Tracks To Success

Noah Croom

November 16, 2020 Kraig Kann Season 2 Episode 14
Tracks To Success
Noah Croom
Show Notes Transcript

He understands law and also order.  And he’s been a leader of both organizations and a league itself.  

Noah Croom  is Kraig Kann’s guest in a Tracks To Success episode that centers on what it took to land in the NBA’s league office and what it takes to lead not one but two teams as well.  

Croom has held legal counsel and also general manager roles in his years of NBA service.  He’s also been a player agent at one of the most recognized firms in the game.  His relationships with top NBA talent includes assisting players in areas of mental success - a niche he carved for himself that set him apart from others.  Noah understands the importance of brand and shares advice on building it, molding it and holding onto it. 

Stops in Nee York, Vancouver and Minneapolis are just part of his professional basketball journey and his newest venture centers around a global build of soccer.

So how DO you manage superstars?  What’s it like to have the keys to a city’s sports franchise?  Croom goes deep with Kann in a unique chat you don’t want to miss and shares advice for those with dreams of a role in professional sports. 

0 (4s):
Welcome to Tracks. To Success brought to you by presentation partners. This is the podcast that brings you inspiring people, and they're inspiring stories. How did they find their way to the top and how can their path help you do the same? Here's your host network, broadcaster, executive and entrepreneur. Kraig Kann

1 (28s):
Right now on this edition of Tracks To Success you'll meet a man, well versed in economics, the legal world and the world of big time sports. He has been the head of general council, and he has been a general manager in the NBA and it all began as a student at Stanford who found his way to an even higher education and Virginia. And then on a roll with the Delaware Supreme court, his passion, his sports and his resume would suggest the NBA was his calling. He held a legal council role in the league office before heading off to Vancouver as an associate GM for the Grizzlies.

1 (1m 11s):
When they moved to Memphis, he stayed behind, became an agent for a powerful sports management company. Then back to the team game in a GM roll with the Minnesota Timberwolves, but the ride has taken him to a place. He didn't see a rebound of sorts with a blossoming organization called the beautiful game group. He has well-respected seemingly always being recruited and he is a slam dunk leader when it comes to building teams and supporting and empowering people. His name is Noah Croom His inspiring story.

1 (1m 53s):
And this addition of Tracks To Success it starts now, Noah, thank you so much. This is a really fun time for me to be able to talk to you. And I want to give people a little insight into how we met, cause I've been following you ever since it was Columbia, Missouri, which if people know me, they know I ended up they're quite a bit, but you were in town and we met up. Tell the story about, about us kind of hanging out in while you were in Colombia that weekend a few years back.

2 (2m 22s):
Yeah, I was in town scouting. I believe it was the Missouri tigers basketball team's home opener and Michael Porter Jr's first and only game as a tiger. You got hurt before the game ended up playing in a couple minutes. I'm originally from East st. Louis, which is where it Kwanzaa Martin was from. And I have known him for a number of years. So I was in town, checking out Michael Porter and then ran into you that evening after the game,

1 (2m 54s):
It was pretty fun. And we have a good conversation that night and obviously Michael Porter jr. Doing just fine. It was really a pleasure to meet

2 (3m 1s):
You. And she has fun. It's worked out pretty well for him. He has it. Yeah.

1 (3m 4s):
Well, things are going okay. You didn't play a lot in college. So for us to have her fans were a little bit bummed about that, but nonetheless, it's nice to see his success. Your, your resume has fascinated me, as I said, I, I have followed you ever since. And I know we talked that night about NBA and you work in which we're going to get into. And just to give the listeners a little take about your resume. It's got a lot of moving parts to it at the NBA in multiple roles, including legal counsel, team management, some scouting, some interviewing a major role as a VP with a sports management and representation firm, which I'm really interested to hear about. And now, now the managing partner with beautiful game group.

1 (3m 47s):
Okay. So if somebody was looking up, Noah, they're going to find out about beautiful game group. Let's start with that. Tell me about that and what it is specifically and what your role is.

2 (3m 58s):
Sure. It's a private equity fund and we are investing in soccer teams around the globe, but primarily in Europe, your listeners may know that there's been a lot of activity in that space. The number of funds, person teams, a number of North Americans, purchasing teams, some of it pandemic related. Some of it really a function of the appreciation and values of a teams here in North America and people seeing a really good bonding opportunity in Europe and also the ability to create some and grow some revenue streams. So it's been exciting for me, it's a complete change from basketball, but there are a lot of similarities and have drawn on my experience, both as an agent and an executive.

