Here’s an interview with the Vice President of Business Operations for the Long Island Nets, Alton Byrd. Long Island are the G League affiliate of the Brooklyn Nets.
We speak to Alton about his role within the franchise, the business side of the G League, Long Island’s loss in the Finals last season, and how they’ve bounced back.
Other topics include the secret to the success the franchise has had in developing talent, the priorities of Long Island, and their relationship with the Brooklyn Nets as a parent team.
You can read the full interview below.
Q: Firstly, could you provide a bit of an insight into your role as Vice President of Business Operations? What does it entail. what are your daily duties?
AB: “It’s a great question because the role of someone who heads up a G League franchise is an amalgam of skills. My role is to oversee the business operations of the Long Island Nets, but it’s also to connect and work closely with the basketball operations side of our business. So my role is to strategically look forward, plan, put on 24 home games a year. My role is to oversee ticket sales and service, sponsorship and sponsorship activation, community relations, marketing, in-arena and game operations, finance, legal aspects relating to the team, and all of the business operations. Including our relationship with our home venue at Nassau Coliseum.
I have sat on the NBA G League’s competition committee. I sit presently on the NBA G League’s sponsorship committee. So that’s my role on the business side. Then I partner with Matt Riccardi, Sean Marks, and the coaching staff on making sure our team has everything needed to become a successful franchise in developing players for the Brooklyn Nets and developing talent for BSE Global off-the-court. So we’re also developing sales people, marketing talent. We’re developing talent across the board. So that’s my role as a member of the Long Island Nets. Hired to be engaged with our HR team to make sure culturally we are aligned with our cultural values but also BSE’s cultural values.”
Q: In terms of business operations as a G League franchise, have you seen an increase in advertising and sponsorship revenue as the league has developed over the years, is that expected to grow further will all of the exposure currently surrounding the league?
AB: “I do. I have seen growth for all of us that are in the business of building a business. Growth can’t come fast enough. There’s never enough sponsorship and there’s never enough advertising and marketing revenue driven through us. But I have seen growth. When we started this franchise in 2016, we started with 0 sponsors. Organizationally we went to 12 in our first year. Then went from 12 to 31 in our second year. We now have over 40 partners who are sponsors of ours.
As you know the G League is part of the NBA’s family. So our league was the first league in sports history to have the entitlement rights picked up by Gatorade, hence the G League. I’ve seen and watched our league grow commercially. I watched our league grow from a broadcast perspective. I kind of see us on a steady growth pattern. Next year we’ll have a team in Mexico City for the first time. The coverage we’ve been receiving for the last month or two has been phenomenal and what we are embarking on and how strategically Shareef Abdur-Raheem, the league’s president, has us plotted moving forward.”
Q: Last season Long Island got to the finals but lost to the Rio Grande Valley Vipers 2-1 in the series. How was that going all the way and losing at the final hurdle, was it hard to take, or was it a case of looking at the bright side of things and considering the season a success?
AB: “I certainly consider our season a success. If you asked me in the preseason of last season on whether or not we’d get to the finals I probably wouldn’t have been that much of an optimist. I probably would have said that we would be competitive. But it’s a tribute to our basketball team and the team they put together. They were a good team and they liked each other and they got along well, hence the success.
We were disappointed not to win, but we had the best record in the G League last year, we were Eastern Conference champions last year, we had players that literally signed contracts all over the world as a result of how we developed them and how they played for us. Some with the Brooklyn Nets. Alan Williams played in Russia last year. We had a player in Lithuania. I look at anything we do to help our players get better, helps our executives get better, helps our staff get better, as successful.”
Q: How is it trying to roll that success over to the next season in the G League, like you said some players go overseas, some get NBA opportunities. With a high turnover rate of players in the league, is it a case of starting again on a blank page or is there an element of continuity there?
AB: “Sometimes it is starting on a blank page. Last year we pretty much started over. We had one returning player from the Eastern Conference champions team. But I think at the end of the day, I trust our system and I trust our process, and I trust our people. I think if you look at the people we have, our evaluating talent, our scouting talent, we think we’ve got really good folks. Our GM Matt Riccardi is a budding superstar in my estimation. He is working closely with Sean Marks who has really turned the franchise around in 3 years since he took over. So I trust the people who have created a process.
We didn’t start well this season cause we had literally all new players. But we started to make our way back and we were in the playoff hunt when the season was postponed. So sometimes it is starting with a new sheet of paper, but sometimes you have players who are returning who are looking for that opportunity to get to the NBA. It can be a little bit challenging, but I go back to people, process, and product. If we follow those and we get good people who create great process, our product will be really good.”
Q: With players, to name a few, like Chris Chiozza, Rodions Kurucs, Dzanan Musa, Nicolas Claxton, and Taurean Prince, having all played for Long Island over previous years and had success in the NBA as well. Are you putting something in the drinking water in Long Island, what’s the secret?
AB: “It is very much everyone chipping in to the same common goal, and trust in people who are looking at players who fit the culture. Sean Marks is always talking to us about finding good people. Finding people with integrity, who work hard and consistently reminding people that no one will ever be bigger than the team and you can’t win on your own. You’re learning that if you’re watching The Last Dance with Michael Jordan.
All of these episodes have been about Michael Jordan winning two three-peats, and he never won a championship without Scottie Pippin. He never won a championship without Horace Grant the first time. Dennis Rodman the second time. Phil Jackson as a coach. You have to get the right blend. I’d love to tell you that there’s some type of secret sauce, other than the basic fundamentals. If you get good people and they want to work together, and they have levels of integrity and are straight forward, and they plan hard, then you will win.”
Q: In terms of Long Island as a franchise, is the priority developing players for the Nets in the NBA, or do you try and develop your own identity to compete in the G League? Is it a bit of both?
AB: “It is a combination of both. We are here to develop talent. That is the context that all G League teams are in existence. We develop talent on-the-court, in the front office, we develop talent on the business side. That’s the context under which we operate. I also think that the Brooklyn Nets know how important having a G League franchise is. They know that it is really critical to successfully build a franchise that sustains itself. Our focus is to develop talent, and develop the way forward for people career-wise both on-the court and off-the-court and work closely with our basketball folks to give them the tools they need to be successful.”
Q: With Long Island and Brooklyn being relatively close to each other, unlike some G League affiliates, does that help with your relationship with the Nets are a parent team?
AB: “It certainly does. We’ve had instances where someone gets hurt at a Brooklyn Nets practice, Sean [Marks] can make a call or Matt Riccardi can make a call and say, “you need to be in Brooklyn in 2 hours”. Traffic permitting, we can get a guy from Long Island to Brooklyn in 45 minutes, and they’re ready to go. We’ve had players play for us at an education day/promotional game in the morning and then go to play for the Brooklyn Nets that evening. The proximity is really important, not every team has the proximity luck that we have.”
A special thank you goes to Alton for taking the time to speak to Call-Ups, and thank you goes to the Nets staff that arranged for the interview to take place.
If you missed our interview with the President of the Santa Cruz Warriors, Chris Murphy, you can check it out here.
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