In part two of my interview with Dan Reed, he talks about the decision to select Erie as a D-League city, his experience at a BayHawks game, what he's looking forward to this season, and more. Also, in case you missed it, check out part one of my interview with Dan Reed where we discussed D-League issues including innovation, scheduling, and finances.
Blog Talk BayHawk (BTB): Let's switch gears to the BayHawks since I operate an Erie BayHawks fan blog. How many cities were in contention for the expansion spot granted to Erie last year, and what was it that made Erie stand out?
Dan Reed (DR): There were several cities in the mix that we evaluated. Without necessarily naming names, we evaluated several cities within proximity of Erie and the Cleveland area. We also evaluated a lot of possibilities just generally in the midwest as we were looking for a team in the midwest or sort of a near-northeast region.
Ultimately, what made Erie stand out were a few things. One, it's a real sports town. That was clear from the moment I got off the plane. I grew up in Michigan, and it reminded me of the sort of passion that I grew up with following teams in Detroit, and that was immediately evident.
It also has a strong basketball history. Gannon University is very closely followed there locally, and we thought that would translate well. We had excellent support from the mayor, from the county commissioner, from the arena, and another significant factor was an extremely strong set of owners with Steve Demetriou from Cleveland as well as Owen McCormick and a group of investors there in Erie.
We felt that the team was in very good hands. So, when you combine the strong sports heritage of Erie, a suitable arena, excellent support from the city, and wonderful owners, we thought it was an opportunity that we had to take advantage of, and we're very excited.
BTB: As a lifelong Erieite, it's always nice to hear someone say that we have a great sports heritage here. That's pretty cool.
DR: I would just add that the Cavaliers were important in consideration. The Cavaliers really threw their support behind the idea of an NBA Development League team nearby them. They were in support of Erie, as you know, during the team launch, and really in the ongoing operations they've been big supporters of the team and have helped in a number of different ways. And I think that's a payoff for the fans of Erie because they're so closely connected with the Cavs―and now the Raptors, who are also nearby―we thought that'd be a good thing for the fans in Erie, and that has played out.
BTB: How would you assess the BayHawks' first year as an organization compared to other teams in the league?
DR: I think they had a good year. It seems like the word is out. They closed the season on an excellent note; they had a great turnout for some of their end-of-season games. I was there for their home opener, and it seems like their games overall were well attended and the basketball was top-notch. There aren't many expansion teams that get in the playoffs their first year, and I think that is a really impressive achievement for a first-year team. It speaks to the quality of their organization from the top on down to be able to do that.
Of course, like any team, there are lessons learned in the first year, really like any business. But they are completely committed to making sure that there is a wonderful fan experience at the BayHawks games, that it's affordable, family-friendly, top-notch basketball. And the fans in Erie, if they haven't gone to check out a BayHawks game, they should go because it's really a wonderful organization, and they are committed to being the best.
BTB: I know one of the keys―not only at the Development League level but also in the NBA is getting the organization, including the players and the coaches, out into the community. I think that really resonates at the Development League level because the teams aren't as well known, and they don't have that level of media exposure. What does the Development League do to encourage community involvement with teams like the BayHawks?
DR: We certainly encourage it. It's an important part of our mission and the NBA's mission through NBA Cares and NBA Development League Cares. One thing we do as a league, and it's a major advantage of being associated with the NBA, is we have a group here that all they do is share best practices between teams in the area of ticket sales, in the area of sponsorship, in the area of fan experience, marketing and community relations.
So, if a team has a particularly successful community event, we will take that and share it with the rest of the league so they can take that information, and if it makes sense in their market, they can do that. In addition, we have our vice president of community relations and player development working with all of the teams, collaboratively, to not only share those best practices but also to provide support in terms of theme weeks, developing national relationships and tracking information and being able to share it with the teams in real time so they can make the smartest decisions for their organization and their community. Getting into the community and making a difference is really part of our DNA. It's something that's critically important for us because we are the NBA in Erie, and we have an obligation based on the celebrity and notoriety that comes with that to be able to give back to the community and make a positive impact.
BTB: So you've already answered my next question. You were in Erie for a game last year. So instead let me ask, was your experience good enough? Are you going to come back to Erie for another game sometime in the near future?
DR: Oh I'm sure I'll be back in Erie for a game in the near future. I certainly enjoyed my time at the BayHawks game last year. I try to make it to a game at every team in the league every year. I haven't yet been successful because we have so many teams, but it's still a goal that I shoot for, so I hope to be able to see the fans in Erie this year.
BTB: Speaking of the fans in Erie this year, there's a huge sports tradition in Erie (as you said), a huge basketball tradition with Gannon in Erie, high school rivalries are really intense around here. So there are a lot of local basketball fans. The key is getting this to translate into supporting a professional team. What is it about the Development League that should translate to your average basketball fan?
DR: If you're a fan of basketball, you should want to watch NBA Development League games because it truly is―other than the 30 NBA teams―the highest level of basketball you're ever going to see. For college fans, I would say that over 60 percent of the players in the NBA Development League were all-conference or better in college. We are a major college all-star team every single night in the NBA Development League.
For fans that are interested in basketball because of the hard work, leaving it on the floor every night, the speed of the game, the intensity of the game―that is unmatched in the NBA Development League. All of our players, who are not only talented and very credentialed in the basketball world, are playing every single night in front of NBA scouts. They're playing every single night to try to prove that they're a great team player, that they have the skills, the attitude, and the intangibles it takes to make it to the NBA.
I think that fans will be very pleasantly surprised to see the intensity at a game, the speed of the game, the skill level of the players. There are no plays off in the NBA Development League, I will tell you that. In many ways, the games in the NBA Development League represent the skills and the athleticism of the NBA as well as the passion and energy that you see in the college game.
And all of that happens in a very affordable, fan-friendly atmosphere where you can sit in an intimate arena, like Tullio Arena. A family of four can come to a game for less than 40 bucks and see NBA players, former college players, and top prospects who are just playing for the love of the game and hungry to get to that next level. I think that's why a basketball fan, whether in Erie or elsewhere, would want to and should pay attention to what's happening in the NBA Development League.
BTB: I agree, I think there's no better basketball for your buck. I went to a couple games last year and have season tickets this year. Now that I'm trying to cover the team as a fan, I'm hoping to attend as many games as possible and looking forward to it. The basketball is great. I'm just hoping that through what the league is doing, through my blog, through the efforts of the BayHawks, that we can keep raising the fan interest level because nothing makes the game more exciting than having a sellout crowd going crazy throughout the game.
Dan, I really appreciate you taking the time out of your busy schedule to speak with me. I'm going to let you get out of here with one last question. What are you personally most looking forward to about the upcoming season?
DR: I think more of the high-level basketball and affordable, fan-friendly entertainment that we've provided year after year. I'm excited about the launch of our two new teams, the Maine Red Claws and the Springfield Armor. Both of those teams are off to great starts with ticket sales and sponsorship revenue. They just had their expansion draft, so the jury's still out on whether they can replicate the BayHawks' success of getting in the playoffs their first year, but they're off to a great start.
I'm excited about everything. I think we're going to have a great year. I think the on-court play will be better than ever. I think that fans will be able to follow their team more easily through our media and social media. And I think we're in line for another great season of call-ups to the NBA and the success of our players in the NBA, and the next generation playing right in the NBA Development League.
BTB: Again, I'd like to thank Dan Reed for taking the time to speak with me at Blog Talk BayHawk. Please check out his blog, Reed and Write, on the official NBA D-League site.