My Past Life as a Sports Agent: "Going to California"
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 the first entry of the series, Babcock outlines his move to Los Angeles, California to begin his lifelong dream of working in basketball.
In the spring of 2006, I packed up my car, moved out of my apartment in Tucson, Arizona and hit the road. In my rearview mirror was the University of Arizona and my unavailing playing career; however, I wasn’t looking back. In my mind I had always been destined to follow in my dad and uncle’s footsteps, working in basketball. It was time for me to turn the page and start my next chapter.
On the other end of that road trip awaited a summer internship for me at one of the biggest sports agencies in all of sports, Wasserman Media Group, in Los Angeles, California. At the helm of the basketball division of the agency was famous sports agent, Arn Tellem, who is now vice chairman of the Detroit Pistons. Prior to becoming a sports agent, Tellem had worked as general counsel for owner Donald Sterling and the San Diego Clippers. He was also instrumental in the team’s move to Los Angeles in 1984. My uncle, Pete Babcock, had been the vice president of basketball operations for the Clippers while they were in San Diego. Therefore, my family had a long-standing relationship with Tellem, dating back to the early 1980s before I was even born. Likely due to my family’s relationship with Tellem, I was offered a summer internship at Wasserman — and of course, I accepted.
Nowadays, after having worked in the agency business for over a decade, many people ask me how I got started. They assume I went to law school and had a sophisticated, well thought out plan to pursue a career as a sports agent. Well, that wasn’t the case at all. Contrarily, I had always wanted to work directly for an NBA team, even as a child. I thought I’d start my career in coaching and eventually transition into scouting, just like my dad did. I’ll elaborate on all of that later.
In addition to having typical intern-type responsibilities, like sending faxes to teams or airport runs for players and staff members, Wasserman agents Bob Myers and Greg Lawrence explained to me that my main responsibility would be to assist in player workouts on the court, helping prepare their new clients for the NBA pre-draft process. It was the perfect starting point for a young, aspiring coach.
My first job was set and I was ready to begin my career working in basketball, as I had always dreamed. But there was a big problem: where was I going to live? It was a paid internship, but like most internships, it didn’t pay all that much, and L.A. was and is an extremely expensive place to live. My dad worked in the NBA for years and my family did well, but I assure you I was not on any type of “gravy train.” I needed help!
I think to some people’s surprise, although I grew up in an NBA family I was never given access to much money to spend as my own. Still, I will admit I have greatly benefited from my family’s connections within basketball, especially early on in my career. My first stop in L.A. might have been the best example of that. After tapping into my family’s network and trying to find somewhere to stay for the summer, our family friend, Sam Goldfeder, an agent for Excel Sports Management and, ironically, a competitor of Wasserman’s, graciously offered to let me stay in the guest house of his mother-in-law’s place for the summer — for free!
So I drove my car west on the I-10 across Arizona and into California. GPS on cell phones weren’t around yet, so I grabbed my printed Mapquest directions as I made my way into the L.A. area. Before I knew it I was in Beverly Hills — one of the world’s most prestigious neighborhoods. I passed the Beverly Hills Hotel and it dawned on me that I was at the final steps of the directions:
Head east on N Crescent Dr toward Sunset Blvd
Sharp right onto Sunset Blvd
Slight right onto Benedict Canyon Dr
Destination will be on the left
Sam hadn’t told me any details about the house or the setup other than I would simply be staying in the guest house. I was relieved and thankful that I had a place to stay, but I was still curious to see where I’d be living for the summer. When I finally pulled up to the house, I couldn’t believe it — the house was incredible! It was the type of house I imagined a movie star would have lived in. Eyes wide open, I pressed the button at the security gate and an unfamiliar voice answered saying “hello?” I responded by telling them who I was and that I was supposed to be staying in the guest house for the summer. Subsequently, the gate opened and I pulled my car into the wrap-around driveway. I was greeted by several women that worked for Sam’s mother-in-law at the house. They said they would make me dinner, buy groceries, and have my dry cleaning taken care of whenever I needed during my stay. They then showed me to the guest house in the back. It was perfect! The whole situation was a bit surreal. I felt lucky — I was lucky!
I was a young twenty-two-year-old kid, fresh out of college, set to spend the summer living in the heart of Beverly Hills among the rich and famous, all while working for one of the biggest agencies in all of sports. After a disappointing playing career that weighed on me heavily, I had a chance to make a new start and pursue my own ambitions of having a presence in basketball, separate from my family.
That very next morning, I was set to begin my first day at Wasserman and my first day working in basketball. With high hopes, I had a world of endless possibilities ahead of me...
Stay tuned for my next entry of the series, "My Past Life as a Sports Agent: The 2006 NBA Draft."