In this “I Want Your Job” episode, Jim Cavale interviews Auburn Director of Athletics Allen Greene, who shares stories from his days as a student, a professional athlete, and his journey into leadership in intercollegiate athletics. Joining Allen is former Auburn basketball player Bryce Brown, who recently signed with the Boston Celtics, and who talks about his experience as a student-athlete at Auburn and as a part of the team that won a conference championship for Auburn and made it to the semifinals in the 2019 NCAA Basketball Tournament.
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Highlights from the interview:
4:05 – Allen describes his mindset at the end of his baseball career with the Yankees, and shares advice from his father on how to take his next steps
6:10 – Allen, on discovering college athletics as a potential full-time career: “After interacting with the student-athletes, you quickly realize that you literally are there to support other people, and it’s not about the gratification you get for yourself, it’s about the reward you get for seeing someone else develop.”
10:20 – Allen on working in a leadership role in college athletics: “In ‘a normal job,’ you know, my responsibility is to 3 kids, and my wife. In this role, I’ve got, you know, there’s 550 student-athletes. You’ve got 300 or so full-time staff. You’ve got fans who are incredibly passionate about their school, and their teams, and you’re responsible for all of those things.
And, they’re very challenging, very demanding jobs, because so many people have opinions on what they think you should do and how you should do it, but that’s…that’s part of the allure of intercollegiate athletics. And, you gotta love it.”
13:26 – Allen shares an example of a (productive) disagreement between himself and now-UCF AD Danny White, and talks about how differing opinions can help shape decisions and future thinking
21:42 – Advice for rising AD’s: Allen emphasizes the importance of cultivating relationships with everyone on campus.
31:56 – Allen discusses his approach as he transitioned into the job as AD at Auburn, and how he tried to learn as much about the context of the department along with surrounding himself with a team of people who would help him succeed as a leader
41:55 – “It was so much fun.” Allen talks about the 2018-2019 Auburn basketball team, and the experience of watching them come together as teammates to win a conference championship and make it to the semifinals of the Final Four
51:05 – Brown shares personal stories about his childhood, growing up, and playing basketball in Atlanta
55:11 – Brown discusses the beginning of his basketball career at Columbia High School, leading his team through a great season, along with the challenges that arise because of an unexpected injury and his father’s traumatic health experience
1:00:25 – How Brown gets the opportunity with Coach Pearl/ the rebuilding of Auburn basketball, and his experience being part of it
1:02:11 – Why Brown came back home and didn’t go to the NBA draft
1:07:35 – “I feel like above all, I’ve become more appreciative of life, more appreciative of my opportunity, and I don’t take it for granted.”- Brown
1:12:42 – Brown, on his social media presence: “You can kinda see the quality of my pictures, the quality of my life even. You can see it just starts to get better and better. You can see where I came from, the older I got, you see the process I went through. And it lets you know- it tells a story.”
1:17:14 – Brown on finding content via the INFLCR app: “It’s right at your fingertips, you can utilize it right there very quickly, you don’t have to go searching for it, it’s a click away! And that’s really what I really enjoy most about it.”
1:19:25 – Brown shares the magical moment and how it felt winning SEC tournament, being most outstanding player after coming back to Auburn
1:23:29 – What it felt like going to the Final Four
1:25:12 – Brown talking about the spiritual aspect of the Auburn team: “We just know the reason for all this- it wouldn’t be possible without the Man upstairs, and we understood that.”- Brown
1:29:43 – Brown shares Coach Pearl’s words after losing to Virginia, and about their team staying positive, celebrating how far they came
1:32:53 – Brown’s mindset going into the next level of competition, embarking on a new journey with a new team
More episodes of the “I Want Your Job” podcast to be announced soon! Stay tuned, and subscribe to be one of the first to get updates about this new podcast.
Full Podcast Transcript
Jim Cavale: So Allen, you’re here in Birmingham, SEC meetings, worked out where we could spend some time right here in the INFLCR headquarters. And, you know, first off, you know, when you walk in, everybody is looking around like they’re wondering what team you play for. I’m sure you get that a lot like you’re still… could you still go out there and hit, you know, 20 home runs?
Allen Greene: There’s no way. I was actually at a baseball practice two days ago. And Coach Thompson is like, “This is the last group, you can get in here and hit some balls if you want.” I’m like, “No, no, I like to remember when I was good.”
Well, let’s talk about that. You played sports growing up. You end up realizing a dream to play college and pro baseball. And that’s a big part of your story now as a leader in college sports. So, when did the dream as a young boy, young man, really start to make you feel like it could be a reality?
Yeah. Well, before I answer that, Jim, I want to thank you for having me on. I know you and I have gotten a chance to know each other over this past year and a half or so, and I really respect what you do and the way you’re able to amplify the messages. So, we need people like you in our industry, so I appreciate it.
You know, I probably, when I was about 10 years old is probably when I started thinking about what I wanted to do when I grew up. And the lifelong dream of mine was to play in Major League Baseball. And fortunately, you know, as a… as a young person, I played baseball, basketball, football and soccer growing up. And as I got older and in my high school years, it kind of just narrowed down the focus down to basketball and baseball and finally I settled on baseball being the sport that I wanted to pay most of my attention to.
And you end up excelling enough to be able to go to Notre Dame.
I did, yeah. It wasn’t… wasn’t, it wasn’t something I intended to do. I didn’t know where I wanted to go. I didn’t have like that dream school. Notre Dame wasn’t really even on my radar. In fact, I thought you had to wear a suit and tie to school at Notre Dame. Thankfully, you don’t, and you didn’t, and you still don’t.
And now you got to do that every day.
