’ll make it back to the Hilltop for his 10-year reunion during Homecoming Weekend, November 3–5. However, he plans to be cheering on the Mustangs at Ford Stadium during the epic SMU v. TCU Battle for the Iron Skillet on September 23 during Family Weekend.

Redden has seen the SMU men’s basketball team on the road and had been to Moody Coliseum several times since the renovation to watch practice and play pick-up, but he had not attended a home game and experienced the new “Moody Magic” until this year.

“The atmosphere was truly incredible,” he remembers. “I saw people I couldn’t get to come to games when we went to school together. What they have built there as a program is a testament to Larry and his staff. They truly have made it the cool thing to do in Dallas.”

– Patricia Ward