2 (4m 50s):
I think To to really come to soccer and analyze some of the really exciting opportunities there

1 (4m 59s):
It's exploding. Soccer has definitely taken off. And I want to ask you a little bit more about that as we move forward. And I also really, as I said, want to get into the NBA because it has been an interesting season that that took place for the NBA and a lot of different moving parts. Let's let's start with you. Okay. And you were background because you already kind of alluded to it about East st. Louis and, and growing up. I want to go all the way back there Noah and track your success. How did you get your start? You were, you're a young kid growing up East st. Louis and, and what played a role, played a bunch of sports. What kind of a kid where you should back in the day?

2 (5m 35s):
So I grew up in East st. Louis. My, my father had moved there from Alabama, my mother from Georgia. I'm like a lot of African-Americans who migrated North from the South, sort of in the Jim Crow era. So I grew up in East st. Louis. My uncle was the first African-American mayor of the st. Louis. My father worked in the school district and realized that for me to reach my potential, I probably needed to go to school outside of the same as well. So I was very fortunate. I went to a school called micd S there were two African Americans in my class of about 50 boys.

2 (6m 21s):
So it was, it was a different experience, but I felt really fortunate to go there. They had a lot of really good friends. Many of my best friends today are people who I went to country day with and was fortunate enough to go to Stanford from country day, had a really great experience there really enjoyed the school. It was, you know, a great time in my life. And from Stanford went to law school at the university of Virginia.

1 (6m 52s):
Well, I have really, I mean, you have really covered academia. I mean, it's, it's impressive. Now, let let's, let's back up for a second. Okay. I don't want to get too far ahead of myself and get you into law school and all of that just yet. All right. Let's talk about you as a kid who were your big influencers. And if we were to talk to a bunch of people who knew you, when you were say eight, 10, 12 years old, would they have said Noah is going to be a big time executive in the NBA or an agent dealing with mega superstars or somebody that is going to be a managing partner of an organization that's, you know, collecting teams and franchises and building a sport.

1 (7m 33s):
Would they have said that about you?

2 (7m 35s):
Well, I think if when I was born and growing up in East st. Louis, they might've not guessed that because the odds were probably against that. But I think has that gone through my career, I've been very fortunate to meet a lot of people. Who've been very influential. I mean, I have to thank my parents. You know, I think he even goes back to my, to my grandfather, who I was named after, but education has always been important in my family. And so my parents prioritize that my aunts and uncles prioritize that. So, you know, that was probably my biggest influence.

2 (8m 15s):
And then once I went to the country day, I was able to meet a number of very successful people. And you know, who, who were really served as mentors for me and help guide my career. And it was very grateful for their support and assistance. And quite frankly, they have just been really lucky throughout my life to come across a lot of people who have been very supportive and helped me along the way.

1 (8m 44s):
Did you play sports where you were an athlete or were you the guy that said it? Yeah.

2 (8m 47s):
So so, you know, I played football. One of your earlier guests was mr. Buck was a few years younger than me. And I remember he and his dad just to come out and watch our games, but yeah, football was big. We lost in the state championship my senior year, which would have been a 1982 at Bush Memorial stadium. So a football was a big, played basketball, ran track, and I actually ran track in college. So, but it was not a huge sports fan. And, you know, I remember growing up, we did not have an NBA team at st.

2 (9m 28s):
Louis. The Hawks had moved to Atlanta in the mid sixties. And when I was a, a teenager, the spirit of st. Louis playing in the NBA and remember listening to Bob costs is called those games in the, in the early eighties, So was really a much bigger college sports fan was a as a Missouri tiger fan Johnsonville. Steve's the part of itch, sort of that era of tigers with norm Stewart so far all the tigers closely, and I'm really just fell in to the NBA. It wasn't a path that I sort of set out to follow up.

2 (10m 9s):
It was, as I said, lucky enough to, to sort of fall into a job at the NBA. And one thing led to another.

1 (10m 15s):
Yeah, it did. And I was there at Mizzou during that era, not of the depo and Sunbelt era just after that, but some really good basketball teams with guys like Derek Chivas and Anthony peeler and Doug Smith and the number one in the country. Now I try to forget things like Taya said to me. Okay. I try to, I try to let some things get away from me. Remember that? Well that's

2 (10m 39s):
No, I actually have to be a peeler actually played for the, a for the Grizzlies when it was in Vancouver and got to know him. And we used to reminisce about those those years in Columbia. So yeah,

1 (10m 51s):
It was good. It was good times is the old big eight. Hey, let's talk about the Stanford for a second because we know what a great academic school it is. We know that athletically speaking, there are a great number of programs over the years. The pandemic changes things fur for some, but what would you say that you were focused on becoming a professional sports executive at that time? Did you know what you wanted to do back then? Because there were a lot of people that would do almost anything to kind of have the role that you ultimately ended up in. Did you know, that's what you wanted to do?

