David Benner wins Splaver/McHugh Award

INDIANAPOLIS – David Benner, who led the Basketball Communications Department of the Indiana Pacers for nearly 30 years, has been posthumously named the recipient of the Brian McIntyre Trophy as the 2023 Splaver/McHugh “Tribute to Excellence” Award winner.  Benner’s family was presented with the award at his memorial service today in Indianapolis after he passed away on March 1.

The Splaver/McHugh Award is given by the NBA Public Relations Directors Association to a current or former member of the NBA public relations family who has demonstrated an outstanding level of performance and service during his or her NBA career.

Benner served as the Pacers’ Director of Media Relations for 27 seasons from 1994-95 – 2020-21.  He then spent the 2021-22 season with Indiana as Senior Media Advisor before stepping away from the organization.  The Pacers presented Benner with a framed No. 28 jersey in honor of his years of service before a home game against the Detroit Pistons on April 3, 2022.

During his tenure, Indiana became the first two-time winner of the Brian McIntyre Media Relations Award, which is presented by the Professional Basketball Writers Association (PBWA) to the NBA media relations staff that best exemplifies the standards of professionalism and excellence.  The Pacers earned the honor in the 2010-11 and 2012-13 seasons.

Under Benner’s direction, the PBWA also recognized the Pacers with the Rudy Tomjanovich Award (Frank Vogel in 2013-14) and the Magic Johnson Award (Jermaine O’Neal in 2003-04).  The Rudy Tomjanovich Award honors an NBA coach for his cooperation with the media and fans in addition to his excellence on the court.  The Magic Johnson Award honors the NBA player who best combines excellence on the court with cooperation and dignity in dealing with the media and the public.

Benner oversaw public relations efforts for six Eastern Conference Finals appearances and one NBA Finals berth, along with individual winners for NBA Defensive Player of the Year, NBA Most Improved Player, NBA Coach of the Year and NBA Basketball Executive of the Year.

An Indiana native and Indiana University alum, Benner joined the Pacers after a successful career as a sports journalist with the Indianapolis Star.  He covered the Pacers (1983-91) and Notre Dame football (1991-94) for the newspaper.

The Splaver/McHugh Award is named in memory of two of the most highly respected public relations executives in NBA history, Marc Splaver and Howie McHugh.  Splaver was the Public Relations Director of the Washington Bullets for five seasons in the 1970s.  McHugh served for more than 40 years as the original Public Relations Director of the Boston Celtics.

The award’s trophy was named in honor of longtime NBA executive Brian McIntyre in 2015.  McIntyre, the 2012 winner of the award, directed the NBA Communications Department and later the Basketball Communications Department from 1981-2010.  McIntyre joined the NBA after three and a half seasons as Director of Marketing and Media Information for the Chicago Bulls.

Splaver/McHugh Award Winners

Below is a list of Splaver/McHugh Award winners and their NBA contributions.

• Tom Ambrose: Founder and first President of the NBA Public Relations Directors Association; spent 37 years with the Phoenix Suns, including roles as Public Relations Director, Senior Vice President and  Executive Director of Phoenix Suns Charities

• David Benner: Former Indiana Pacers Media Relations Director who worked with the team from 1994-2022

• John Black: Former Los Angeles Public Relations Director who worked with the team from 1989-2016

• Dave Coskey: Former Philadelphia 76ers Executive Vice President and Vice President of Marketing and Communications

• Dennis D’Agostino: Current New York Knicks Team Historian and Writer; 36-season tenure with the Knicks, including a stint as Director of Publications and Broadcast Services

• Matt Dobek: Former Detroit Pistons Public Relations Director and Vice President who worked with the team from 1981-2010

• Jim Foley: Former Houston Rockets Public Relations Director and Radio Analyst who worked for the team for 36 seasons

• Cheri Hanson: Current Portland Trail Blazers Vice President, Team Relations after joining the team in 2007 as Vice President of Communications; formerly directed public relations for the Golden State Warriors, Seattle SuperSonics and Milwaukee Bucks; former NBA Assistant Director of Media Relations; daughter of 1998 Splaver/McHugh Award winner John White

• Terry Lyons: Former NBA Vice President of International Communications who spent 26 years with the league

• Brian McIntyre: Former Chicago Bulls Director of Marketing and Media Information; led communications efforts at the NBA from 1981-2010; named the 2011 John W. Bunn Lifetime Achievement Award recipient by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame

• Harvey Pollack: Legendary NBA statistician; named the 2002 John W. Bunn Lifetime Achievement Award recipient by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame

• Mark Pray: Former Washington Bullets and Miami Heat Public Relations Director

• Josh Rosenfeld: Former Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks Public Relations Director and the NBA’s first Director of International Public Relations

• Tommy Sheppard: Former Denver Nuggets Senior Director of Team Services and Player Relations; current Washington Wizards President and General Manager

• Kevin Sullivan: Former Dallas Mavericks Public Relations Director

• Jeff Twiss: Current Boston Celtics Vice President of Media Services/Alumni Relations who is in his 42nd season with the team

• Rick Welts: Former Seattle SuperSonics Public Relations Director; former Phoenix Suns President and Chief Executive Officer; former Executive Vice President, Chief Operating Officer and President of NBA Properties; former Golden State Warriors President and Chief Operating Officer

• John White: Original Portland Trail Blazers Publicity Director

• Matt Winick: Former NBA Director of Media Information and Senior Vice President of Scheduling and Game Operations; oversaw NBA game scheduling for more than 30 years