This July I was lucky enough to be selected for the Sports Business Classroom at the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas. When I heard about this program a year ago on the Dunc’d on Podcast, I decided I would do whatever it took to get there. The second I got the magic email from program head and salary cap / CBA master Larry Coon, I signed up on the spot.
This was a watershed moment for me. Once submitted my application, I knew this was the time to give away my full time sales job and sink my teeth into basketball as a full-time career.
I had some reservations about how I would fit in when I went to Vegas. I was from New Zealand, I was going to be a lot older than the other students, did I have enough knowledge?
In the months leading up to the program I was both nervous and excited. I laid out my favorite Jordan’s the week before, I wanted to stand out and represent New Zealand well!
The day I flew out was a Saturday, it was also the last day of my sales job. Not only had I just quit my job but I was about to fly for around 18 hours to attend the Sports Business Classroom! After a wild week of NBA Free Agency I couldn’t even say goodbye to my wife without my phone exploding with another blockbuster trade. After three long but non eventful flights, I was at last in Las Vegas.
I realized pretty quickly that most of the NBA’s elite were in Vegas for this week. Within a few hours I had shared a lift with Terry Rozier and spotted Dwight Howard and Marvin Bagley Jr in the hotel lobby. Coming from a non basketball country that dines out on Andrew Bogut playing once a year in Auckland, this was a big deal for me.
I helped my room-mate Andrew check-in on Sunday, Andrew is a great guy and we straight away started talking basketball. After spotting similar basketball nerds in the hotel lobby, I knew I had come to the right program. Wandering down to the hotel sports book to join the other students, we were the loudest people in the Palms Casino. To my surprise they had taken over the bar without buying a single drink and there were various animated discussions going on between fans of different teams. By the time our group had swelled to 20, the bar manager had to ask us to leave. She didn’t want to hear one more minute of discussion on Ben Simmons jump shot!
This theme continued all week, the 87 students got on so well. We spent most of our spare time debating trades, free agency and general NBA themes. The students on the program were excellent people, not only were they obviously fanatical about the game but they were there to learn and grow.
As far as the content went, we were spoilt for choice. Kenny ‘ The Jet ‘ Smith walked in on the first night and everyone lost it. The theme of high calibre guest speakers continued throughout the week.
Sports Business Majors
The heart and soul of the program though was Mr Larry Coon. Not only is Larry one of the foremost salary cap and CBA experts in the league, he is a genuinely great guy who has built a world class program. He was ably assisted by Dave DuFour, Eric Pincus, Beau Estes, Jeff Fellenzer and a team of interns. The program ran smoothly throughout the week as people settled into their chosen majors. Between Scouting and Analytics, CBA Salary Cap, and Social Media there was something for everyone. You still dipped your toe in the other subjects as ‘ minors. ‘
Dave DuFour led the Analytics and Scouting. He brought in ex Atlanta Hawks GM Wes Wilcox to talk the Scouting and Draft Process. Dave is a great guy and often answered dozens of questions from students if there was a break in the program.
Wes was one of the highlights of the program for me. With 15 years experience on both the Cavaliers and the Hawks, Wes was a student favorite throughout the week. Not only was his content on point as far as technical and organisational points went, Wes was open and honest with the students. He encouraged us to build our own draft or player evaluations while pushing the students to form their own opinions while watching game tape.
Larry and Eric Pincus led the CBA / Salary Cap major. They sat in the directors chairs at the front of the class and proceeded to wow the students with their in depth knowledge and dry humor when it came to the CBA. After some good background on the CBA, the next day the class ripped into a mock trade deadline after splitting into groups of five or six. By the end of the week Larry had reached legend status, students started chanting his name when he entered the arena or classroom!
It would be an understatement to say this trade deadline was wild. Each team had an assigned NBA expert that ranged from Howard Beck to Nate Duncan. People were trying to dump salary, pull off five team trades or just get one over their fellow classmates!
David Aldridge was another speaker earlier in the week. David is a basketball hall of fame inductee, and is a legend in media circles. His advice to the class was gold, while his stories were both funny and touching. David was just one of an array of great speakers and contributors.
After a full on week of learning and networking, I was sad to be heading home. The content was detailed and concise, while the program was slick and organised. While making life long friends and connections, this program provided me with a lot of new skills and direction for my career.
If you are pursuing a career in the NBA or Basketball in general, this program is a must. Nowhere else can you get so many of the world’s best basketball minds in one place, while learning from like minded peers and tutors. This week was a life changing one for me and I look forward to seeing everyone again next year when I head back to Summer league!