After spending two seasons at NBA.com in Secaucus, NJ, I began to think about where the grass might be greener. For me, ironically enough, it was in the Arizona desert.
Getting the call from coach pushed me over the edge.
Although I’ve come to Suns.com after only two seasons with the NBA, my basketball journey started at a much younger age. Growing up in the suburbs of New York City, one can’t really avoid becoming a hoopaholic. If you were a kid from a working-class family, all you ever needed to do was show up to court with a ball and you were ready to roll.
I remember first being seduced by the game after watching the “Showtime Lakers” dismantle the legendary Boston Celtics. As a nine-year old kid, I couldn’t help but be captivated by the winning style, smile and nickname that Earvin “Magic” Johnson sported during the late 80’s. After watching a game, I would record the best moves from the night in my trusty notebook and go outside and practice them until they became second nature.
I took that habit and applied it to my annual summer trip to Manhattan College basketball camp, and I filled my notebook with tips from basketball luminaries such as Rollie Massimino, Steve Lappas, Rod Strickland, Ed Pinckney and Rolando Blackman. By the end of eighth grade and a growth spurt later, I could see that I had a natural affinity for the game.
After receiving a full scholarship to attend a Division II college in Long Island, I really accelerated my basketball journey by playing at three different schools in the next three years. I never thought that I would transfer once, let alone three times, but that’s the way things worked out. My basketball vagabonding didn’t end there, and persisted even after I graduated from college.
Through sheer serendipity, I received a contract to play in the third level of the Italian professional leagues. I lived about 200 yards from the beach along the Adriatic Sea. After playing a year in Pesaro, Italy, I received an invitation to try out for a first division team in Poland. I played with four different teams in less than a month in a professional system that can be most aptly described as a debacle.
Not wanting my last playing experience to end that way, I managed to find a way to get invited to a Nike All-Star Camp in Zofingen, Switzerland. I coached kids in the morning, while playing at night in front of coaches and general managers from Swiss professional teams.
Each year Nike would send one NBA player over to coach and play throughout the week. The year before, the camp acquired the services of Darvin Ham, who, by the way, is a first-class dude. Two years prior to when I was there, the camp brought in Steve Nash. I got Michael Bradley.
Whereas Bradley was reticent to mix it up with us on or off the court, I heard that Nash was a blast to be around and refused to let anyone even take him out of the scrimmages. While Bradley was worried about looking poorly against “lesser” competition, Nash was worried about wasting an opportunity to play. Heraclitus once said, “Character determines destiny.” I can’t think of a better example I’ve seen in basketball which illustrates that proverb.
Although I still had the opportunity to continue playing for a break-even salary, I realized that my real talents lied elsewhere, and I had to go pursue them. I decided that my love for basketball and creativity should be combined, so I started applying at NBA Entertainment. After a few interviews, one of which lasted only 10 minutes because of my inability to speak Mandarin Chinese, I finally ended up at NBA.com.
During my times there I performed nearly every job possible, and worked every shift imaginable. I updated team sites, the NBA homepage, created photo galleries, posted video, wrote articles and blogged. Deciding to make a move to further my career, I applied for the Suns.com position. Knowing how long it takes to find or get offered a job, I couldn’t believe how fast VP of Interactive Services Jeramie McPeek got back to me. Within a few days we had an hour and a half interview and the prospect of moving cross country began to dawn on me. Upon receiving the job offer, I said I was completely flattered, but that I wanted to take some time to consider the magnitude of the decision.
While I was pondering the move, I received a phone call from a 602 area code that I figured was from someone in human resources or something. When the caller identified himself as Mike D’Antoni, it took me a good couple of seconds before I could even respond. He said he was just calling to find out why I would even think twice about leaving New York and come out to Phoenix. He went on to suggest that I would be crazy to ignore the weather and the other various perks of working for the Suns.
Once realizing that it was in fact, really Mike D’Antoni, and not someone playing a prank, I took the opportunity to gush about my admiration for him as a coach stemming from the time when we were both in Italy. After almost completely embarrassing myself, he reiterated that he was calling me to let me know how great of a guy Jeramie is to work for and how the Suns are an unbelievable organization. I thanked him repeatedly, assuring him that his words had not fallen on deaf ears.
A lot of people want money, fame and fringe benefits, but I am the type of person who just wants to be appreciated. I had already felt like I was being appreciated, and I hadn’t even worked a second yet. So I started to think, what would it be like once I got there?
It was difficult to leave my life in New York, but since I was offered the position of Web Content Coordinator, I have been so busy moving, getting readjusted and having such a great time, that I haven’t even had time to stop and reflect on the change.
But I think that is a good sign, one that indicates that there might just be a plot of green grass awaiting me in the desert.