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My past life as a sports agent: An aspiring coach goes abroad

My past life as a sports agent: An aspiring coach goes abroad

BasketballNews.com's Senior NBA Draft Analyst Matt Babcock presents a series that will peel back the curtain from his time as a sports agent, giving a glimpse at some of his personal experiences working in the sports agency business for over a decade.

In the third entry of the series, Babcock discusses his search for coaching jobs prior to entering the sports agency business, ultimately leading him to go abroad.

Within several months, I left the University of Arizona and completed a summer internship at Wasserman Media Group in Los Angeles, California, which was an exciting summer and excellent learning experience. However, the real world was knocking on my door, and I needed to find a full-time job — a typical situation for a 22-year-old right out of college.

I had ambitions of being a basketball coach, not a sports agent, which was something I had planned on 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. Although I had some interest from teams, I couldn't secure any legitimate offers. I realized then 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 anything to unfold organically. I felt that I needed to think outside of the box and be assertive — so that's what I did. 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.

We started making calls to people within our network that could help facilitate that sort of deal. We talked with Max Ergul, an agent from Turkey who worked with Milwaukee Bucks forward Ersan Ilyasova. We had gotten to know Max because he had moved to Milwaukee when Ersan joined the Bucks, 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 found a team in Istanbul, Turkey that wanted me to be an assistant coach with an emphasis on player development.

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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 under my belt, but in my mind, I was ready to conquer the world; all I needed was an opportunity just like that. I had made up my mind that I would take the deal. I was set to start my coaching career in Istanbul.

However, before I formally agreed to the deal in Turkey, I called Sam Goldfeder, an agent with Excel Sports Management. Sam had been kind enough to let me stay in his mother-in-law's guest house in Beverly Hills for the summer while I did my internship with Wasserman. My intent in calling Sam was to thank and update him on my job status, but the conversation did not go as I had expected.

Me: Sam, I wanted 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: "Okay, don't! I'll call you back."

He abruptly hung up the phone, and I thought: "What was that?" However, I trusted Sam, so I waited anxiously for his call.

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."

Me: No way, that's amazing!

Sam: "Yes, 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! But first, let me talk to my dad, and I'll get back to you.

After some consideration, I decided to accept the deal in Italy, and just like that, my plans were overhauled. I packed up all of my stuff, purchased a couple of Italian phrasebooks and gave my mom a hug and kiss, and I was off. I boarded the plane to Italy without speaking to anyone from the team, as all of the 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.

Read the last entry of this series: "My past life as a sports agent: "The 2006 NBA Draft."

Editor's Note: This article was originally published on BabcockHoops.com.

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