The Sixers are leading the way in the NBA when it comes to putting women in charge. Meet Jill Snodgrass, vice president of service and operations, and read our other profiles here.
Jill Snodgrass said she could sell Joel Embiid a Yugo.
She’s the Sixers’ ticket boss, and she predates The Process. She joined the team in December of 2012 as a member services manager as the team was in full damage-control mode after the trade for Andrew Bynum, who never played a game, engineered by coach Doug Collins, who decided to quit right about the time Snodgrass arrived — only, Collins didn’t tell anyone until the end of that awful season. Three years later, in 2015, things seemed even bleaker. General manager Sam Hinkie had constructed the worst roster in NBA history and the team was a joyless joke, which led to his December demotion (and eventual resignation) when the team was 1-20.
Snodgrass never flinched.
“Truthfully, the 10-win season was my favorite season here,” she said. “You get to figure out who’s in your foxhole. If you were in the building at that time, whether an employee or a fan, it wasn’t because it was convenient. You truly wanted to be here.”
That season, she found more than 3,500 fans who truly wanted to be there. Now, after seven seasons and four promotions, that season-ticket base is at its 14,500 capacity. The waiting list is nearly as long.
She is the peppiest of the remarkable and capable women who hold significant positions with the Sixers, a roster of women executives, coaches and analysts unmatched in sports. The 34-year-old ticket czarina has used the element of surprise.
“My last name is Snodgrass, but I’m actually a 5-foot-1 Korean,” she said. “When I meet people out, they’re, like, ‘Wait a second.’”
Most of her peers at the Sixers are college-level athletes, but Snodgrass embraces her stature, especially now that there’s a jolly giant on the team:
“With Boban Marjanovic here now, I may or may not start an Instagram handle where it’s just me standing next to really tall people.”
That’s the essence of Snodgrass: Whatever life hands her, she accepts. It’s how she began.
“I was born in South Korea, but my father left my mother while she was pregnant. So my mother decided to put me up for adoption,” Snodgrass said. “She made a hard choice, but the right choice. She wanted to make sure I had a better life.”
That life began when her adoptive parents bought a new Caprice Classic on their way to O’Hare Airport in Chicago to pick up 6-month-old Jill. Her father’s job as an accountant for the Department of Housing and Urban Development meant they moved around quite a bit. Kids in Michigan and North Carolina were sometimes taken aback by this energetic Asian-American.
“First days — introduction days — I always held my breath a little bit. The teacher always seemed to get it wrong,” she said. “I guess it builds character.”
It surely builds empathy.
“Jill takes great pride in mentoring and coaching the rising stars that she supervises,” said Sixers president Chris Heck.
She’s risen faster than she could imagine — but then, while pursuing her advertising degree at Michigan State, she held one of the most stressful jobs you can imagine: customer service representative for Best Buy.
“I can’t put on khakis any more without having an anxiety attack,” she said. “And I do not shop on Black Friday.”
That job prompted the Atlanta Hawks, with whom she interviewed for a marketing post, to place her in a sales job. She excelled for four years before landing in Philadelphia and taking off.
“If you’d told me that eight years out of college I’d be a vice president responsible for 80 percent of a team’s revenue, I’d have said, ‘What? Are you kidding me?’ ” Snodgrass said.
If you’d told her that she could be an inspiration, the way spunky Mia Hamm and shirtless Brandi Chastain inspired her as a youth soccer player when they won the 1999 Women’s World Cup, she wouldn’t have believed that, either.
“Remember that? The movement it created? Little girls saw it and they wanted to do it,” Snodgrass said.
“And now, the Nike commercial with Serena Williams? It’s super impactful. Inspiring. Empowering to watch.”
Now, Snodgrass agreed, she’s the one doing the inspiring. Maybe there’s a lot of 5-foot-1 Korean girls who wants to become a vice president in the NBA, or maybe the NFL.
The journey isn’t over for Snodgrass — professionally, or personally.
Snodgrass has access to her biological parents’ information in South Korea. She hasn’t tried to connect with them.