Longtime NBA executive Todd Harris, a Long Island native who became a beloved figure within the league and among its broadcast partners over the course of a 22-year career, died unexpectedly on Tuesday, his wife said. He was 47.
Jackie Harris first posted the news on her husband’s Facebook account: “It is with great sadness to inform you that Todd, an amazing husband and father to Mason and Logan, passed away suddenly yesterday, 6/6/17.” Cause of death was not specified.
“He was family first,” Jackie Harris said when contacted by Newsday. “He was always [there for his] children. And always his job. He felt that the NBA was his family just as much as we were. He was a family guy, and he was lucky enough to have two families.”
Harris grew up in Woodmere and attended Hewlett High School before graduating from Syracuse University in 1991. He worked for NBC Sports before moving in 1995 to the NBA, where he rose rapidly to eventually become vice president/broadcasting.
In that capacity, Harris was responsible for creating the regular-season, playoffs and Finals schedules for the NBA, WNBA and NBA Development League. He oversaw the WNBA broadcasting department and was involved in management between the NBA and its various broadcast partners. Harris developed the “Mic’d Up” segments that have become a part of NBA and WNBA telecasts and also developed WNBA Live Access (now League Pass).
“Todd was part of our NBA family for more than 20 years,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. “His ability to cultivate strong relationships with our teams and broadcasters was unrivaled. Todd was dedicated, charismatic, funny and outgoing. Everyone who knew Todd would say he was one of their favorite people; he was definitely one of mine.”
WNBA president Lisa Borders expressed her sentiments on Twitter, where there was an outpouring of sentiment from Harris’ friends and business associates. “Yesterday, we lost an NBA family member, Todd Harris, who was a champion for our game and the WNBA,” Borders wrote. “We are saddened by the loss, but inspired by his legacy of support.”
Several ESPN commentators praised Harris on Twitter, including Rachel Nichols, Holly Rowe, Sage Steele and former ESPN personality Bill Simmons. ESPN vice president of programming Julie Sobieski issued a statement, saying Harris was “woven tightly into the very fabric of ESPN’s relationship with the NBA and WNBA,” and she added, “Todd always welcomed you with the brightest smile, a warm hug and a swap of stories about family. He was so proud of his children.”
Harris was especially close to NBC commentator Mike Tirico, who attended Syracuse at the same time but was slightly older. The two attended the NCAA Final Four together, and Tirico issued a statement in which he spoke of attending many NBA-related events with Harris.
“Very personal for me,” Tirico said. “Many Christmas Eves, Todd and his family would be on the road, and we’d all have dinner together since we were working the next day . . . My thoughts are with Todd’s family, as well as the NBA family, because we really lost a very special friend in addition to a talented person.”
Harris’ wife said his passion for sports sprang from his Long Island roots. “He was a Long Island boy, an Islanders fan and a Mets fan,” Jackie Harris said. “He lived for the Islanders. He bled orange for Syracuse and orange and blue for the Mets and the Islanders.”
Besides his wife, Harris is survived by daughter Mason, 19, son Logan, 16, and his beloved family dog, Tollhouse.
Funeral services are scheduled for 11 a.m. Thursday at Temple Micah, which is in the historic Presbyterian Church at 2688 Lawrenceville Rd. in Lawrenceville, New Jersey. Burial will take place at Beth Israel Cemetery in Woodbridge immediately following the service. Shiva for family and close friends will be held at the Harris’ home in Skillman, New Jersey. In lieu of flowers, there is a college fund set up for Mason and Logan: https://www.gofundme.com/3wdesb4
With Neil Best