When Kathy Betty attended high school in Alabama, the school offered no formal sports programs for women. Today, as the new Managing Partner of the Women’s National Basketball Association’s (WNBA) Atlanta Dream, Betty has two goals: to be successful both on and off the court. “First, we’ve got to win,” says Betty, “but we also want to help make it so that a young girl can get up in the morning and dream of being a WNBA player. That’s what’s really important.”
“You’re kidding, right?”
Kathy Betty, an alum of the Atlanta Ernst & Young LLP office, says she had no intention of ever becoming a professional women’s basketball team owner. In fact, when first approached about it, she actually laughed. But the more she learned about the WNBA and the Atlanta Dream in particular, the more interested she became. “Once I understood what the Atlanta Dream stood for — the competitive spirit, the opportunities for women as role models, the passion to give back to the community — I didn’t hesitate,” she says. “Some people said to me, ‘You don’t want to do this.’” But Betty, her own competitive fires stoked, simply replied, “Just give me two years.”
In the early 1980s, Betty worked for Hayes Microsystems — a computer telecommunications pioneer that patented the first modem — where she reported to Marcus Harwood. Harwood would eventually join EY as a leader in its then-burgeoning consulting practice. He recruited a number of his former Hayes coworkers, Betty included, to join him at EY. “It was very exciting,” says Betty. “We were on the early end of fun stuff called ‘reengineering.’ We were literally writing the methodology at the same time we were doing the client work.” Betty was quickly nominated for partner, but soon realized she preferred strategy over technology. She decided to join a boutique consulting firm where she could focus on the more strategic aspects of the business.
Meanwhile, in 1996, Betty’s husband, Garry, had the notion of launching his own internet service provider company, EarthLink, Inc. Now shuttling back and forth between homes in Georgia and California, Betty somehow found time to form her own incubator firm, The Tradewind Group.
Just as things seemed to be settling down, Betty’s father was diagnosed with cancer in 1999. She semiretired and permanently relocated to Atlanta to be nearer to him. A few years later, just as the Bettys were planning to retire fully, came more difficult news. In November 2006, Garry Betty was diagnosed with cancer. He passed away in January 2007 at the age of 49. Prior to his death, the Bettys set up The Garry Betty Foundation, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to funding research into the genetic mutations that may lead to cancer. Today, Kathy Betty serves as CEO of the foundation, which frequently works hand-in-hand with the V Foundation, a cancer research organization set up in honor of the late North Carolina State basketball coach and ESPN anchor, Jim Valvano.
For many years, the Bettys had been major contributors to Georgia Tech’s men’s and women’s basketball programs. So, through a chain of connections, last September Betty received a call from Atlanta Chamber of Commerce executive A.J. Robinson asking if she would be interested in taking over the Dream. After the initial shock wore off, Betty got to work talking to business and community leaders and lining up potential sponsors. A few weeks later, on 29 October 2009, the Dream announced Betty as its new Managing Partner. “When you look at it, the Dream combines everything I’m passionate about,” says Betty. “As an entrepreneurial organization, we have a fantastic product to market. We do a huge amount of charity and community work — it’s helping to elevate the role of women as professional athletes and business leaders. And it’s just an incredible amount of fun. What more could you ask for?”
The Atlanta Dream’s motto is: “Play to win, dream to make a difference.” Alum Kathy Betty is certainly doing both.
New Atlanta Dream owner Kathy Betty certainly joined the team at a good time. In its inaugural season (2008), the Dream posted a dismal 4-30 record. But in 2009, the team went 18-16, achieving the largest one-year turnaround in WNBA history.
More dreams fulfilled:
- In 2009 the Dream earned the second seed in the Eastern Conference and its first-ever WNBA playoff berth.
- Dream Head Coach Marynell Meadors received the 2009 WNBA Coach of the Year Award.
- Atlanta Dream forward Angel McCoughtry was named the 2009 Adidas Rookie of the Year.