2 (11m 25s):
I did not know that is what I want it to do. You know, quite frankly, I was enjoying my time in Palo Alto, really enjoyed school, being a, a, a, a, a student athlete. And while I certainly was interested in going to law school, wasn't even certain that I would go immediately after school. You know, my father was a big promote proponent of remaining in school. I think he was concerned that if I didn't go right away, that that might not go to school. So I really just was taking things as they came and applied to law school and got in, and seems like a really good opportunity. I went to Virginia and that was shortly after the, the, the Ralph Sampson era.

2 (12m 13s):
And so went there and fell in love with a school and, you know, a lot.

1 (12m 23s):
Yeah, you went to some great schools. Noah, I mean, your, your education sets you up for so many different things. And I'm always fascinated about the number of executives and professional sports. I mean, we're talking about the people at the top of the tree that have law degrees, but sports wasn't first on your resume. When you graduated from Virginia, that's not where you went, you actually went to the Delaware Supreme court as a clerk. I mean, this just doesn't it, it's interesting, you know, where, where are you kept going and how you ultimately got where you did So tell me about the, yup. I'm going to go to Delaware out of school.

2 (12m 58s):
Sure. So when I got to the law school and my goal was to be a corporate lawyer. And so since most of the corporation's in the U S are incorporated in Delaware, there's a fair amount of jurisprudence that emanates from Delaware. A So. I actually went out there and lived with a classmate of mine from UVA, and we spent a year in Wilmington. It was great working for justice Walsh, you know, just outside of Philadelphia. So I really enjoyed my time there. And then I had worked for a firm called Latham and Watkins in the summer prior to my clerkship and accepted the position in their, in New York office witch.

2 (13m 45s):
And this is funny how things have sort of come full circle. But when I joined late them in Watkins, they were intimately involved in creating in the less and a partner in the LA office named Alan Rothenberg was really the creator of the MLS and several a lawyer's in the office who I worked with, went on to work for major league soccer. The president is a former Latham partner. And so it sort of come full circle now than I am now reconnecting with a lot of the people who I got to know early in my career, who are still involved in major league soccer.

1 (14m 29s):
I mentor people and talk to people all the time about the value that comes from networking at the earliest of ages. And you just put it right in to play for anybody that's listening to this. You never know where you're going to end up years down the road. And every person you meet has not only a background that can help you, but also they have a value that comes from just knowing them. I'm not saying, you're saying, Hey, what can you do from me? But my gosh, the context, they just never stop do. They,

2 (15m 0s):
This has been very reaffirming. I'm one of the reasons that I'm very excited about what I'm doing now is reconnected with people who I knew 15, 20 years ago, and formed relationships with not out of any desire to leverage those relationships, but I think really true friendships. And many of those people have reached out to me and I've reconnected with them. And as I said, it has been very reaffirming.

1 (15m 33s):
You talked about New York and interesting a couple of years there. And then all of a sudden, bam, the NBA associate counsel for the NBA league office. So you're in the, in the corporate HQ, ah, was that a dream opportunity? How did that come about?

2 (15m 50s):
Yeah, so like a lot of young associates in New York, you know, they are obviously some very large law firms there. I had been working with a recruiter. I'd actually been looking at, going into finance and working for an investment bank and interviewed with several banks. And I went by her office one day, a way to a lawyer's league basketball game. And she said, Oh, do you like basketball? I said, yes. And she said, well, I just got this posting, Gary Bettman is moving on to the NHL. And the NBA is hiring some lawyers. Would you be interested in interviewing, So set up an interview. And one thing led to another and, you know, a short time later I was working at the NBA league office.

1 (16m 33s):
Amazing it. And also I'm always surprised by, and I shouldn't be any more than number of league commissioners at every sport or CEOs who have law backgrounds. Why is that so important?

2 (16m 49s):
I mean, I think, you know, David stern was really at the forefront of that. He was outside counsel for the, for the NBA when he was a lawyer came in-house and, and ultimately ascended to a commissioner. But there are obviously a lot of collective bargaining and legal issues that the commissioner heads up and really negotiating CBA is in many respects, his primary responsibility. And David did a great job. You know, he was great to work with. He was a tough task master, but it was a great time to be in the league office. A lot of people who went on to other positions and the NBA and in professional sports or in the office, Adam silver was there when I, when I joined.

