The new boss of the Lakeland Magic has considerable work to do to measure up to the old boss. Hans Steinbrenner, 28, has been named president, taking over from Shelly Wilkes, who has been the organizational leader and public face of the Magic since the NBA G-League team came to town in 2017.
“I’ve got big shoes to fill, I really do,” Steinbrenner said. “But she has set me up” to succeed.
The Lakeland Magic is an NBA G League developmental offshoot of the Orlando Magic. The Lakeland team began playing in the RP Funding Center in 2017 after moving from Erie, Pa., where they were known as the Erie BayHawks.
The Lakeland Magic are hoping to resume play in December.
Wilkes has worked a variety of jobs for the Orlando Magic since 2003. She commuted to Lakeland from her Orlando- area home and said the ride wasn’t all that bad because it’s much harder to commute to Orlando from Lakeland.
She was eight and a half months pregnant when she was named president of the Lakeland Magic in 2017, becoming the the first woman G League president.
“It’s nice to be able to pave the way for some other women,” she said.
Laura Shannon, owner of Ashton Events, an event-planning service, said she looked up to Wilkes as a role model from the minute she met her.
Shannon said Wilkes is a true leader. “She juggles with grace,” Shannon said.
Selling basketball in Lakeland — where football is king — is a tough task. Wilkes’ way to promote the Lakeland Magic was to become a solid member of the community, joining several local organizations.
She grew fond of many Lakeland places, like Nineteen61, Concord Coffee, Good Thyme restaurant and running around Lake Hollingsworth.
Wilkes said Steinbrenner will do very well in her old job as Lakeland Magic president. “He’s a great communicator and he understands the business,” Wilkes said.
Steinbrenner, although just 28, has plenty of G League experience. He worked for three G League teams before becoming vice president of the Magic last November.
While Wilks has no formal basketball playing in her past, Steinbrenner does. He was a workmanlike 6-foot, four-inch center in high school in Boise, Idaho.
The Lakeland Magic want to stay involved in the community and be a help, Steinbrenner said: “We know we have the right leadership in place here.”
Steinbrenner has been in Lakeland several months and has one place he particularly enjoys: Harry’s downtown.
Steinbrenner said he is a bachelor. And with a laugh, he said, “I’m available.”
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