And now I got to do it every day. So it catches up with you at some point in time. But it was, you know, having some vision and some, some dreams about where you want to go really helps you think about today and what you want to do today to get better.
No doubt. So you go to Notre Dame, you end up, I mean, it’s amazing, if we think about the brands that you played for. You go from Notre Dame to the Yankees.
I mean, you know, the standards in sports to a degree, right, national fan bases. But what was that feeling like? You realize a lifelong dream. You get drafted by the New York Yankees.
Right. You know, it probably goes back to high school. I went to O’Dea High School, which is an all-male Catholic high school, all of, you know, maybe 500, 500 students and… but the brand in Seattle was that an academic powerhouse and an athletic powerhouse. So going from my high school Notre Dame was really not that much different in terms of the academic brand, in terms of the athletic brand.
And then, obviously, getting into the Yankees organization, I seem to have been a part of… a part of programs and brands where you kind of either love them or hate them. And usually the reason why people hate them is because of all the success. And so, it wasn’t, in fact, I would tell you this, the… one of the greatest experiences that I had playing Minor League Baseball was, you know, being on the road and having someone boo you and that means that you’ve been successful.
And so, just a really great experience in the Yankees organization and I wouldn’t trade… I wouldn’t trade that for the world.
So you did that on plan, and I know a lot of guys who I played with come to college baseball and get a chance to play pro ball, you know, it wears you down. It’s, you know, in college, you’re playing 56 games, all of a sudden now you’re playing 100 games, you’re not traveling luxuriously, you’re not making a ton of money. I heard all the stories.
Yeah, yeah. Yeah, yeah.
And then you realize like, okay, I’m done, and I want to move on. Was college athletics the first thing that came to your mind?
No, it actually wasn’t. The first thing, well, I don’t know what came to my mind because sport is such a huge part of athletes’ identities and particularly if you translate professional sports, you basically been playing a sport since you were five or six years old. And so, for 20 years, I’ve known baseball. I’ve known other sports, but I’ve known baseball and I’ve identified myself as a baseball player.
One of the first things my father said to me when I got done playing pro ball was, “Don’t do anything stupid.” Because you’re… you’re searching for yourself. You’re trying to find this new identity and he just didn’t want me to do something stupid. I don’t know what I would have done. But I’m sure I could have come up with a couple of things if left enough time. But I didn’t know if I want to get into investment banking.
I didn’t know if I wanted to get… I didn’t really even fully understand that there was a career in college athletics. And so, I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do with myself and it just took me a little bit of time to figure that out.
What was the catalyst to get you into college athletics?
I joke but it’s in all sincerity. I got into this industry because of me being very selfish. And I remember going to… so I was back in South Bend, working for a small web development company and I would always stop back by the baseball stadium to watch practice or games on my way home from work. And…
You miss it that much.
Well, just, you miss the guys.
Yeah, the guys.
Like you miss the guys.
You miss your coaches. You just… you miss that camaraderie that you’ve been so accustomed to for so much of your life. And there was two guys in suits standing along the third base line, and I knew they worked in the athletics department. I didn’t really know what they did. I just knew they were athletic department employees. And I knew them. They knew me. And so, we exchanged, you know, hellos. And then I kind of said, “No, Notre Dame is a football school. So how y’all out here watching a baseball game?” And they said, “Well, we’re supporting our student athletes in our, in our baseball program.” And I was like, “Oh, that’s cool.” And I thought to myself, well, I’d do that too. But yeah, y’all are getting paid for it. And I just do it because I… because I love it. And so, that, that kind of was my entrance into wanting to work in this industry.
And then shortly thereafter, after interacting with the student athletes, you quickly realize that you literally are there to support other people and it’s not about the gratification you get for yourself. It’s about the reward you get for, for seeing someone else develop.
So talk me through your, your first few years in college athletics because, obviously, a lot of people listening work in sports and, you know, like, nights, weekends…
It’s crazy. And when you’re first getting started, you’re not going to make a ton of money.
You know, hopefully, you don’t have a big family yet and a bunch of responsibilities, right? Because if you do, it’s going to be tough to balance it all and people deal with, with that whole work-life balance thing in any line of work, but college athletics is intense. So talk… talk me through your first few years. And then when you started to see a path toward being an athletic director and started maybe dream for that.
That’s a really good question, Jim. I think that going into it my first year, first two years, I was in compliance. And so, just doing a lot of rules, education, had to… although I have that experience while I was a student athlete, I hadn’t done it from the other side of the table. And so, helping and interacting with student athletes was the best part of the job. I interacted with some athletes every day.
But it is a grind, right? It’s nights, it’s weekends, it’s doing whatever you have to do to get the job done. And that… in order to do it successfully, you have to sacrifice other things in your life. And so, some of that is your personal life. We were… my wife and I were… we had just gotten married. And so, we were starting our lives together. Hadn’t had a child in the first year working in professional or college athletics. And that was just… you have to start to choose, you know, where your priorities are. And I’m so thankful that my wife has been so supportive, Christy has been my biggest champion. And without her understanding the things that I need to do professionally, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
And you can’t underestimate or shouldn’t say that you can’t undervalue a partner who gets your world because there is no work-life balance. I mean, you, you, you are… you are tied to your job and your own personal success and your organization’s success is completely tied to the work that you do. And so, whether the phone call comes in at 10 o’clock at night or 6:00 a.m. in the morning, and you know, you may be able to take your kids to school, but yet you got to be on the phone on the way there or you have to break off a meeting or you can’t make it to a kid’s game or whatever. And you try to do the best you can and navigate those but if there’s a jump ball, right, the job is going to get the possession.
