An Interview with Matt Bresee, Erie BayHawks Vice President of Business Operations

Friday, May 29, 2009

Starting something new is challenging, even something as simple this blog. I can only imagine how challenging it is to start a brand new professional sports organization. That was the task facing the management staff of the Erie BayHawks this time last year. Recently I had the opportunity to interview Matt Bresee, vice president of business operations, to find out what it was like helping the BayHawks take flight for their first year of play and what the organization is doing to prepare for year two.

As vice president of business operations for the BayHawks, tell us about your role with the organization.
My main duties consist of managing the day-to-day business operations of the organization, including oversight of all of our corporate partnerships and supervising our ticket sales, promotions, marketing and communications. And fortunately we have a great staff that helps make my job easier every day.

Off the court, what was the biggest challenge during the BayHawks’ first year?
We certainly had several challenges, including starting a new business venture during such challenging economic times, but beyond that we were challenged most by managing our game night operations. We’ve heard that this wasn’t noticeable from the fans’ perspective, which was the goal, however we feel we have a lot of room to improve the fans’ game night experience. This consists of everything a fan sees, hears and experiences from the time they walk through the front door. Don’t get me wrong, we think we did a lot of good things—we have a great mascot and dance team and provided a different “show” every night—but we also feel we have the greatest potential for improvement in this area. Also, we did not have anyone on staff with basketball game experience. I spent nine years with the Erie SeaWolves (baseball), and our president Ron Sertz was with the Erie Otters (hockey) for 12 years, so we had a good sense of the framework necessary to manage game nights, but basketball presents some different challenges and opportunities than baseball and hockey.

What did it mean to the organization to make the playoffs in its first year?
It was outstanding. On the business side of things we are always focused on making the organization successful off the court, meaning we’ll create a fan-friendly environment, deliver a great fan experience with giveaways and in-game entertainment, provide our corporate partners great value, etc., regardless of wins and losses. So to have the team play as well as they did, gel so quickly as a young squad, and make the playoffs in our first season was icing on the cake. Coach Treloar and Coach McDonald deserve a lot of credit for what the team accomplished.

How has it been working with the team’s NBA affiliates? How closely do they monitor what’s going on with the team in Erie?
We have good relationships with both affiliates and they have both helped contribute to our success in the first year, but in different ways. Because of our close proximity to Cleveland, we are fortunate to have built a strong relationship with several members of the Cavaliers organization. General Manager Danny Ferry was in Erie about five or six times this season, and he has extended assistance to us in both the basketball operations and player development area and in the business operations area. Danny was also gracious enough to call Coach Treloar the night we clinched a playoff berth, so that tells us he’s keeping an eye on what we’re doing.

As for Philadelphia, the fact that they are seven hours away has not allowed for as many opportunities to work together, but they have been helpful in providing some promotional support, and they sent a representative to Erie for Opening Night to help usher in the new season.

You work in the front office, but I know you’re a pretty big basketball fan yourself. Talk about the level of talent playing in the D-League, and what it means to have players of that ability playing in Erie.
I absolutely love it. And we’ve heard from so many fans about how much they love it and how impressed they are with the level of play in this league. On our roster alone this year we had a guy that scored 1,100 points at Kentucky (Erik Daniels), a guy that won a national championship with North Carolina (Jackie Manuel), another that played in a Final Four with Ohio State (Ivan Harris), and Philadelphia’s all-time leading scorer in high school (Maureece Rice). As an Erie native, it’s great to see the tremendous talent that is being showcased here on any given night during the season, and I’m really proud that Erie has this franchise.

Sticking on the court, is there any particular game or play that sticks out in your mind from the season?
It was the first night Darnell Jackson came down and was our first-ever NBA assigned player to play here. We played the Utah Flash that night and they had J.R. Giddens on their roster, on assignment from the Celtics. It was great seeing that caliber of players on our court going at it. Jackson had 24 that night and Giddens had 18, but more importantly we got the win and Jackson threw down a sweet alley-oop from Oliver [Lafayette]…which might have been the highlight play of the season, too. It was a lot of fun watching that.

The nature of minor league sports discourages roster continuity from year to year. What steps go into assembling the BayHawks’ roster for next season?
It’s in coach’s hands. He has indicated we can expect to see at least a few players return and intends to stick closely to the fundamentals of what this league is for—to bring in guys that he believes have potential to develop into NBA-caliber players. He will attend the League’s pre-draft camp to scout talent, we’ll hold open tryouts again in September or October, he’ll make his claim (to the league) for a group of allocation players, and the D-League draft will take place in early November. Eighteen guys will come into training camp in mid-November and fight for the 10 roster spots.

The D-League has seen some teams fold, but ultimately the number of teams has doubled from 8 to 16 since the league’s inception in 2001. What are your overall impressions of the D-League and its long-term viability?
The league as a whole is getting stronger every year and the NBA is working to help each organization be successful. I’ve had the opportunity to talk with other team operators and there is a lot of talent on the business side of this league too. I envision the league eventually getting to a pure minor league system with a one-to-one ratio of NBA teams to D-League teams, however it will take a while. But I believe there are plenty of viable markets capable of supporting franchises and it’s just a matter of time for more owners to see the investment potential. That being said, rumor is the next collective bargaining agreement could be interesting and may impact things at the D-League level too, so who knows how that will play out.

What are the important upcoming dates on the calendar for the BayHawks before the tipoff of the 2009-10 season?
The pre-draft camp is June 19-21 and the NBA Draft is June 25, so we’ll be interested to see who the Cavs and Sixers select as their draft picks will always have the potential to play in Erie. And the 2009-10 schedule should be announced sometime in July. After that we’ll have tryouts in September or October, the D-League draft in the beginning of November, and training camp will start mid-November.

And finally, what should BayHawks fans expect for season two?
We truly are working on improving every aspect of our organization, and I can attest to all the hard work our staff is doing every day. We learned so much during our first season and have a lot of ideas for how we can get better. I can promise fans that we’ll continue to make attending a game affordable and the show off the court will be even more entertaining. And if last season is any indication, Coach Treloar and Coach McDonald will again assemble a roster that’s going to play hard, compete every night, and represent Erie well.


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About this blog/blogger

Blog Talk BayHawk is an unofficial Erie BayHawks blog covering the NBA D-League. It features opinions and information about the NBADL and the Erie BayHawks. Blog Talk BayHawk is written from a basketball fan’s perspective to fill In the gaps left by professional journalists’ coverage of BayHawks basketball and the Erie professional basketball scene.

Matt Hubert is a 25-year-old writer and basketball fanatic born and raised in Erie, Pa. He graduated from Mercyhurst College in 2007 with a bachelor's degree in English and a dual concentration in writing and creative writing. Matt's not wavering from his stance as a lifelong Los Angeles Lakers fan, but he will cover the BayHawks' NBA affiliates in Cleveland and Toronto when it makes sense to do so throughout the year.

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