“So what do you do during the summer?” I get that question a lot this time of year. When new acquaintances find out that I work for the Suns, they often assume that the NBA’s so-called “off”season must be slow or even boring.

Far from it!

Now, I do admit that I spent more than a few of my summer hours as an intern in the early ’90s playing H-O-R-S-E on a Nerf hoop with Frank Johnson and David Griffin. But those days are nothing more than a distant memory at this point.

 

Summers for the Suns.com staff are almost as hectic as the regular season these days, though. From the moment the playoffs end, we move into full NBA Draft mode. Then there is Summer League and the free-agency period with press conferences and introductions of new players, a la Grant Hill. And in recent years, we’ve had Suns players and coaches participating in USA Basketball to keep an eye on, as well.

 

Throw in the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, who we also cover for PhoenixMercury.com, and Suns front-office maneuvers such as the hirings of new GM Steve Kerr and assistant coach Jay Humphries, and we are running like the LB on a fast break.

[Quick tangent: I can't forget to mention that we were also asked to record video tours of a couple of potential new homes for Hill and his wife, Tamia, who was eight months pregnant and unable to travel to Phoenix to see them in person. Not that I'm complaining. My crew enjoyed it and we now hope to feature the Hills on a future episode of Suns Home Court!]

 

I personally, however, did very little of the above this year. Instead, I’ve spent the majority of the summer playing GM. Thanks to the vision of Suns owners Robert Sarver and Sam Garvin, and President Rick Welts, not to mention the full support of Suns Sr. VPs John Walker and Lynn Agnello, I was given approval to double the size of our Suns.com team!

 

So for the past two-plus months, I have been evaluating talent, recruiting free-agents and negotiating contracts. Or something like that. After sifting through more than 300 resumes and conducting some 40 or 50 interviews, I am proud to officially introduce the newest members of our team:

 

Dan Hilton: I don’t think I could have found someone better suited for our newly created Web Analytics Coordinator position than Dan Hilton. Not only does he bring more than nine years of web metrics experience with him, but he is a lifelong Suns fan and actually ran his own Suns fan blog site in his spare time!

[Read an interview he did with his successor at BrightSideoftheSuns.com earlier this week]

Dan will be responsible for analyzing and reporting on the daily, weekly and monthly traffic on Suns.com, as well as the online behavior pattern of our visitors, to assist in sponsor integration, search engine optimization and ease of site navigation. Confused yet?

I have also asked him to take over moderation of this official Suns blog. It wasn’t in the original job description, but his license plate reads “SNSBLGR,” for crying out loud. How could I not ask him to oversee the blog?

 

Stefan Swiat: With two years on NBA.com’s newsdesk writing articles and blogs, posting photos and videos, and updating both the teams and league sites on game nights, Stefan Swiat was another perfect fit, filling our new Web Content Coordinator role.

Convincing him to leave NBA.com in New Jersey and move to the opposite side of the country was the only tricky part. Not that coming to work for the three-time Pacific Division Champions AND the NBA’s reigning Web Site of the Year, wasn’t attractive. After all, Stefan did apply for the position. But changing jobs and coasts is, understandably, a life-altering decision. And so I called in a little favor.

 

After playing at least a wee bit role in helping to recruit Steve Nash back to Phoenix in 2004 – putting together a coffee table book custom-made for the then-Mavs’ playmaker – I figured Mike D’Antoni owed me one. Okay, not really, but Coach is such a great guy, I figured he wouldn’t mind helping me out. So I called Mike, Mike called Stefan, and the rest is history. But I’ll let him tell you more about that in his intro blog, coming soon.

 

Daniel Banks: Although talking, typing or thinking about this past playoff run is still painful for me and most Phoenix fans, our new Suns Structure Coordinator wasn’t quite as hurt by the circumstances surrounding the Suns’ pre-mature exit. You see, Daniel Banks is coming to the desert fresh off an NBA Championship parade (or would that be championship float?) down the Riverwalk, as a web manager with Spurs.com

 

But we can forgive him for that, as long as he doesn’t wear any “rings” around the office, for he has thankfully seen the light. Or, as I’ve proudly been announcing his impending arrival, he’s wisely chosen to “leave the immediate vicinity” of the Spurs’ press box to sign with our team. Let’s hope he becomes the first web geek (no slight to Daniel; I often refer to myself as a web geek) to win championships in back-to-back seasons with two different teams!

 

Daniel, a creative web designer, who brings a wealth of online talents and experience, will be moving to the Valley this weekend and is scheduled to officially begin his career with the Suns on Wednesday.

 

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In addition to adding to our award-winning team, I’m thrilled to announce the promotions of Suns.com’s veteran All-Stars, whose names you might recognize:

 

Josh Greene, aka “JAG,” has been promoted to Web & Publishing Manager. Josh crossed the street from then-Bank One Ballpark to US Airways Center back in 2003 after a year as a ballpark tour guide and several years as a TV sports & entertainment writer in upstate New York prior to that.

In his new role, Josh will continue to oversee the Suns’ print publications, including Free Throw (we’re looking for more fan artwork!) and the Suns Yearbook, in addition to helping manage the day-to-day updates of the Suns and Phoenix RoadRunners‘ web sites.

 

Steven J. Koek (he says “the J stands for J”) has been promoted to Web & Multimedia Manager. Steven joined the Suns in January 2003, but was already a familiar face to many within the organization as he produced video features for Suns TV broadcasts in the early ’90s while with a local television production company.

In his new role, Steven will continue to oversee all of Suns.com’s multimedia productions (webcasts and podcasts) in addition to helping manage the day-to-day maintenance of the Suns and Mercury’s web sites.

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“So what will you do the rest of the summer?”

 

Good question. I thought I’d just take the next couple months off and let my staff of seven (which also includes our “swiss army knife,” Web Content Assistant Brad G. Faye, who does a little of everything on the sites) handle things around here for a while. You guys don’t mind, do you?

 

I wish. My wife and I did get a few days in San Francisco for our 10th Anniversary last week, and my son and I spent a day at Comic-Con last month, but I don’t think I’ll be leaving the office again anytime soon.

 

Now that I’ve got my team in place and we’ve officially opened the new “Suns.com Newsroom” (special thanks to Gambo, Burnsy and Sports 620 KTAR for all of the love!), my full attention turns towards some exciting new projects we have on the horizon.

 

I don’t want to reveal too much too soon, but I will tell you that we have been working closely with the NBA’s Creative Services department for the last four months on a complete redesign of Suns.com, which is scheduled to for an early October unveiling.

 

As part of the relaunch, we will also be introducing an expansive social network for Suns fans, which will allow you to create your own fan profiles, write your own blogs, and upload your own photos, artwork and video! The new fan network will also contain Suns message boards, which I know you have been asking for, and we will be organizing a team of die-hard fans to help us moderate the boards. Stay tuned to details.

 

Let’s see, what else? We’ll be providing in-depth coverage of the Mercury’s playoff run over at PhoenixMercury.com. We’ll soon be putting up an official page on MySpace. We’ll be featuring more historical content on Suns.com, as the Suns celebrate their 40th anniversary this season. We’ll be launching a new 2007-08 Suns Dancers section. We’re planning on offering more behind-the-scenes video and live webcasts. We’ve talked with several Suns celebrities about joining our blog squad. More, more, more.

 

But again, I don’t want to give away too many of our secrets just yet. Instead, I’ll just ask you to circle October 1 on your calendar, as all the online fun tips off with our annual live Media Day Webcast, followed by exclusive camp coverage from Tucson.

 

Only 53 days of summer left and I can’t wait!

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