2 (17m 38s):
And it was a great experience, a great time. I was working with a lot of the GM's in the league, interpreting the CBA So Jerry West, you know, Elgin, people like that would call me up and ask me, you know, play player, just miss the bus. How much can I find him or what we're trying to make that trade, does this trade work under the rules of the salary cap? So for me, it was a great way to get to know the decision makers around the league.

1 (18m 7s):
Good opportunity for me to, to ask a question now that I was going to ask later, and that's about Adam silver and David stern. How are they different in their leadership? If you could sum it up?

2 (18m 17s):
Well, I would say that Adam rule, I mean, you add a David ruled by fear. He was a very tough didn't, wasn't afraid to challenge you or your assumptions, which, you know, I thought it made me better, made people in the office better. You needed to, to come prepared. So he could be, he can be tough. I mean, Adam is very different, tough in a very different way. In many ways, more compassionate and understanding, you know, David had created a lot of value from any of the owners. And so it was really able to get many things done and many things pass because of his influence over the owners.

2 (19m 4s):
You know, Adam has to lead much more by consensus, you know, sort of a new breed of owner who have made billions and other industries really are very demanding. And I think he's the perfect leader for the time are in that he has done a tremendous job leading the league, threw some very difficult times, umm, and have nothing but positive things to say about his leadership.

1 (19m 31s):
A different brand of athlete today to the times are so different. I mean, we're talking about athletes who are basically almost corporate CEOs have their own brand

2 (19m 41s):
Corporate CEOs and activist and you know, really striking that balance between the NBA brand and trying to grow the NBA's brand, but also address many of the athletes needs, you know, and, and make no mistake. The thought that, you know, 75% of the athletes and the NBA are African American, what makes the NBA is very unique. And at the times we're living in certainly their voices needed to be heard and understood. And I think Adam, as I said, has, has struck a very delicate balance.

1 (20m 22s):
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1 (21m 10s):
You landed with the Vancouver Grizzlies. All right. Now some people would say to the Vancouver Grizzlies, I didn't even know. Yeah. Yeah. They, they, they had a team. Okay. As an assistant GM and legal counsel, which makes total sense. Tell me how those two roles merge or assistant GM. I don't necessarily think of legal counsel, but you ended up in Vancouver. That's a pretty far drive from New York city. Did you enjoy your time? What did you do there for the grid?

2 (21m 38s):
Vancouver was an awesome place. And in many ways, one of the more rewarding professional experiences in my life, I mean we really build something from nothing. We bought a sport to a country that was not a traditional basketball hotbed. There were not many sort of a tried and true NBA fans' it really was Haki country. And keeping in mind the NBA, it expanded to Toronto and Vancouver in 1995. And so I went to Vancouver, built a team from nothing, basically introduced basketball to the community.

2 (22m 21s):
And unfortunately after five years, the team moved to Memphis, but it was a great time in my life, in a row. A lot of really great friends. I met my wife there and ultimately ended up living in Vancouver for 20 years.

1 (22m 36s):
Yeah. It's a great city. I've I've been there. It's beautiful. And the people in Canada, they are so special. You didn't make the move to Memphis. What's interesting about that is you, you pivot again. Okay. And, and there have been some pivots in your career, which I think really helps people to understand the value of that comes from that and career success, not being a straight line for most people. So when you don't make the move to Memphis, when the team relocates, you keep the law focus, you find your way to Goodwin sports management, which some people listening wouldn't even know who that is. But the bottom line is a big firm, a boutique firm, big name clients that you were in agent basically at that point, right?

1 (23m 20s):
Is, is that something you said, Hey, this is cool. I really, this could be my future.

2 (23m 25s):
Well I never really set out to be an agent either, but at the time it was looking for a way to continue living in Vancouver and staying involved in the NBA. And so I have had some opportunities back in the U S that the league office and other places. But as I said, I met my wife in Vancouver and I really love living there. So when in 1996, the Grizzlies drafted Shareef Abdur-Rahim from Cal and his agent was a gentleman named Aaron Goodwin. So I got to be a friends with Aaron and he had a small agency at the time. He had been Baker and Gary Payton, Paul Pierce, Jason Kidd, but he signed LeBron James that summer and said, Hey, would you like to come on board?

