The Sixers are leading the way in the NBA when it comes to putting women in charge. Meet Tyneeha Rivers, vice president of human resources, and read our other profiles here.
- Amy Hever, the Sixers’ director of compassion, feels responsibility to lead for her past and for the future
- Dr. Annelie Schmittel is the fearless and empathetic VP the Sixers — and little girls with dreams — turn to
- Lindsey Harding’s historic rise from Sixers scout to coach is just the start: ‘I think she’s going to be a star’
You probably first heard of Tyneeha Rivers on June 21, 2018, the night that her son, Mikal Bridges, got drafted by her bosses at the Sixers — then, an hour later, was abruptly traded to the Phoenix Suns.
She cried. Tears of joy.
Rivers, 41, of course would prefer that her son played for his hometown team, where she’s the vice president of human resources, part of a legion of women in prominent roles with the Sixers. But Bridges had won two national titles with Villanova, was on track to graduate in four years, and, incredibly, he was the 10th overall pick in the NBA draft.
For a girl from West Philly who took 10 years of night-school courses to collect her college degree — a woman who slept three hours a night for months at a time — June 21, 2018, could not be ruined.
“Definitely, it was was an emotional roller coaster for me that night,” Rivers said. “Ultimately, though, I was elated to be able to see my son be able to live out his dream. For him to accomplish his goal and for me to be there on draft night, when these are things we talked about, a lot …”
She’s crying again.
She dried her tears, then talked about being a a single black mother raising Bridges alone, first in Indiana, Pa., where she was attending college when he was born; then in Devon, Pa., so he could go to the best public schools. At middle-school meetings, over lattes and biscotti, the stay-at-home mothers would talk about how tired they were.
“I’d think, ‘Lady, you don’t know what tired is,’" Rivers said.
Back then she was working her way from company to company as a human-resources savant when, in 2015, she popped onto the radar of Sixers CEO Scott O’Neil. He recruited her, entrusted the evolution of the Sixers’ culture, and agonized over how draft night might affect Rivers.
“I texted Tyneeha 30 seconds after we called in the trade, then called her right after it was announced to walk her through it,” O’Neil said. “We have discussed the trade twice in-depth since that night. Irrespective of how anyone feels with regard to the merits of the deal, that night will always be one of the toughest for me as a coworker, friend, and leader.”
It was not nearly as tough for her, or for Mikal.
“She was just so excited. This was my dream since I was a little kid, and hers too,” Bridges said. “Obviously, she wishes I was home, because she works for the Sixers. But she knows what the NBA is — it’s a business.”
They’ve made it work, because they take the world as it comes. She visited him this month during a three-game home stand, a trip she makes about once a month. It’s the same matter-of-fact reaction they had when Villanova coaches asked skinny Mikal to redshirt his freshman year to add beef and skills. Rivers loved the idea.
“She told me that the time would come, and I should be patient,” said Bridges, who graduated in four years. “That was the main thing about going to Villanova. A good school. A good education.”
She’s seeking more education, too, but had to pause her pursuit of an MBA at Villanova in 2017 when O’Neil asked Rivers to also take charge of the HR department of the New Jersey Devils, which the Sixers’ parent company, Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment, also owns.
And Rivers brings a unique view to the role of vice president of human resources, using her own experiences to inform who they bring on board.
“It’s a focus that we make sure we bring people from all different walks of life to our organization," she said. "To hire more women. To hire more people of color. To hire more people from the LGBTQ community. To hire more people over the age of 40.”
Bridges credits her for his success, saying he’s proud of his mother.
“She works her butt off. That’s where I get my work habits — from her. She never stopped,” Bridges said. “She’s why I’m here right now.”