Cole Teal ’18: My Summer as the Houston Rockets Corporate Development Intern

Cole Teal ’18: My Summer as the Houston Rockets Corporate Development Intern

HOUSTON -- From the moment I realized I wouldn't play in the NBA, it's always been a dream of mine to become a General Manager. Last summer, I interned for Fenway Sports Management (FSM), which helped me get my foot in the sports industry.

Since the beginning of last summer, I've known that my primary goals were to learn, build a hard working reputation, and meet as many people as possible within the Boston Red Sox organization. That way, when it came time for this summer's internship applications, I would have connections to other sports organizations through my coworkers, which would ultimately position me for at least an interview with an NBA organization. Fortunately, I was a final candidate for internships with the NBA League Office in Manhattan, Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, and Philadelphia 76ers.

John Clark, Senior Vice President of Sales at FSM was a former Director of Corporate Development with the Houston Rockets. Without him, I would not have had an initial phone interview with the Rockets. I'm extremely thankful that he was willing to take the time to further my resume. In the interview process, I made a good impression on the future managers by relating past experiences from Fenway, which taught me how to conduct and represent myself professionally as an extension of the brand.

Sometimes an Intern is a mascot

My current title with the Rockets is Corporate Development Intern. I'm the only intern, which has proven to be a phenomenal experience regarding networking within the organization. You never know what tasks you may be asked to do when you're an intern. Recently I was asked to wear the mascot costume that represents our corporate partner ZP International at a Rockets kids camp

I started on June 5, which was also considered "office clean out" week. I moved around team merchandise organizing it within three different closets of the Toyota Center. The following week, my responsibility was to bubble wrap and ship expensive picture frames of Rockets Legends to seventy different high-level executives of our corporate partners. After proving my worth through the first two weeks, my coworkers afforded me the opportunity to take on projects which entailed greater responsibility, such as creating a PowerPoint that recapped every element of certain companies' 2016-2017 partnership with the Rockets.

My latest project, and greatest responsibility yet, is to coordinate BBVA's Summer of Opportunity initiative with the Rockets' brand. Briefly put, BBVA Compass is a bank that donated $500 in gift cards to all of their corporate partners, and it is the partner's responsibility to distribute the money to a righteous cause. My job was to collaborate with our Community Relations Director to determine which causes were most deserving.

My department, Corporate Development, manages the relationships between our brand and companies interested in partnering with us. The Houston Rockets signage, media advertisements, jersey patch, game tickets, suites, marketing rights, unique VIP experiences, team merchandise and overall brand are all considered assets that companies will sign multi-million dollar deals to improve and promote their business. I created a Corporate Travel Guide binder comprised of itineraries, restaurants and places of interest from previous road trips for our Partner Activation Managers to use on Road Jams. Often times, an element of the partnership deal will be that four guests may travel on the team plane for a high profile road trip.

Although I enjoyed completing various projects for the corporate team, my favorite perk from this summer was the connections I made within the NBA and Williams College Alumni Network. Thanks to Dick Quinn, Williams Sports Information Director, I reached out to Jim Frew and had lunch with him. Jim graduated from Williams College in 1999 and is a member of the New England Basketball Hall of Fame. He lettered for four years in both basketball and baseball for the Ephs. It was a pleasure hearing some of the humorous stories that went into his impressive career record of 96-17 (.850).

Interestingly, Jim previously worked with Rockets GM Daryl Morey at the Parthenon Group in Boston before Daryl subsequently began working in the NBA. Also of note, Rafael Stone, who is General Counsel for the Rockets, graduated from Williams in 1994 and was a member of the men's basketball team. Labeling Rafael's summer as busy is an understatement (see: star acquisition of Chris Paul in trade & Owner Leslie Alexander deciding to sell the team), as he is responsible for every contract pertaining to the Houston Rockets organization.

3 on 3 staff champions

As far as networking within the Rockets organization, I developed relationships with a majority of my coworkers, especially those from other departments, by playing pickup two nights a week in the practice facility. As a rising senior starter of a successful collegiate program, I often heard fellow co-workers jokingly poke fun, "This ain't fair, man." One day in mid-July, work ended early and every employee was invited to compete in a 3 on 3 staff tournament, which my team won.

Relating back to the alumni network, a couple weeks into my internship I reached out to Will Hardy, assistant coach of the San Antonio Spurs. Will graduated from Williams in 2010 and was a member of the men's basketball team. My current head coach, Kevin App, was an assistant for the Ephs during Will's senior year, when they also made it to the Final Four, eventually finishing as the National Runner-Up. When I informed Will of my career aspirations, he invited me to the Las Vegas NBA Summer League as an opportunity to expand my network. I'm extremely grateful Will took the time to assist a fellow Eph. On July 14th, I rode to the arena with him. He introduced me to a Timberwolves Player Development Coach, Spurs Assistant GM and Director of Pro Player Personnel, as well as a handful of other Spurs Basketball Operations staff members. Each individual took time to sit with me providing advice and direction moving forward.

Later that day July 14th, while I was sitting at the gate ready to fly back to Houston, I saw someone wearing a Rockets polo. I walked up and introduced myself asking if they had any affiliation with the organization. It turned out a fair share of the Rockets Basketball Ops staff was on my flight back. I spoke with the Director of Pro Player Personnel and Head Video Coordinator explaining why I was in Vegas in the first place. I was eager to meet the Basketball Ops staff all summer, however I did not have the opportunity until that day. As I described my background, interests, and playing experience, they were impressed. The following week I met with the Director of Player Personnel again as he gave me a personal tour of the Rockets locker room. We spoke for nearly an hour about his job, potential career opportunities and next steps for me. As a way to further develop our relationship, he advised me to create my own Big Board, or top thirty NBA prospects for next year's draft. I will write a detailed scouting report on each prospect, which is an opportunity for me to showcase my basketball IQ, philosophy, and ability to articulate my thoughts.

Altogether, this summer has been an extraordinary learning experience. With my internship coming to an end, I am anxiously awaiting the start of fall semester. I plan to cherish every little detail, as I have grown to love Williamstown and the community. Last season our team went 23-9, finished 2nd place in the NESCAC, and made it to the Final Four. We have even higher expectations for this season as we return fourteen guys while adding three new faces to the program. Above all else, I'm grateful to have basketball in my life. Some people cannot identify their passion until it is too late. I aspire to use the sport of basketball as a tool to make a positive impact in the world. While I cannot wait to see what the future will hold, there is some unfinished business left to do in Williamstown this year.

My goal for after graduation is to land an entry-level position in Basketball Operations. I will be competing for a front office internship or assistant video coordinator position. These jobs are highly competitive, so in order to separate myself from similar candidates, I've already begun studying the new CBA (collective bargaining agreement) to better understand the rules and stipulations of the NBA salary cap. I'm also planning to meet with my assistant coaches this season to develop my video editing skills.

Cole Teal is a senior from Chesterton, IN, will be a four-year letterman in basketball and this season will serve as a team captain. He is a psychology major and works as the public address announcer for Eph contests on Farley-Lamb Field.

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