Step by step, Milt Newton is climbing the career ladder in professional basketball.
Newton, a member of Kansas University's 1988 NCAA championship team, has played in the Continental Basketball Assn. and worked in the front office of the National Basketball Development League. A couple of months ago, he was named director of player personnel of the NBA's Washington Wizards.
"This is the highest level of basketball. (But) there are higher levels on teams," said Newton, who worked three years as director of player personnel in the NBDL, a minor league of the NBA. "Hopefully, one day I can be a GM (general manager) or even a president. We'll see."
In Washington, the 38-year-old Newton will work with general manager Ernie Grunfeld.
"If you asked anyone around the league, they would tell you my boss, Ernie Grunfeld, has a very keen sense of how this thing is done," Newton said. "He is an expert on the salary cap and how a team can manipulate it. I have a lot to learn about the cap, and I'll be learning from the best."
Newton, who graduated from Washington's Coolidge High, will be in charge of the Wizards' scouting department, helping assess college and high school talent for the NBA draft. He'll also evaluate NBA players.
Newton might even return to his NBDL roots as a scout.
"I'd say my best moments there were, number one, getting the league off the ground and playing the first game," Newton said. "Number two was seeing our first call-up to the NBA."
Chris Anderson (of Fayetteville, N.C., Patriots) was signed by the Nuggets in Newton's first year.
Though far removed from his KU career, Newton follows the Jayhawks closely. He was a red-shirt freshman during the 1985-86 season when KU advanced to the Final Four.
Working as a grad assistant on Larry Brown's staff that season was current KU head coach Bill Self.
"Milt was in his second year when I was here before, and I always thought so much of him," Self said. "As a person, he was responsible and disciplined. It's no surprise to me he's done so well in the basketball arena. It's not a surprise to anybody who knows Milt."
Newton and many of his '88 teammates will be honored at Friday's Late Night In the Phog at Allen Fieldhouse, and Newton can't wait to see Self again.
"Bill was one of the guys on the staff who had to be the 'bad guy,'" Newton said. "If we ran suicides at practice and didn't touch the (end) line, he was the bad guy and told coach about it. One day he said, 'Coach, Milt didn't touch the line.' I went up to him (Self) and said, 'After practice, me and you, we'll go at it.'
"He said, 'Bring it on.' So after practice we met and we wrestled on the court and we'd get to where we did that after practice a lot. It was pretty fun. I thought I could take him, but he was pretty strong. I think I could take him now."
Self doesn't doubt that.
"Yeah, he could, but now it'd be a pillow fight," the 40-year-old Self said. "Back then I was in decent shape. Milt, I believe, was a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, something like that. The only thing with him is I'd say, 'No kicking.'"