2 (24m 16s):
We've got, I've got a lot of things going on in the us to be a really good opportunity for you in our office was in Seattle. So would commute to Seattle. The sonnets was still in town. So was able to stay involved in the NBA, representing many NBA players. Subsequently we signed Kevin Duran, Dwight Howard, Jamal Crawford, Nate Robinson, Damian Lillard, DeMar DeRozen. So, and then I had my own clients. I S Willie Green, it's a latte West of a number of others oversaw our international business. So I think that I was very fortunate that I was able to continue living in Vancouver and still being very involved in the NBA.

1 (25m 3s):
You just rattled off all the names I was going to throw out of people. And when you were talking about representation of LeBron, James, Dwight Howard Damian Lillard, I mean, we, we go on and on with all the names you just, you just named dropped for me. That's, that's, that's a pretty big stuff. Okay. We're talking about hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts and superstar brands. And a lot that goes into that, how tough is it slash was it to manage those superstars and, and steer them write in a world right. Where they have to navigate a whole lot of things. Dangers are out there that can derail a career at a brand in no time.

2 (25m 43s):
Sure. It w there were many challenges. I mean, that's a very, very tough business, not for the faint of heart. You know, part of the problem with of course, is that players change agents relatively frequently. And so particularly if a client is successful, it's not unusual for another agent to attempt to coach her. And so that makes it very difficult at times, to be honest with players and tell them how you truly feel. So it has its challenges, but it was an exciting time, you know, and got to see another part of the business.

2 (26m 25s):
And I think he had much more appreciation for the jobs, the job that agents did. I think a lot of people do not understand the pressures or challenges of being an agent. And so that gave me a very different perspective on, on the business of being an agent in representing players that I think made me a much better executive when I returned to NBA. What would you say

1 (26m 53s):
It was your biggest impact? And did you think you were making a big impact in other words, as you're building your brand along the way, some people don't even know that that's what they're doing, because they don't necessarily know their why, or they don't know what they're trying to accomplish. They do a job. They don't think about the bigger picture. Did you know what your impact was at that point?

2 (27m 15s):
It didn't know what my impact was it that point, but I think that as I look back on it today, I take a great deal of satisfaction in the success that some of my clients have had in their post playing careers. And so I think when you're in the middle of it, you don't always understand or appreciate what's going on or how you were affecting people's lives. But to the extent I paid played even a small role in my clients, Success it gave, it gives me a great deal of satisfaction.

2 (27m 55s):
And, you know, I had clients who fired me and changed agents at various times, which is I said is quite common, but I feel like the relationships I have with those are some of those individuals today is much stronger than it was then. And I think they have shown appreciation for the role I played in their career development. Many of them reach out to me for counsel later on in their careers. So that has been very gratifying and rewarding. And so certainly something I look back on my ability to mentor and influence young athletes and young men who have become quite frankly, outstanding professionals.

1 (28m 47s):
You have been one as well, and then another pivot for you and back to the team game and back to a big city, which is, which is where you are. Now. Let's talk about Minneapolis and the T wolves, because after being an agent for a while now, you're back as an assistant GM for what about three years with the Minnesota? What was the reason for that jump? And I know what impact you made there, which I'll get two in a second, but did you just love it that much? Is that what you really wanted to do?

2 (29m 19s):
Well, a combination of factors or, you know, when I started as an agent, I did not have, it was not married and did not have a family. And so I would say over the course of the 15 years, I was good with a good one sports. My priorities changed a bit and it wasn't a, in a position to be on the road as much chasing players. And, and so, so that grind had had gotten old, even people today are often asked me and my interested in going back in into that business and, you know, not a lifestyle that I necessarily would enjoy at this point.

2 (30m 1s):
When I, when I did it, it was, the timing was great and I really enjoyed it, but it was a grind. So when Tom Tibideau got the job here in Minnesota, I reached out to him. I got to know him a little bit after he left Chicago and we had several mutual friends. So I have reached out to him and he offered me an opportunity to come and be the assistant GM here in Minnesota. So I was, I was really excited to move back to the States on that as much as I loved Vancouver, I thought it was important for my children as African-Americans to understand what it means to be an African-American in the United States, which is very different than what it means to be black and Canada.

2 (30m 48s):
And so I thought of it as part of their source of personal development. It was important that we live in the us, and this was a great opportunity for us to come to Minnesota.

1 (30m 58s):
It's such a great city, culturally speaking, and obviously it's a, it's, it's a good sports town. There's no doubt about that. What is the toughest thing you learn about being a GM? I know you had a big impact and in the area of mental health with a lot of athletes and trying to, you know, help them, I say navigate again through some, some various challenges, but what is the toughest thing about being a GM? Is it picking the right players? Is it making sure that the players are on board is what is it?

