Scott O’Neil is the chief executive officer of Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment whose properties include the NBA Philadelphia 76ers, the NHL New Jersey Devils, and the Prudential Center. He is also an acting co-managing partner for Elevate Sports Ventures. He has more than 20 years of experience in the NBA, NHL and NFL.
He was president of Madison Square Garden Sports for four years and senior vice president, team marketing and business operations for the National Basketball Association for eight years.
He holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration and marketing from Villanova University and a master’s degree in business administration from Harvard Business School. He and his wife, Lisa, are on the National Advisory Council of the BYU Marriott School of Business. He is the author of Be Where Your Feet Are.
O’Neil was baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 2016 at the age of 46. His wife, Lisa, and their three daughters were active members of the Church at the time of his baptism.
Scott and Lisa O’Neil met while both were working for the New Jersey Nets, he as an administrative assistant and she as an intern. O’Neil was a devout Catholic and attended both Catholic high school and college. Lisa was a Latter-day Saint and a student at Brigham Young University. She had internship opportunities from two other NBA teams, both of which were better than the offer from New Jersey, and O’Neil said there is no reason she should’ve gone with the Nets other than to find her future husband.
Before they were married, O’Neil made a commitment that their children would be raised in the Church of Jesus Christ and that he would be supportive and go with them to church. “He was true to his word for more than two decades despite the demands of a successful career that has earned him a place in the Sports Business Journal's Forty Under 40 Hall of Fame.”
The Deseret News wrote about his conversion story:
- It begins as many conversion stories do: with a missionary, but not in the conventional sense. While O’Neil’s nephew, Jeremy Reynolds, was serving his mission in Sendai, Japan, his mission president asked if he had any relatives who were not members of the LDS Church.
- “Those members of your family who are not members of the church just became your biggest investigators,” Reynolds remembers his mission president saying when he replied that he had several family members who were not LDS. “Obviously I want you to focus on the people here in Japan and the people you’ll meet, but what matters is your family and you need to focus on them. So when you write home every week, have those people in mind and pray to try to find something that might benefit them in their lives.”
- Reynolds says his family had prayed that his uncle would join the church his whole life. He began to write his letters with O’Neil in mind and O’Neil read those letters every week.
- “That, I would tell Lisa later, had a complete transformational impact and influence on me,” O’Neil said. “I would read these notes that he would send back and I would be brought to tears every week.”
- When Reynolds returned home from his mission, the O’Neils flew to Utah to welcome him home. While in Utah, they attended the BYU-Cincinnati game on Oct. 16, and while riding on the elevator, O’Neil recognized former Philadelphia Eagles player Chad Lewis. After O’Neil introduced himself, Lewis immediately asked if he knew Vai Sikahema, a former BYU and Philadelphia Eagles football player who is now a well-known morning news anchor in Philadelphia. O’Neil said he knew of him but didn’t know him personally. Lewis told him the two needed to be friends.
- The O’Neils got back to Philadelphia and Scott had breakfast with Sikahema the next day. The two became fast friends and immediately hit it off, so much so that Sikahema quickly recruited O’Neil’s help with something. Leaders of the LDS Church were flying out to Philadelphia to see prospective sites for the Philadelphia Pennsylvania Temple Cultural Celebration, but church leaders in Philadelphia, including Sikahema, had been unable to find anywhere that was available. When told about the dilemma, O’Neil immediately went to work, and it was his help that eventually secured the Liacouras Center at Temple University for the celebration.
- Doing his “little part” in the temple preparations played a significant part in O’Neil’s conversion.
- “The temple coming to Philadelphia was special for so many reasons,” O’Neil said. “I mean, it brought us closer as a family, it brought the ward together, the stake together, kind of the region together, and to play our little part, I think definitely kind of moved it. I’m not sure I can articulate how, but it definitely had an incredible, strong feeling or sense that it’s a special place where special things happen.”
- Since then, O’Neil says that some of his family’s “best spiritual experiences have been around the Sikahemas.”
- “Over the last year, little things and involvement with certain people, like he had never met Vai and then they just met and he’s suddenly involved with the temple and it was really interesting,” Lisa O’Neil said.
- Sikahema recalls one spiritual experience the two shared.
- “The first time we met he said, ‘Vai, you know what’s going to get me into the church? It’s going to be my daughter Alexa, because she takes great joy in torturing me by telling me, “Daddy, I’m getting married in the temple and you won’t be there.”’ … Then she gets out of the car at seminary and leaves him there in the car mulling over what she just said,” Sikahema recalled.
- “When we took them through the temple tour, we were in the sealing room and I said to Scott, ‘My wife and I will be here with you on the day that Alexa gets married and you’re here with her and with Lisa,’” Sikahema said. “And he just draped his body on mine and we just cried.”
- The Philadelphia Temple plays an interesting part in this for Lisa O’Neil as well, as she had never gone through the temple for her own endowment before but knowing that they would soon have a temple close by, she decided to go through the temple while visiting her family in Utah. Unbeknownst to Lisa, while his wife and daughters were in Utah, Scott O’Neil called and set up a dinner with his home teacher, a member of their stake presidency named Clark Maxwell, who he calls "an incredibly Christlike person."
- “We went to dinner and I said, ‘Hey, I want to do this the right way,’” O’Neil recalls saying. “How does this actually work? How is this going to go down? Will you help me through it?”
- “As stubborn as I am, even I, at some point had to listen to the promptings,” O’Neil said. “I just kept getting nudged and finally heeded the call.”
- The two began meeting with the missionaries every night while O’Neil’s family was out of town and when they returned home, he told Lisa and his daughters that he had decided to be baptized.
- O’Neil was baptized on Aug. 13, and the family was in the celestial room for the dedication of the Philadelphia Pennsylvania Temple on Sept. 18. The couple says all of this has made for the best summer of their lives.
- As for his future as a member of the LDS Church, O’Neil says that next to being with his family forever, he is most excited for the opportunity to serve.
- “I want to serve in a very responsible and humble and directed and inspired way,” O’Neil said, holding his wife’s hand. “It’s not lost on me that I might have more attention than others, and if I can use that to encourage someone to raise their hand or encourage someone to talk to a missionary who might not otherwise have, I’d like to see if there’s a chance that I might have some influence there. I’m very well aware that I have a lot to learn about the church and its teachings and I certainly have a long way to go in terms of my own development and knowledge, which I’m working on.
- “But I also know that sometimes you’re given an opportunity and a platform to be able to use that for good. I hope that I’m able to do that.”