Yeah, and it’s, it’s one of those things, and I think being an entrepreneur is similar because you’re just always on. But there’s also a lot of people depending on you.
And especially in the seat you’re in today, right, and not just your family, but your team and their families; and for you, student athletes. And we look at our athlete users the same way, but we’re not tied to them as much as you are in your position. So that’s a big weight that you’ve obviously been lifting and lifting and lifting and getting used to carrying but fast forwarding all the way to how you look at your role today, your wife must be patient and very understanding to know that many people are depending on you.
Sure. It is, and she is, Christy is incredibly patient. It would be… in order to articulate this accurately, it is frustrating for her, and it’s frustrating for me. I’ve seen, you know, my son has played, you know, five soccer games and I’ve only seen one of them. And I’ve missed, I missed every one of them. You know, my daughters, I miss some of their games, I miss some of their events at school at night. And so, you take these jobs knowing that it’s not a normal lifestyle, but you do it because you love it. You love shaping people’s lives. And so, “a normal job,” you know, my responsibility is to three kids, right, and my wife.
In this role, I got, you know, right, there’s 550 student athletes. You’ve got 300 and so full-time staff. You’ve got fans who are incredibly passionate about, about their school and their teams. And you’re responsible for all of those things. And it’s, they’re very challenging, very demanding jobs, because so many people have opinions on what they think you should do and how you should do it. But, but that’s, that’s part of the allure of intercollegiate athletics, and…
And you got to love it.
So let’s… you rise up. You’ve got, you know, you’re married. You’re, you’re building a family. Talk about the support you have there from Christy. Then you’re working for these different brands, and one brand I want to ask you about that you, you played a big role with and I worked with them at INFLCR a lot is Ole Miss. You know, I was just there a few weeks ago and they were talking you up and talking about the days when you were there, Danny White was there. And I was talking to Kyle Tucker actually it was…
…who’s been there. It seems like forever. And whether it’s… it’s that journey at Ole Miss, or some of the other schools you were at along the way, talk about some people who took you under their wing and helped you get to where you ended up at Buffalo where you became the athletic director.
Sure. Well, you said a key word and that’s a journey. It is a journey. And the journey isn’t always pleasant. But if you can find a way to have the journey somehow be rewarding, then, then you’re in a great spot. Danny and I, you know, spent a lot of time together at Ole Miss and we had a lot of fun. There was a lot of hard work. But we… because we are so different, we would… our ideas would clash, which was great. And usually magic would come out of it. I think that’s why we were able to have success there. You know, the interim AD at Ole Miss right now, Keith Carter…
…all three of us work together and felt that we really kind of did something magical there to help Ole Miss really achieve some, some cool things that Ole Miss hadn’t achieved before. There’s a lot of other people in this industry who have been just stalwarts who, you know, who are… who lend an ear and, you know, people who I can call on and just say, Hey, here’s the situation I’m going through. I know you’ve gone through them before, how did you handle it? What are some things I need to be thinking about? Give me a different perspective. Is what I’m… is my thought process appropriate?
Just having people hold you not, not accountable, but just kind of keeping the checks and balances there. And I’m sure you’d have to do the same thing, right…
…as you’re… in your own company, as, as the leader of this organization that you… there are other people who have been successful in their businesses. They’ll say people have failed in businesses and you can learn a lot from their experiences and, and we are… we are in this industry and no different.
What’s an example of… give me an example of a Danny White-Allen Greene clash that turned into a great thing?
Yeah. It was usually something political. You know it, well, I’ll tell you one. Well, I won’t tell you in detail. He and I have very different approaches. We want the same outcome but different approaches. And there was a time when one of our coaches wanted to give a raise to someone on staff. And Danny is like, “Yeah, of course, we’ll do it.” And then I’m saying, “Well, why? We weren’t successful. So why does someone get a raise when not successful?”
And we have these back and forth about being in the foxhole with a coach and if you are trying to do all you can provide coaches within your… within your bounds, within your means, provide them the things that they feel like are necessary for their program. And we ended up in the same spot. I understood where he was coming from.
I just… I just happen to disagree.
Now that I’ve evolved, I do understand why those are some things that you do.
The reason I bring it up is I think leadership teams are obviously what guide a brand, a company, an athletic department. And the magic of a leadership team is not meetings becoming, “Oh, I got this other meeting again,” you know, we all know that attitude that can come out of meetings that everybody knows the leaders is going to talk the whole time and this guy is going to do this, and this girl is going to do this and it’s going to be a disaster.
But instead, a plan to create what I think is a healthy debate where you’re going head to head about key issues, but you’re not doing it with pride. Your ego is checked at the door. You’re doing it for the same purpose.
And to me, that’s where the magic happens with meetings, leadership teams, and that’s where brains are working together instead of against each other.
We talk a lot about, well, how can… help me understand.
Or how can we…? Because anytime that there is this new idea, there’s going to be resistance or there’s going to be, “Oh, well, the problem with that is…” like that’s, that, that is kind of human nature. And if we can somehow get ourselves to say, “You know what, that’s a… that’s a really good idea. I know there are some flaws here, but I think we can work through them. How can we work through these things?”
And if you can start to do that, then then you can start to be solution-oriented and actually make some progress and some stuff.
So you look up there in our core values, so we go back to them a lot. But be the solution is over there.
That’s the eighth one on the right.
So that is, that is something I’ve just learned in business has to be the attitude because what’s going to happen every day? Problems.
You got to be a culture…
Every day, multiple times a day. And before you know it, if you’re not a solutions culture, little problems will feel like big problems.
Sometimes you just need perspective of what are we here to do.