2 (31m 32s):
I mean, there are a multitude of issues from dealing with ownership, dealing with fans, dealing with players and making really hard decisions that affect people's lives and their family's lives. So, you know, and winning is important. And, you know, hopefully, you know, the decisions we made when we were running the team, people understand and appreciate it. We're designed to put a winning product on the floor, but it's very challenging to win consistently in the NBA.

2 (32m 12s):
And I take my hat off to franchises. And in general managers that have been able to have sustained success.

1 (32m 20s):
Miami would be one of them. I mean, they've had the same coach for years. Spoelstra is that guy, Pat Riley has been there. What do you see? You just, you just mentioned that you take your hat off to those. Who've had continued Success you were there for three years. Tibideau leaves and then you're pivoting again. Right? So it it's a window, isn't it? It's a small window for most franchisees. The pressure must be massive.

2 (32m 48s):
Yes. It can be a very, a small window, you know, attendance and, you know, owner's are often impatient, obviously with the kinds of dollars that are at stake winning, as I said is important. And you know, if you can't win and I'm surprised at how quickly teams now change coaches changed general managers. But obviously what you see is, you know, consistent leadership teams that have had, as I've said, sustained success. So

1 (33m 30s):
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1 (34m 24s):
Let's talk about why the league job might be drastically different than the team job. Okay. There's gotta be a lot of different moving parts, too. Overseen a lead from the vantage point that you saw it, and then coming in and trying to be involved in a community and managing only what a 12 to 15 players versus an entire league. Is there one that you valued a little bit more, that you enjoyed more? You seem like a community type of guy.

2 (34m 56s):
Yeah. I mean, you know, part of the issue at the league is that you have to be neutral. And there is this belief that the league office is favoring large market cities teams in large markets that they want to drive revenues so that there are influencing the outcomes of games so that the Lakers or the Knicks get preferential treatment. So, you know, striking that balance can be extremely difficult. And even if you are not favoring one team, or, and even if you are in different as two outcomes, you know, that you almost have to go very far the other to, to, to eliminate any suggestion that you are not impartial when you have a job having a rooting interest and a team is tremendous, you live and die on the wins and losses.

2 (35m 52s):
The connection to the city is, is a, is a great feeling. I was an able to get very involved in the community here. One of the reasons I still live here is because of the, how much my family likes it. And, and even though its been a challenging year in many respects here in Minneapolis, you know, I feel like I in my family has really been embraced by the city.

1 (36m 19s):
Let's go back to the mental health aspect. Can you share a little bit about the impact that you made there and why it became a focus for you? I've listened to you on other podcasts and, and you know, I've, I've dived into your resume a little bit and that was a big part of who you were and how you were able to help big name stars.

2 (36m 37s):
Sure. Well, I mean really it goes back, I think to my mother who was a, a psych nurse at the veteran's hospital in st. Louis. And so, you know, just growing up probably was a little bit more sensitive to some of those issues than I might have otherwise been. And then when I became an agent, I represented a player named Delantay West. And so, you know, it was a great player, a great person, but early in his career, he was diagnosed as having bipolar disorder and that he presented many challenges. As you can imagine, you know, a lot of late night calls a lot.

2 (37m 22s):
You know, I remember incidents where, when he was with the Cavaliers, they played in new Orleans and he refused to get on a plane and he didn't want to fly to go to the next city with his team. And they left him behind, you know, at one point he was arrested driving down the highway in Maryland, I'm on a three wheel motorcycle with a shotgun in a, a guitar case on his back. And so it was a, a, a challenging time. And, you know, as you may know, he's been in the news recently because he's been dealing with a number of issues, but I still have a relationship with him and his mother.

2 (38m 9s):
And so I think those issues, I was probably, as I said, a lot more sensitive too than others. So when I came to the Timberwolves, I formed a close relationship with the Timberwolves sports psychologist. Joning Justin Anderson. And So really worked to make his services available to the players more widely than they have been previously. And I, you know, I think that the player is appreciated that, I mean, you know, player care in player development or two issues, I think because I was an agent that were very, I was very attuned to and appreciated that we had really young men, many of whom had come from disadvantaged backgrounds who were put into a situation where they were expected to be professionals.

2 (39m 5s):
And some of them may not have had the tools to deal with the situation that they were put in. And the NBA, it can be a cold, hard place if you were not able to produce. And so wanted to make sure that those athletes have the support and attention they needed to be successful.

