Jump-Starting Out of Hell
Ground rule #1: You've got to want to clip on the wires and turn up the juice.
I've spent almost twenty years as an executive for teams in the NBA. Of the four teams that I have worked for, I've seen over 250 players come and go. But the most charismatic player I've ever been associated with is a player you probably have never heard of: Billy Ray Bates.
Billy Ray joined the Portland Trail Blazers about halfway through the 1981-82 season. He was a 6'4", 200-pound shooting guard who had toiled in minor league basketball for a couple of seasons. Once he got the chance with us, he exhibited dunks that only a Dr. J or a Michael Jordan could even think about. And he shot the three-pointer like a Larry Bird. One season, he hoisted the Blazer team onto his shoulders and lugged them to a playoff birth. Then he averaged 27 points a game in the playoffs. The Portland crowd loved Billy Ray more than any other player I have ever seen, including Clyde Drexler.
Billy Ray's education was spotty at best. But he sure could come up with some great one-liners. For instance, once when Billy Ray was being interviewed on our postgame radio show by Bill Schonely, the voice of the Blazers, Schonely asked him about his time in the CBA, basketball's minor league. Billy Ray said, "The CBA is a great street corner, but you can't hang around there for the rest of your life."
There are hundreds of other one-line responses by Billy Ray that we heard over the two and a half years he played for us. The best was when he was in the office one summer visiting Stu Inman, the Blazers director of player personnel. After the meeting, Billy Ray walked down the long hallway where our offices were. Stu called to him, "Billy, Billy Ray."
Billy Ray stopped right in front of my door. I looked up.
Stu yelled, "Did you see where Kentucky State [where Billy Ray starred in college] is dropping basketball?"
Without even a blink or a quick head fake, Billy Ray said, "Aw, shucks, now I won't have nothing to remember."
It sounded like Billy was referring to Communist Russia. You know, fall out of power and your name gets removed from the history books.
In reading this book, I think you'll have plenty to remember and implement. If you implement just one of the jump-start marketing principles, you'll be way ahead. If you implement a lot of the principles, you could even market ice to the Eskimos.
At the beginning of each chapter, I tell a little anecdote from my experiences in the NBA. Sometimes the anecdote is related to the chapter; sometimes it isn't. The anecdote is just an easy way to get into the chapter. If you need a small break from reading about the jump-start marketing principles in Ice to the Eskimos, skip ahead and read the anecdotes.
The principles of jump-start marketing began for me with a phone call at about 11:00 p.m. on a Sunday between Christmas and New Year's in 1991.
"This is Alan Aufzien," the caller said. "I'm the chairman of the New Jersey Nets."
Normally, you would answer, "Yes?" or something like that. Instead, I experienced one of those phenomenal thought processes where somehow we can think of a whole slew of things in just a nanosecond. In that nanosecond before I answered the chairman, I thought I was being set up by some students. You see, I had been teaching sports marketing at the University of Portland. To make a point on how not to do something, I always referred to the New Jersey Nets. For as long as I could remember, they had been the laughingstock of the NBA-both on and off the basketball court. To add some sick humor to the class, I would make some awful comment about their penchant for acquiring players who had problems with drugs. I would say, "The only thing that the Nets have led the league in were drug rehab cases." Sometimes I would add, "If the Nets couldn't draft another drug addict, they would trade for one. If that didn't work, they would sign one as a free agent."
When Alan identified himself, I immediately thought that some students had dreamed up a practical joke and got an adult to call and accuse me of always picking on the Nets. The tip-off was the time of day. At 11:00 p.m. in Portland, it was 2:00 a.m. in New Jersey. On a Sunday night. Little did I know at the time that the Nets would keep you up on any night of the week.
In that rush of thinking in that nanosecond, I had a perfect rejoinder to the students' practical joke on me. "What do you need, a new drug connection for your players?" As I started to say those words, I caught myself. I chickened out. I said, "Yes?"
As you would figure, it wasn't a practical joke. It was really the chairman of the Nets, and I didn't make a fool of myself.
"We would like for you to come and talk to us about some consulting," Alan said.
"I'm not interested," I said. After eleven years as senior VP/general manager with the Portland Trail Blazers (where I resigned) and then ninety days as president/GM of the Denver Nuggets (where I was fired), I was enjoying my career as an adjunct professor. You would, too. Think of the life I was leading.
Twice a week, I would go to the campus about noon. I would have lunch with some students. I would teach my class from 1:00 to 2:20. I would walk over to the student center and have a cup of coffee. After coffee, I would walk over to the basketball arena on campus and watch practice. After an hour or so, I would come home. My wife would ask, "Well, how was your day?" "Tough," I would say. "Really tough."
On days that I didn't teach, we would drive an hour and fifteen minutes to our beach house on the Oregon coast. Really, really tough.
"If you don't want to consult, could you at least come into New York for dinner with us and give us some advice?" Alan asked. "We'll pay all of your expenses, and a fee, of course. What would your fee be?"
I didn't want to go to New York to have dinner. The seven owners of the New Jersey Nets had a reputation for being cheap bastards, so I gave him an outrageous fee, plus first-class expenses to fly into New York to have dinner. I knew they wouldn't accept.
He said, "Okay, how about Wednesday night?"