We’re also here, my company and Auburn University for the same true north and that’s athletes. So just talk to me about how you approach as a leader in college sports, how you’ve learned to approach putting the athlete first as the most important thing you do.
Wow, that’s a good one. There’s a colleague who I have learned through their coaches who is a very different person when they’re managing the organization versus when they’re around student athletes. And I didn’t understand that until I got to Auburn. Taking jobs like Auburn that you talked about, fires. We have 15 head coaches and 300 or so full-time staff members.
There’s fires every day. Someone has a problem every single day that they need your help with. And that wears on you, right? It completely just zaps your energy and your bandwidth. And I’ve noticed that I start to do that also. I start to deal with the daily operations of a department from a very business-minded place. When I’m around our student athletes, I notice I light up.
And, and it just kind of happens that way.
And so, for those people who are really committed to the student athlete experience, those are the people who light up around their student athletes. And I have… I find myself being energized when I’m around our young people.
They just… they bring a whole different element to the room and it’s one that I crave.
Yeah, youth breeds creativity, energy, a lot of things that, you know, as we get into the daily grind, win, lose, that’s awesome. It’s cool that you’re able to do it. You can walk right over to practice to do that, you know.
You need to… maybe you should plan that.
I think it was Monday. Monday, I got four practices in, start… started off with swimming, maybe it was Tuesday, I don’t even remember. Started off with swimming, went to men’s basketball, went to baseball, and finished off at football.
And that was the best afternoon I’ve had in a long time.
So, Danny goes up to Buffalo and says, “Hey, come with me”?
Yeah, so this, this leads to another conversation. So Danny and I had conversations about just our career path and professional development. And Danny wanted to be an AD, right. You know, like, that’s… he knew that’s what he wanted. And we would have conversations and I didn’t have that same… not confidence. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be an athletic director. And I said, but if I’m going to be one, I can’t do it just by having compliance and development experience. I have no idea how an athletic department is run. Like, I have no idea on what these fires are every day that come up. And we know he got the job at Buffalo.
He took me along, not because I was experienced, but because we had gone through the battles together. And we had developed a level of trust that he knew I was going to tell him my thoughts, and I would challenge him in a way that would help us get to and help him get to a better solution or the best solution possible.
So it was a great experience and I’ve shared with people. I had been at Notre Dame and I had been at Ole Miss, all, you know, great brands, and I’m at Auburn, a great brand. But the most rewarding and challenging and best experience from a professional level perspective I’ve ever had was the six years I spent at Buffalo. You wear multiple hats. Resources are a tremendous grind. There isn’t as much fan affinity. You’re working for everything that you get. And when you have success at that level, it’s incredibly rewarding.
At Auburn, everyone expects to have the success because we have the resources. There isn’t… there isn’t an achievement that we shouldn’t have. But at Buffalo, no one expects you to go…
…right to the NCAA Tournament in basketball. I’ve been in more NCAA tournaments at Buffalo in basketball than I have at Auburn, right.
And even after two years, I’ve have had more experiences in NCAA tournament at Buffalo than in Auburn. And so, so I developed tremendously as an administrator during the time at Buffalo, because you have so many challenges to deal with that are not the same challenges at a place like Auburn.
That’s awesome man. And I’ll tell you as an upstate New Yorker, I mean, I grew up in Syracuse, New York, you know, Buffalo is a… I mean, at one point for me growing up I would get Buffalo and Buffalo State mixed up all the time.
You know, Buffalo, obviously, rose as a brand big time when they had some great college football years before you got there. But what you guys did was… is very impressive. And I’m sure there’s a lot I don’t know that you did with the athletic department, but I obviously saw basketball, saw softball.
It’s an amazing story. And so, he gets the UCF position. You get promoted. You’re now the head guy, and you felt because of what you were helping him with when he was there you were ready to roll.
Right. Well, I’d say, you know, Danny was there for about three years and every day I tried to figure out how to get him fired. That was my job. I mean, how can I get this guy out of here? And it just… it worked out really, really well where he got an opportunity to go to UCF and he’s obviously killing it there. And I got an opportunity to stay at Buffalo and continue the positive trajectory that we’d had. One of the things I will share about the, the dynamics of Buffalo was, I had, you know, three years, three or four years to develop relationships on campus with university leadership, to develop relationships with our donors, to develop relationships with our coaches.
And so, if I wasn’t the person to take over, then they were just looking for somebody completely different or someone brand new. So, you can’t lose sight for those people who want to be ADs. You can’t lose sight of cultivating the people who are on your own campus because you never know when, when an opportunity might open up at your existing campus, or if a provost or a dean or somebody gets a job someplace else, and it allows them to vouch for you at this new… this new place. So never, never pass up an opportunity to develop relationships on your own campus.
Yeah. Well, a lot of what we preach at INFLCR, especially to athletes is be ready for the moment.
You never know when you’re going to make a run to a final four.
Sure, that’s right.
You never know when you’re going to be in a moment that is going to have a lot of eyeballs on it because it’s a special moment in sports. And of course, being ready with your social media is important. But you seem to really be ready for the moment where you got called down here to Auburn, Alabama for the interview, and I just… I’ve heard the story like 10 different ways. I’ll tell you the way I’ve heard it.
You tell me if I’m right or wrong.
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
What I heard was that Auburn called Danny and said that they were very interested in him coming to Auburn, being an athletic director in the SEC. And he said, you know, he’s really committed to what he’s building at UCF. You know, it’s where he wants to be the rest of his life. But you really need to give Allen Greene a call and see what he’s doing up at Buffalo.
I would believe the first part. I wouldn’t… I wouldn’t believe the second part. You know, it’s interesting. I don’t… I do not know how my name made it into this search process.
