Fordham was treated to a unique guest appearance on Wednesday night when Brian McIntyre, senior communications advisor to the commissioner of the NBA, took the lectern to discuss his job as David Stern’s right-hand man.
A Chicago native and a graduate of Loyola University Chicago, Mr. McIntyre opened by stating how much his Jesuit education meant to him. “It was an education with a conscience,” he said. At Loyola, “I was taught to ask ‘Why not?’ rather than just why.”
Mr. McIntyre has been asking “why not” throughout his career. It is what led him to take a chance on peddling his own homemade sports program, ironically dubbed The Program, outside Chicago sports games in the early 1970s. It is also part of the reason why the NBA has seen extraordinary growth since he was hired by the league, then as director of public relations, in 1981.
After David Stern became NBA commissioner in 1984, the league took great strides to improve its brand image and separate itself from the drug epidemic that was plaguing the United States in the early 1980s, specifically in urban areas where basketball is extremely popular. Mr. McIntyre played a pivotal part in that effort.
Mr. McIntyre believes that one reason the NBA has grown so much during his tenure is because it hasn’t been afraid to embrace change. The NBA was the first sports league to create a cable channel, NBA TV, devoted entirely to league coverage. It also has embraced the change from print to online and social media. The NBA is far and away the most successful sports league in terms of online presence: Its Twitter feed has more than 6.5 million followers.
After telling entertaining stories about how his staff handled potential PR disasters, including Magic Johnson’s HIV announcement or the infamous 2003 fight between the Detroit Pistons and the Indiana Pacers, Mr. McIntyre was asked by an audience member what advice he would give to a young graduate looking to work in sports.
Among other things, Mr. McIntyre stressed the importance of being succinct and decisive in knowing what you want, and of proofreading your work. He also suggested that people seeking employment accept interviews even with companies that don’t excite them much. “It’s good practice,” he said.
I was able to speak with Mr. McIntyre after his lecture, and he said something that resonated with me. “Life is going to punch you in the gut a lot,” he said. “Your choice will be to stay down or get back up. To me, the choice is easy.” Clearly, if there is one takeaway from Mr. McIntyre’s lecture, it’s that it’s not about getting it right all the time. It’s about always trying again.