Davidson College alumnus Chris Clunie, whose Watson Fellowship helped propel him to working in NBA international operations, will return to Davidson as director of athletics.
Clunie, a former Wildcats basketball player from the class of 2006, takes the athletics helm after working for the San Antonio Spurs and, for the past decade, the NBA. He has risen through a series of roles with increasing rank and responsibility that have taken him to more than 30 countries.
He currently serves as the NBA's director for international basketball operations, bringing elite development programs, coaching workshops and other major events to nations across the globe. He also oversees basketball operations for NBA All-Star Weekend and the NBA Draft Combine that started Tuesday in Chicago.
Clunie replaces Jim Murphy '78, who is stepping down after nearly a quarter-century leading athletics. Clunie's selection follows a national search, and he is expected to start on July 1.
"Chris not only understands the role of athletics within a Davidson education, he has lived it and he speaks authentically and with passion about it," said Davidson President Carol E. Quillen, who announced Clunie's appointment. "He was a Terry Scholar and Watson Fellow who also played on a conference championship team. He knows ‘scholar athlete' is one term and, from both Davidson and his career, has shown the critical value and the joy of working with people from different places and backgrounds towards a shared goal."
Clunie said he is excited about leading athletics at the college and feels a sense of paying back a Davidson experience that fueled his career. He credited his time as a Terry Scholar with helping build his leadership capacity. He was one of only 40 annual Watson Fellowship winners during his senior year, and after graduation traveled to Japan, Argentina, South Africa and Italy to study basketball's impact on different cultures.
"I came to Davidson because of academics. Academics was always first for me," Clunie said. "And I was fortunate to be a walk-on on the basketball team. Davidson is that rare place that does athletics right–a rigorous academic environment, but a quarter of the students play Division I sports."
As a student, Clunie was among the Davidson players who welcomed then-high school senior Steph Curry when he visited campus and even played a pickup game. Clunie confessed to the unremarkable assessment he offered the coaching staff that day: "He'll be pretty good and will contribute."
Scott Applegate, associate athletic director, was new to that role when Clunie enrolled and earned a walk-on slot on the basketball team.
"He was one of those guys scrapping it out every day, working to help make everybody better," Applegate said. "He'll do that in this job."
After Davidson, Clunie played professional basketball in South Africa for one season during his Watson and worked in corporate development for the Spurs before joining the NBA's leadership. In 2015, he earned a master's degree in public affairs from Columbia University.
Clunie leads through visibility and inspiration, a motivator providing clarity and purpose.
"I'm detail-oriented. I hold myself and others accountable, and I'm a collaborator who will support, empower and advocate for coaches and administrators. I want to help build a strong ‘Team Davidson' culture and move beyond being a national story and into a national program."
Clunie will be joined in the Davidson community by his wife, Lauren, a Winston-Salem native and UNC Chapel Hill alumna. The couple held their wedding up the road from Davidson, in Mooresville, two years ago.
Davidson Head Baseball Coach Dick Cooke knew Clunie as a student. Cooke said Clunie's experience within the NBA and internationally, working with a wide spectrum of people at different levels, equips him for a role guiding students, managing coaches and navigating the NCAA.
"He's got a confidence and comfort level with any group," Cooke said, "and he can translate that to whatever is needed at Davidson."