And you were happy.
I was happy. The day before I got a phone call from the search firm, I was in my president’s office talking about an extension. My wife and I had had this long conversation, conversations about, you know, our family, our personal life, the kids, our committee, like we loved our time at Buffalo.
Buffalo is a great city.
It’s a great city.
And we did not want to leave.
It’s kind of like Birmingham with eight months of lake effects happening.
Exactly. It exactly was that. And, you know, we, we didn’t want to leave. We weren’t looking to leave. We weren’t looking. We certainly weren’t looking to go to Auburn. Like, we were… we… we’d already spent some time in Oxford, Mississippi. I’m from Seattle. She’s from right outside, outside of Philadelphia.
There was like we, we weren’t interested. I wasn’t interested. And then I started getting an understanding of, of what Auburn was looking for. And, you know, someone was telling me, like, you’re actually really good fit down there. I’m like, “But I don’t fit. I don’t check a whole bunch of boxes, though.” And it did. I mean, fortunately, it worked out where I fell in love.
I’m sorry. I’m going to stop you.
Well, so, Auburn traditionally has hired someone from Auburn or with our connections, right?
Someone that doesn’t have my nice chocolatey tan and, and certainly not someone from Seattle, right, so there’s, there’s these, in my opinion, three major boxes that I can’t change.
And, and no matter what kind of lipstick you put on me…
I’m still going to be that pig.
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
But what I… what I really appreciate about the leadership at Auburn is they saw the things in me that that made the fit work, and they took a chance on, on someone that was very much outside of the traditional profile. And so, I owe it to Auburn University to do all I can to serve to the best that I can for not just our student athletes, not just for our staff, not just for the people who work at Auburn but for the entire Auburn family.
And I am incredibly humbled by, by their display and their confidence in me to lead this department and I will do so humbly, and I’ll do all I can to make Auburn the best it can be.
So, when you came down for that interview, you were kind of just like it’s an experience. It’s, you know, broaden my horizons, SEC, AD interview, whatever, like, is that basically what your self-talk was?
No, no. Like, I didn’t…
Did you really want it?
I wasn’t interested in the job because it was in the SEC. I’d already been in the SEC.
Yeah, you were already on it.
I’d already done it. I wanted… I wanted the, I didn’t even really… I didn’t want the job. I really didn’t.
That’s what I’m asking.
I was I was intrigued, and I tell the story when we’re out on the road I was intrigued but I wasn’t interested. I didn’t become interested until the very first interview which was in Atlanta. I fell in love with the people. Second interview, in Atlanta, fell in love with the people. Signed the contract. Then showed up in Auburn, Alabama with my family the night before the press conference. I had never been to Auburn, Alabama before.
Why’d you sign the contract before that without going there?
Because I didn’t need to go there.
You just knew what the job was, and you felt good. You felt the peace and the people, the people.
I felt comfortable. I felt at home with the people. And based on what I knew who I was, I could just be myself. And if I would just be myself at Auburn, I think there would be some chance for some success.
That’s awesome. So you…
Crazy is what it is.
It is crazy. But that’s how, I mean…
Too big risk.
Yeah, it is. It’s a big risk.
Big risk, but… don’t talk to me about risk. I love risk.
Right, so are you. No, captivated.
All right, so you go to the press conference. Now, you talked about your complexion. You’re the first African American athletic director, not at Auburn, but in the league.
Third in the league.
Third in the league.
First at Auburn.
First at Auburn.
Third in the league.
So first at Auburn, third in the league. And you mentioned the other two things, being from the North… Pacific Northwest.
And not being an Auburn man.
Did any of that come back when you walked in the room and you walk out to do that press conference? Any, any like self-talk, you know, pollute your mind?
I don’t know. It was a whirl… number one, it was a whirlwind. But when I, when I was preparing for my remarks, it had nothing to… it had nothing to do with my profile in the sense that the things that I couldn’t control, right. So where I’m from, can’t control. Being a person of color, can’t control. Not being from Auburn, can’t control those things. I approached it as here’s who I am.
And if y’all accept me, then that’s great. We’re going to have a lot of fun. If you don’t accept me, then this ain’t going to work out and we can both just go our separate ways. It didn’t dawn on me that I was the first person to color to lead Auburn athletics until the night before, and I was kind of rehearsing talking points with some of the staff. And they were helping me with making sure I said Jordan-Hare Stadium, not Jordan-Hare Stadium.
And just some, some of those nuances, right?
“See, he’s not an Auburn guy.”
Yeah, he’s not from here, right. It’s Auburn University, not University of Auburn. It’s, it’s, you know, that’s when I finally said, “Oh, I guess I am.” I could never… it didn’t cross my mind that I was the first one. It crossed my mind of is being black and being able to lead Auburn athletics, will that be acceptable? Can people accept that? That, that’s where my main concern was.
But the people who you fell in love within Atlanta made you feel like they had accepted it, and that empowered you?
Yeah. So the experience at Ole Miss, we went, my wife and I went to Ole Miss prior to accepting the job. And the questions I had was, “How comfortable are you with a person of color outright, you know, out asking for money to support Ole Miss athletics with people who we know did not approve of integration?” In the early ‘60s, the same people who I was calling on…
…right in Jackson, and then Memphis and in the, in the Delta, and down the coast, those are the same people who went to school at all Ole Miss in the in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s. And the response that, that Pete Boone shared with me, and I’ll never forget this, he said, “We wouldn’t have you down here if we didn’t think you’d be successful.”
And that was deep. Like that, that hit me. And so, part of the conversations that we have with the people that Auburn felt the same way. They would not have had me engaged in this opportunity if they didn’t feel like I could be successful.