1 (39m 26s):
Okay. You just touched on it and that's exactly where I was going. So thanks for the segue. A lot of these guys come out of college or from wherever it could be. Europe could be somewhere else overseas. They are very young. The NBA is a, is a grind. It's travel, it's bright lights. It's a big arenas. It's a big money as an agent. You've got to deal with a lot of different things when you're in control of a team. I'm sure you've got to deal with certain things because they're brand is also a representation of your brand as an organization. What is it that is so difficult for these young stars to deal with and how much pressure was there on you to help them along?

1 (40m 10s):
Are they truly ready for the big, big superstar status?

2 (40m 15s):
I mean, I think it varies from athletes, athletes, and a lot has to do with your upbringing and your family situation. You know, there are many of the athletes who, and as you probably saw this more as an agent getting to know their families, but no many of these athletes come from single parent families. And I do see a difference, particularly African-American young men coming from single parent households as opposed to households for their two parents in the household. And so, you know, they have a number of issues and it's tough because you have given me a lot of money and, and the reality that you have a lot of free time.

2 (40m 59s):
And, you know, if you are not a person who has a number of hobbies are a number of ways to engage yourself. You know, there's a lot of problems that you can get into. So I encouraged players to take advantage of their time when they weren't practicing, or if they want in the gym and try to make that time as productive as they could, you know, talk to a veteran players, understand how they made the transition. You know, you gotta remember when those guys in college and they go to the class and they go to practice, their schedule's are full. And then all of the sudden, you know, a few months later they're in the NBA, they may practice two or three hours a day.

2 (41m 45s):
Then they have a lot of time on their hands and often a lot of money. And those two can be a challenging combination for many if they are not disciplined. And so, yeah, I mean, trying to make that transition as smooth as possible is something I spend a lot of time working on.

0 (42m 5s):
In addition to hosting this podcast, Kraig leads the Kann advisory group focused on elevating communication for companies and individuals, company consulting, empowering team, and individual workshops, mind altering webinars. And Kraig inspiring keynotes for your conference or company meeting. They're all on the menu of services. Kann advisory helps companies clarify their message, helps professionals build and showcase their brand and helps everyone present their best selves. So if you're the leader of a team or company looking to give your employees a game-changing one day experience or an individual who wants to become a speaker and presenter that gets other people talking visit Kann and when you do connect, make sure to mention the Tracks To Success podcast to receive a special discount on any of the Kann advisory services.

0 (43m 4s):
That's Kann Now back to the interview,

1 (43m 9s):
Talking with Noah Croom here on Tracks To Success and a fascinating story and great conversation. I want to ask you about the NBA season that just concluded and how you believe that the league handled the pandemic and the bubble of putting all those teams in all of those players in one city, central, Florida, Orlando, what is your take on that?

2 (43m 36s):
I thought the league did a great job. I mean, it was a Herculean task obviously to restart the season and not inexpensive, but, you know, by completing the season, they were able to receive the broadcast revenues that were tied to the, the leak complete in the playoffs. It was absolutely is important for the welfare of the league. And I, you know, I think that it'll be interesting how, what happened in the bubble affects the NBA moving forward, talking to many of the people who are there, they felt the lack of travel really made the product much better.

2 (44m 17s):
And the fact that teams were not getting on planes after games and flying to cities and getting in at two or three in the morning and playing in the next day really made the product better. And so, and, and, and now, you know, and now our has been a have ended. So it will be interesting to see in there have been talk about the NBA starting their season later. And so that there's less conflict with the NFL that that might actually benefit from broadcast standpoint. So it will be interesting to see how that impacts the NBA going forward. You know, television ratings were down for the, for the finals in the playoffs.

2 (44m 58s):
I'm sure there are a number of reasons for that. Obviously there's a lot of, a lot of sports on television currently, you know, the us open was played in the fall. Baseball had started, the NHL was in their playoffs. So it will be interesting to see Mmm, what that looks like going forward as well, as far as the television is concerned. So I think that sports, as we know, it will change going forward and I'm excited to see what's different and what the NBA and other sports look like as we move into 2021,

1 (45m 38s):
A few more things before we put a wrap on this, I want to get back to where you currently are as a partner in a beautiful game group. And the role that you have there as, as a partner, you've got real ownership and the growth of something, trying to take something that's new and, and take it to another level, kinda brings you back to the Grizzlies, right? When you started there and your shell shape the brand and push the message out there, creating more awareness, all of that. Do you like fitting in a role, you know, as you might of done at the NBA in a league office or with a team, or do you like more specific to Noah and his career? Do you like being kind of at the head of the bus, making the decisions and, and really shaping something?

