Robert D. "Bob" King '46Sports Equalizer
Robert D. "Bob" King '46 helped women break into the male-dominated world of professional sports management to sell more season tickets. But mentoring them in those macho front offices ended up ranking among his career highlights.
The retired NBA executive, who lives in Denver with wife Carol, took a circuitous route to the PR game, working first as a marine scientist, research engineer and newspaper columnist before switching full time to sports marketing in San Diego in the late 1960s.
Born in Honolulu in 1928, he and twin brother Oliver enrolled at Punahou School in sixth grade. After graduation, King served briefly in the Army and then embarked on a nearly 10-year adventure that included studying at the University of Hawai'i and a Roman Catholic seminary, working aboard a Scripps Institution of Oceanography research vessel and earning a math degree from San Diego State University. After college, he worked for Convair Astronautics, which was developing the Atlas missile.
By day King processed test-flight data and by night he covered sports for the San Diego Independent. That led to public relations work for San Diego State (which had hired Don Coryell and John Madden as football coaches) and the then minor-league San Diego Padres.
"I had about five jobs. I never got home. I never went to sleep, but it was a very opportune time to learn from some real geniuses," he recalled. In 1969, the Padres went major league, and King was named director of sales, finally giving up his other jobs. Fired a year later by mercurial general manager Buzzie Bavasi, within days King had offers from Pete Newell ("the greatest basketball coach of all time," who needed a PR man for the then-San Diego Rockets) and Al Davis of the Oakland Raiders (who had hired King's pal Madden to coach).
King stayed in San Diego, and it was as public relations director for the NBA Rockets that he recognized the untapped potential of female employees, assigning a Stanford University graduate who was working as a secretary to write promotional materials. In 1971, he moved to the team that he would help build into the NBA's Denver Nuggets –and sought female college graduates for the sales force.
"The boss didn't like it, but I said, 'You want to sell season tickets, don't you?'"
Many women King hired and trained rose steadily through the ranks; he was especially proud when a woman he had mentored succeeded him as Nuggets' executive vice president. "I am glad that I helped open that door."
King went on to be the NBA's vice president of team services and a consultant. Retired since the 1990s, he enjoys spending time with his family, which includes two sons, a daughter-in-law and four grandchildren.
"I was gone a lot when my sons were growing up, so I was happy to get off the road and come home."
Editor's Note: The Punahou Bulletin learned that Bob King '46 passed away after this interview and profile was completed.
By Christine Donnelly
Photograph provided by the family