And that’ll make you feel a certain way.
It makes you feel good.
Yeah, right. That’ll…
That’ll give you presence.
It’s kind of like your… your parents.
Or your wife, telling you…
It’s like your…
Yeah, and it’s like your coach, like your basketball coach, putting you on the line to shoot, you know, a one on one at the end of the game, that your coach has confidence that you’re going to knock them down.
Your knees may be knocking like crazy, right? But your coach believes in you. Your players believe in you. Your teammates believe in you. And therefore, you… you’ve got confidence going into a situation that could be potentially pretty damn frightening.
You get in there, and there’s a lot of work to do right away, especially from a people standpoint, because let’s face it, like the reality is, is like anything else, the only way you can be successful is having the right people, culture fit, core values, the things that really make up the DNA of an organization. So you had a get the org chart, so to speak, right? And we’re not talking about a 30-person org chart. We’re talking about 300-person org chart.
And then you had to, obviously, think about all the things you think about in college athletics to transcend the value down through the student athlete experience. What are some of the things you approach right away and are still working on as part of your vision for, for Auburn?
Well, the first thing… so right after the press conference, I end up having a chance to speak to the entire athletic department. And at that point in time, we didn’t talk… we talked a little bit about professional values. But I talked about my personal values, and I wanted them to get to know me as a person, not, not Allen Greene, the guy; not Allen Greene, the AD.
And I did also talk a little bit about here’s what I expect from a professional… from people who are going to work in this organization. So that way it’s kind of laying the foundation of here ae my non-negotiable and, you know, don’t be late, be respectful, be a team player, those types of things. Then it’s really just working to understand the university, understand the athletics department, the university, the culture. It’s hard to make decisions when… if you don’t understand the culture, and some of the history, the backstory. We can all talk about the future all we want…
…but if you don’t look in the rearview mirror, then you’re going to make a mistake going forward. We know that history repeats itself, but how can we repeat the good part of history, the part of history that helps us advance and helps with our brand and, and acknowledge the history that may not have been the best history, but use it to our advantage moving forward. And then trying to figure out who, who I needed to be, like, I know who I am.
But what type of athletic director do I need to be and who do I need around me to be able to fill my gaps? There’s some things that I do really, really well. And then there’s some things I’m terrible at. And so, I got to have people around me who can, can hide my blemishes and help accentuate the things that, that I’m good at.
And that’s the key. Talked about brand. We said it a lot. Obviously, we’re partnered. Auburn is actually our second ever client. Kentucky is our first. And we learned a ton as a team with our product from our early days with Auburn a couple years ago. But since you’ve come on, we’ve been able to help a lot more sports, women’s sports, and really have a holistic partnership with you.
And so, I think for me, you know, it’s refreshing knowing that from the top down Auburn is really thinking about their brand. Matter of fact, brand is a part of the hashtag this year for the football team, right? For the brand.
Right, for the brand.
Right for the brand. So for you, how do you look at branding, especially, as it goes to social media, student athlete experience, because it’s a big part of what you guys are doing?
You know, growing up, you know, your parents teach you don’t judge a book by its cover. And we wish that that could be true, right? It’s not true. People do judge books by their covers.
And so it’s incredibly important that our student athletes understand that they represent Auburn. And they represent their teams. They represent their coaches. They represent the administration. They represent university leadership. They represent the Auburn family. And in order for Auburn’s brand to remain shiny, then our young people who represent us have to sure that they’re operating, behaving in accordance with really the Auburn creed, right, and understanding that they… their actions are a direct reflection of the people who, who came before them, whether it’s their student athletes, or whether it’s people who just went to school at Auburn, or people who are passionate about the university, and understanding that and being able to demonstrate maturity in the face of adversity, incredibly important.
Being able to win with humility, incredibly important. Being able to step into any situation with confidence, incredibly important.
Those are some of the characteristics that, that, that the Auburn family really appreciates. And we need to make sure that our student athletes are espousing those, those, those character traits.
And so, when it comes to, you mentioned book by its cover, I talk to athletes all the time about the fact that whether you like it, or not social media has become your digital character footprint.
You know, if Aaron Boyd who I just hired, he played, I think, the student athlete wide receiver at Kentucky. When he applied to work for our team, what’s the first thing I looked at? You know, I mean, his social media. And so, when a front office executive is evaluating a young man, he’s not just going to look at this 40 time, he’s going to look at his social media, his Twitter, what, what’s he about.
So this is the reality of the society we live in today. And it can be used for good. It can be a weapon of mass production.
Or it can be a weapon of mass destruction.
And with 500-plus student athletes and some coaches, that’s a big liability.
It is, again, that goes to the foundation and the culture, right. And so, you think about making sure that there are behaviors that drive the culture and using it for… what do you call it? What was the first one? Mass…
Production, right. So, if we can get people to understand, you’ve got a choice. We are… you are straddling the line, you can choose to use your influence for positive, or you can choose to use your influence for negative. Coach Mason talks about use your influence for positive and being able to have our student athletes put themselves in a positive light speaks to their own personal brand.
Because we all know that we may have negative thoughts in our minds about any sort of issue or topic or… or feeling. But we also probably have some positive thoughts on it, too. So let’s, let’s, let’s deal with the negative stuff separately, and privately and make sure that the positive stuff is out there being mass produced.
Yeah. And even in a situation like this past weekend, obviously not the outcome that Auburn wanted, but seeing guys still tell their story and maybe bring some of the low lights with transparency to their audience, Derrick Brown being one of them, it gives people a look inside, “Hey, we can we can win this way, but we can lose with dignity too.”
