Within only several months, I left the University of Arizona and completed a summer internship at the sports agency, Wasserman Media Group, in Los Angeles, California. It was an exciting summer and a great learning experience. However, the real world was knocking on my door, and it was time to find a full-time job. At that point, I had ambitions of being a basketball coach, not a sports agent, which I had planned for 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. And although I had some interest from teams, I couldn't secure any legitimate offers. During that time, I learned 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 things to unfold organically. I felt I needed to think outside the box and be assertive, so I did that. I came up with the 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, 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 led to a successful career. Anyway, we started making calls to people within our network that could help facilitate that sort of deal. We talked with Max Ergul, a Turkish agent who worked with Milwaukee Bucks' player Ersan Ilyasova. We had gotten to know Max well because he had moved to Milwaukee when the Bucks drafted Ersan, 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 had found a team in Istanbul, Turkey, that wanted me to be an assistant coach emphasizing 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, but I was ready to conquer the world, at least in my mind. I felt that I just needed an opportunity. I decided to accept the deal and begin my long-awaited coaching career in Istanbul, Turkey.
However, 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. But 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 plan 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, "What was that?"
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.
Sam: 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 will love it!
Me: Thank you so much, Sam! Let me talk to my dad, and I'll call you back shortly.
After some consideration, I decided to accept the deal in Italy, and just like that, my plans dramatically changed. I packed up all my stuff, purchased a couple of Italian phrasebooks, hugged my mom, and was off. I boarded the plane to Italy without speaking to anyone from the team, as all 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.
Continue reading: "My Past Life as a Sports Agent: Bologna, Italy."