2 (46m 23s):
I mean, at this juncture of my career, I really liked the influence I have over the direction of the organization. You know, as we continue to add pieces to our group, I like the fact that I have an influence on, on who I get to work with and who I don't work with. Those are things that are important to me in my career. Now, the fact that I'm building something new and exciting also motivates me. So I'm really happy with where I am now in my career. I feel like in many respects, this is where I am meant to be and what I'm meant to do.

1 (47m 4s):
What advice would you give somebody who's, we'll call it coming out of college, be it a Stanford or Virginia, like you in knowing what you know, now, if you could have shared that with Noah back then, what would you tell them about sports in their future as an executive, if that was their aspiration or their dream, how would they get their, what do they need to know about what you have already been through? Sure. I mean,

2 (47m 30s):
I think what I often tell young people who approach me and are interested in getting involved in sports is that it is absolutely important to network network network, get to know as many people as you can. A lot of students reach out to me and I asked, you know, how can I do what you did or how can I get to where you are? And there is no direct straight line to opportunities in the NBA or not. Are there any other professional sports, but the first thing that you have to do, I think is get to know as many people that you can. And, you know, in this day and age, reaching out to people on online and through LinkedIn is a great way to network and get to know people.

2 (48m 17s):
So I think that is absolutely essential. And the other thing that I tell people to do is to set yourself apart, you know, people often say, well, should I go to law school? Should I take what you took? Or should I do what you did? I think you've got to do what you're passionate about and what motivates you. And so following my path is not necessarily the path that you need to follow it. Everyone needs to follow their own path. And So to the extent that you can distinguish yourself and do something that you enjoy. I think that is the road to success. Not emulating someone else

1 (48m 51s):
Interesting about the path. It, are you proud of yours or is it incomplete?

2 (48m 57s):
Yeah, I mean, my story is not over yet. I am, as I said earlier, I take a great deal of pride in the success that the people I have impacted are currently having. I feel like I have taken a lot of time and put a lot of energy into mentoring and helping a lot of people. And so one of my greatest joys is there Success

1 (49m 28s):
Last thing. This podcast is called Tracks To Success. And whether it be talking to athletes or steering them as an agent or managing a team or being a part of a league, all things that you have done in a, in a very strong and, and a impressive career. What about this? What about purpose? What's the key? What would you tell people? The key is to finding your career purpose?

2 (49m 59s):
You know, for me, it has been the people who I have met along the way, those who have supported me and those who have supported at the end of the day, I think it's about the people. And that's what, as I said, I'm enjoying about what I'm doing now, because you know, I get to choose to people who I worked with and who I associate with. And at the end of the day, it's about the people.

1 (50m 23s):
It's always about the people. And I'm glad to have met you. You talk about networking and, and I all the way back to, to meeting you in an establishment and Columbia, Missouri has been great talking with you really appreciate it now. And I hope we get to catch a game sometime together in some Citi. Thank you so much for being part of it. I appreciate you speaking with you and good luck to you. As you just heard. Noah had a unique journey up the ladder in professional sports from law to team management, to the role of an agent and back into the big business of building teams. And that leads me to my one last thing.

1 (51m 3s):
I want to focus on the word agent. Most of us immediately focus on the dollars and cents of representing a big sports athletes. But what we need is to be an agent of our own career. Our most important client is actually ourself. And if we don't take care of ourselves, it's very difficult to make an impact with others, spend time and energy charting a course for yourself. Where do you want to go? Who do you want to serve? What do you want your legacy to be? It's through these questions that we can find our true purpose. And also the destination that gives us the most personal and professional reward.

1 (51m 45s):
I've had agents and I've worked with agents the best stay true to the person or client first. And if they do the money is rarely the focal point of professional success. So if you want to be an influencer, make sure that you represent yourself to the best of your ability, be an agent with a plan, and then lay it out for your own eyes, approve it or tweak it, but make it your own plan. And the one-year comfortable with DO that your track to success becomes a whole lot easier. If you have a guest, you'd like me to talk to email [email protected] until next time I'm Kraig Kann.

1 (52m 31s):
Thanks for listening.

0 (52m 35s):
You've been listening to Tracks To Success brought to you by presentation partners, visual storytellers, passionate about connecting presenters with their audience. Don't forget to subscribe to the show for more great interviews and thoughts on reaching your highest personal and professional summit. You can follow Craig on Twitter and Instagram using the handle at Kraig Kann and for exclusive Tracks To Success content and news about our upcoming guests. You can find Tracks To Success on Twitter. It's at Tracks To Success.