With eyes on Tokyo, Canada Basketball adds Leah MacNab, Paul Jones to leadership

Canada Basketball is introducing a pair of new voices to its board of directors.

The organization announced the addition of managing director of NBA Canada Leah MacNab and former national team player Paul Jones to its advisory committee on Thursday.

MacNab, who’s been with the league for 15 years, represents the new wave of women working in basketball. The 40-year-old hails from the same town — Elmont, Ont., — as basketball founder James Naismith.

In 2018, MacNab was named a recipient of Canadian Sports Business’ ‘Five to Watch’ award as a top sports executive under 40.

Across the NBA, 40.3 per cent of professional positions are held by women, and six serve as president, CEO or COO of a team. Another 62 women served as vice presidents or higher in the league office. MacNab becomes the third woman on the board.

“The board is full of really incredible people and so I’m looking to learn from them and then also hopefully contribute a different perspective than may have existed a year prior and just see what we can do to help grow the profile of Canada Basketball’s programs,” MacNab said.

Jones has served as a colour analyst for Toronto Raptors games since the franchise’s inaugural season in 1995, and won a silver medal with Canada at the 1983 Commonwealth Games.

Born in Kingston, Jamaica, Jones’ family moved to Canada when he was a few months old. Jones’ affection for basketball grew while living in Toronto, with both he and brother Mark starting their broadcasting careers at TSN. Mark has since moved to ESPN.

Paul Jones covered the 1992 Olympics that featured the U.S. Dream Team as well as several international tournaments since.

“It’s helping to advance the game in Canada — that’s the biggest thing. We’ve always been a country that I’ve felt should be one of the top five in the world, and really the only people that should be in front of us are the U.S. so it’s great that I have a chance to contribute and help out and help move the ball forward,” Jones said.

Important time for program

The next 10 months could prove critical for Canada Basketball as it prepares to try to win its first Olympic medal since 1936 in Tokyo while in the midst of the pandemic.

“The boundaries they give you, you try to work within them. … It’s going to be difficult and realize that everybody’s in the same boat. We were lucky to have some Canadian kids playing in the CEBL championship and some of our Canadian kids that were in the NBA playing with their respective teams. Just being able to play and trying to stay in shape,” Jones said.

The women’s team faces the challenge of being spread throughout the world, with some remaining in Canada and some choosing to play overseas in France, Poland and elsewhere. The team has already qualified for Tokyo and should be available to fully come together then, but it remains to be seen when it could meet up beforehand.

The first international window — when a tournament or practices would happen — runs from Nov. 8 through Nov. 16, but no plans have been made. All the team knows is it won’t have international competition in that time.

Meanwhile, the men’s team is seemingly reliant on the NBA schedule. Commissioner Adam Silver recently said the 2021 season wouldn’t start until at least January and that an Olympic break would be unlikely.

More pressing than the Olympics, though, is the team’s last-chance qualifying tournament scheduled for June in Victoria. With the NBA season likely to be ongoing, Canada could be without coach Nick Nurse and many of its top players.

MacNab and Jones take the places of Joe Di Curzio and Niko Carino on the board.

Below is the full board of directors:

  • Brian Cooper — Chair, MKTG (Chair)

  • Rob Wright — President/Founding Partner, Mowbray, Wright Financial and IPC Investment Corporation (Vice-Chair)

  • Brian Bidulka — Executive vice president and chief financial officer, Postmedia Network Inc. (Treasurer)

  • Shannon Hosford — Chief marketing officer, Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment

  • Paul Jones — Broadcaster, Sportsnet 590 The Fan & TSN 1050 

  • Basil Kavanagh — Associate professor, School of Human Kinetics & Recreation, Memorial University

  • Scott Lake — Founder and CEO, Hello Ventures

  • Leah MacNab — Managing director, NBA Canada

  • Wayne Parrish — Senior vice president, Editorial, Torstar Corporation

  • Candice Stasynec — Event facilitator & strategist, Always Game Consulting

  • Masai Ujiri — President, Toronto Raptors 

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