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  • Writer's pictureMatt Babcock

My Past Life as a Sports Agent: An Aspiring Coach Goes Abroad

Babcock Hoops presents a series of entries from former sports agent, Matt Babcock. He will peel back the curtain, giving a glimpse of some of his personal experiences working in the sports agency business for over a decade.

In this entry of the series, Babcock discusses his search for coaching jobs prior to entering the sports agency business, ultimately leading him to go abroad.

Within only a quick several months I had left the University of Arizona and completed a summer internship at the sports agency, Wasserman Media Group, in Los Angeles, California; an exciting summer and great learning experience, to say the least. However, the real world was knocking on my door and I needed to find a full-time job — a typical situation for a 22-year-old right out of college. At that point in time, I had ambitions of being a basketball coach, not a sports agent, which was something I had planned on my entire life. Once my internship ended at Wasserman, I tapped into my family’s network, with the help of my dad, in hopes of landing an entry level coaching job, ideally with an NBA or D-League team. Although I had some interest from teams, I wasn’t able to secure any legitimate offers. During that time I realized how tough it is to break into professional sports, even if you are well connected.

For better or worse, I’m not one to sit back and wait for anything to unfold organically. I felt that I needed to think outside of the box and be assertive — so that’s what I did. I came up with an idea to pursue jobs with professional teams overseas. I ran it by my dad and he thought it was a good idea. He mentioned that our friend Tony Ronzone, who is currently the director of player personnel for the Dallas Mavericks, had done that early on in his career and it had opened up some unique opportunities for him, which lead to a successful career. Anyway, we started making calls to people within our network that could possibly help facilitate that sort of deal. We talked with Max Ergul, a Turkish agent that worked with Milwaukee Bucks’ player Ersan Ilyasova. We had gotten to know Max well because he had moved to Milwaukee when Ersan was drafted by the Bucks, the team my dad had worked for and still does. Max liked the idea, and began to pursue opportunities for me. Before I knew it, he found a team in Istanbul, Turkey that wanted me to be an assistant coach with an emphasis on player development. The terms of the deal were unique: I would not get paid a salary, but they would cover all of my expenses: flights, food, housing, transportation, etc. The team wanted me to fly to Istanbul in August and be there for the entire season. I had only a few months of work experience under my belt, but in my mind I was ready to conquer the world; all I needed was an opportunity just like that. I had made up my mind that I was going to take the deal. I was set to start my coaching career in Istanbul, Turkey.

Before I formally agreed to anything with the team in Turkey, I called Sam Goldfeder, an agent with Excel Sports Management, who had been kind enough to let me stay in his mother-in-law’s guest house in Beverly Hills for the summer during my internship with Wasserman Media Group. My intent for calling Sam was to thank and update him on my job status. The conversation did not go as I had expected, as it went something like this:

Me: Sam, I just wanted to call to thank you again for everything you did for me this summer. I also wanted to let you know that I’m planning to accept a coaching position with a professional team in Istanbul, Turkey.

Sam Goldfeder: What?! Have you signed anything yet?

Me: No, I have not.

Sam: Ok, don’t! I’ll call you back.

He abruptly hung up the phone and I thought to myself: “What was that?'' However, I trusted Sam, so I waited anxiously.

Within a day or so, my phone rang. It was Sam.

Sam: I have good news. I talked with our collaborating partner in Italy, Matteo Comellini. I told him about your offer in Turkey and he spoke to the team in his hometown of Bologna, Italy. They would like to match the offer.

Me: Wow, really?!

Sam: Yes, it’s a great situation! The team’s name is Virtus Bologna. They are one of the best teams in Italy. It’s a terrific place — I think you would love it!

Me: Thank you so much, Sam! Let me talk to my dad and I’ll get back to you.

After some consideration, I decided to accept the deal in Italy and just like that my plans were overhauled. I packed up all of my stuff, purchased a couple of Italian phrase books, gave my mom a kiss, and I was off. I boarded the plane to Italy without even speaking to anyone from the team, as all of the communication had been through Sam and Matteo. I wasn’t quite sure what I had signed up for, but one thing was for sure: I was a soon-to-be Italian resident and assistant coach of a professional basketball team.

Stay tuned for the next installment of the series: “My Past Life as a Sports Agent”.

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