“And we ain’t done yet.”
You know, it’s funny, 18- to 22-year-olds, right? They’re not professional athletes.
There, there are kids, right?
And so, they’re not perfect. No one is. They try really hard, which is what we all expect. But they also understand that in order to achieve any sort of success, you have to have some failure. The two go hand in hand.
You can’t just have all success, right? The stock market is one. It’s unrealistic to expect returns every day.
There’s going to be some dips. There’s going to be a recession.
You’re going to climb back up. But over the long haul, you’re going to be net positive.
And when we think about the long haul of the stock market and the long haul of a young person’s life, we want them to just grow. We know that there’s going to be ups and downs. That’s a part of it. If we can reduce the volatility, that’s even better. But the chances are, if you think about those people who have… who have either failed in a business or they failed in something in their personal life, if they can use that, that experience to help them grow and help them learn, and help them do something even better, or try it again, but try it a different way, then that’s fantastic.
It’s the… it’s the Tony Bennett speech. You remember the Tony Bennett speech? Here’s the UMBC ticket. Here’s the national championship ticket.
It took this…
Yeah, to get that.
To get this.
Yeah, the tough part is we all get caught up in the moment of the UMBC, UM, whatever…
UMBC, right. And the Terriers, I think…
…or something like that.
Well, actually, the tough part is I’ve given you the example, we also get caught up in the semi-final from this last year.
Yeah, well, that’s…right? But… but you think of Virginia, you think of Virginia last year, and that, that is a prime example that they use that negative experience, and they turned it into something positive.
It’s beautiful man. And, and there’s so many parallels in life that you see with your kids, that you see, as we get older, we see it because we’re parents because we get a chance to be blessed to lead some people because we have goals ourselves. And we’ve just gone through the reality that everything you put on your vision board ain’t going to happen like you think it will.
But it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a vision board.
But you may fall short on some things and you can use that to get to somewhere else you never thought you’d go.
I’ve struck out four times.
It’s made me a better… it made me a better baseball player.
Bryce Brown, so had chance to catch up with Bryce a few different times, hung out with him at NBA Summer League, sharp young man, really on a journey right now to make it to the league. Probably saw he signed that deal recently with the Celtics. And I know he was celebrating the ring on campus for the Mississippi State game. It was cool seeing all those guys back together.
But, you know, he’s a guy who talked about his journey at Auburn and what it means to be an Auburn man from his perspective. We did an interview. And he talked about the leadership, he talked about you, he talked about Coach Pearl, and the fact that he is an 18-year-old when he gets there, and he needed to grow up. And he needed somebody to be patient with him, but also hold him accountable. And he felt like the Auburn environment did that for him. What’s it like for you to hear that and then see his story?
It almost makes me want to cry, because that’s why we do what we do is for those moments. You know, we talked earlier about dealing with fires every day, multiple. And as I’ve shared with some of my colleagues, I’ll deal with fires every day to have one of those… to have one of those experiences that Bryce Brown had, to know that, that that’s an impact that we’re having makes all the other stuff worth it.
And that team, special team.
Oh, there’s no question.
What was that like for you?
It was so much fun to watch them. There was two things. It was it was fun to watch them gel. And you could see… you could see it happening particularly once we got to Nashville for the SEC Tournament. It was, it was, it was just different. It was fun to see our fans celebrate. Like, people don’t necessarily care how the sausage is made. They just, they just want a good breakfast. And it’s fun to be behind the ropes and see how the sausage is made. And it’s fun to watch those young men develop and grow into being teammates. And what we saw out of the basketball season last year is the culture is what helped us get as far as we got. It wasn’t the talent.
There were teams who we played who were a heck of a lot more talented than us.
I just love… my favorite part about the team was like the attitude they had going into North Carolina game was almost like Bryce said, “They, they really thought they were going to beat us, like, in that, we took that personally.” Like they took it personally that anybody would doubt them.
And they believed in each other so much that if somebody was off, somebody else would pick that person up and they had that like you said camaraderie, they gelled to the point where the year before they were much more successful in the regular season. But the year after less successful regular season, but a conference championship and a run to the Final Four. It’s just amazing thing, team.
All right, so as we wrap up, talking leadership, we talked about a lot of this already. But if you’re to talk to, you know, a fellow leader, high level, and you give them one big piece of advice when it comes to hiring and developing the best talent, what would you say?
It’s not hiring and developing the best talent; it’s hiring developing the best people.
I like it. And how do you do that knowing that you’re just getting to know a person, one or two times?
Yeah. God, it’s a really good question, I don’t know.
Is it gut feeling? Is it…
Like in terms of if knowing that that person is a right fit for your organization you mean?
You can… I hope that, you know, I can get a sense of someone and I guess you asked some questions and some open-ended questions and see where people go. And if, if you and whoever you’re interviewing, both of you are nodding along and then you got… you got some magic starting to brew. Always be who you are. Always be who you are. Don’t, don’t try to be someone who you’re not. The end result is not a good outcome, regardless, because you can only fake it for so long.
So be who you are. And if you’re not a right fit for a particular organization, so be it. That’s okay. So what? There will be an organization who is looking for someone with your skillset, right, with your… with your characteristics where you can thrive. And I think that’s a big… that’s a really difficult thing for certain… for people to accept. I had a hard time accepting it when my first AD job that I interviewed for they went with somebody else. I’m like, “But I’m better than that person,” or at least I think I’m better than that person.
But the people in the organization who interviewed, you know, all five people or whatever, knew that the person who they hired was going to be the best fit for what it is that they needed. And now that I’m more mature and I’ve gone through it a couple of times and missed a couple of times, you’re like, okay, it makes sense. It’s not personal. I mean, it’s personal. But it’s not personal.
It’s not. Yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s not a vendetta.
It’s, you got to have the right fit.
You got to have the right fit. If you go someplace and you’re not the right fit, you’re not going to be successful. So why do it to yourself?
All right, so, this new Will Smith movie, he’s like, he’s there and then they got the clone of him, right. So let’s pretend same thing, Allen Greene today.
Where do you come up with these questions?
I’m going… I’m making this up. So Allen Greene today gets to go to Notre Dame baseball practice with the Allen Greene that just got done playing Minor League Ball. He’s working for a web development company. And talk to him and give him advice. What do you say to young Allen Greene? Sitting next to him. They’re out there playing baseball. Time for a pretty long conversation.
Lots, lots, lots. Don’t, don’t, don’t worry about the noise. Don’t worry about people around you. Don’t worry about… don’t, don’t worry about all the distractions. Just serve and be kind to other people and care about… care about your teammate.
Yeah. Serving is, is always the thing that it comes back to with leadership and success, isn’t it?
Because when we’re inward, we’re never fulfilled.
No. Like you just…
But when we’re outward, you have that moment, like you said you almost got emotional about Bryce, right? That’s outward.
Isn’t that amazing, how that works?
It’s rewarding–family, your team.
That… and that, that’s the unique part, right, you… and I think we know this as humans. Material things don’t make people happy, right? Money doesn’t buy happiness. We know… we know these things. So don’t fight it. Don’t try to make a whole bunch of money just so you can buy a whole bunch of stuff. That’s not going to make you happy. It’s false. Be around people who you care about and who care about you. And that’s what makes you happy.
There was… I don’t know what I was watching. There was, like, a what would, not what would you do but something that, that someone tried to buy a homeless person’s dog. And they said, “Okay, I give you 25 bucks for your dog.” You know, and they got up to 1,000 bucks. And the person is like, “There’s no amount of money that you can give me to buy my dog. This is… this is my friend.” That thousand bucks could have paid rent, that could have done something. But it goes to show how important relationships are and how… and how invaluable. There is no value on relationships. There’s value on cars. There’s value on clothes. But there is no value in relationships.
No doubt, man, I love it. Man, I really enjoyed this. I appreciate you, I mean, telling me how early you guys left this morning, I know you got to get back to your family and probably watch a few practices for all I know.
I wish. We actually, yeah, there’s a dinner tonight.
Oh, isn’t it?
Yeah. So we got one more function before I head back.
One more function before you head back. Well, thank you for making time with me today. We really appreciate our partnership with Auburn. INFLCR is bullish on the Tigers and all that’s happening. So we appreciate you.
Well, we appreciate you. You’re having an impact on our student athletes. And at the end of the day, that’s what’s really, really important to us.
No doubt, all right, man.
Appreciate it, man. Thank you.
I’m joined today by Bryce Brown. Bryce is a guy who has had an amazing college career leading up to this past season where he took the Auburn Tigers all the way to the Final Four. And his story is one that I’m really excited about because you’re going to hear triumphs, you’re going to hear challenges, you’re going to hear conflicts. And you’re ultimately going to take a lot from this that you can plug into your life as a sports professional, and even outside of your job, or whatever you do as a person.
So first off, Bryce, we’re in Atlanta. I know you live right up the road, Stone Mountain. Thanks for taking the time to come meet me intercontinental for this interview, man.
Glad to be here. Glad to be here. Yes, sir.
So, listen, I mean, you know, we know each other because of our relationship through my company, INFLCR. You’ve used our app throughout your seasons at Auburn and built an awesome brand. And I want to get into that at some point in this talk. But that’s not really why we’re here. You have an amazing story. And, you know, I really want to start here in the ATL, where you grew up, where you played sports. And I want to start with growing up as a kid playing basketball with guys like Jared Harper, who you now have been a college teammate with. And just, what was it like growing up playing hoops in a city like Atlanta?
Growing up, playing in the City of Atlanta was very competitive. It was tough. It was, you know, truly a blessing. I really appreciated it. It made me who I am. I feel like there’s so much talent from top to bottom when it goes to AAU teams, school teams. It’s just a lot of talent found in Atlanta, and I want to be one of those guys that are… always be remembered but my… my experience, my high school experience in Atlanta was… it was, you know, playing Jared, I started in middle school, me and Jared played each other in the sixth grade.
And we didn’t know of each other as much but, you know, we knew that… we knew of each other and we, we didn’t have a big relationship then, but, you know, as time, time goes on, we started hearing about each other more and more. You know, when we… when I got to Auburn, we… he, you know, I was, I was part of his decision, joining me in the back quarter will be… it’ll be a really good thing just our skills together, my shooting ability with his, his playmaking ability.
You know, just, we remember each other growing up and we just thought it would be a good thing to join each other and make something special. You know, when I first got to Auburn it wasn’t, you know, it wasn’t in a condition it is and now with… basketball-wise but, you know, me and Jared, I feel like we, we did a great job of coming in and changing the culture, changing how… changing and I feel like we did a good job of hopefully the future of recruitment for Auburn.
Yeah, I mean, that’s the thing I think that’s so interesting is you were there at a time when a lot was going on with basketball, right? Talking about Coach Pearl coming back to college basketball and a lot of the stories that surrounded that. You talk about a school that’s built a brand-new arena and is trying to capitalize on the investment they made in the new arena.
A new athletic director arrived during your last season at Auburn, new leadership for the whole academic and athletic program. So, I mean, like, all those things going on and while they’re going on, you’re literally, as a player, a part of reconstructing the basketball program on the court to the point where you took the team to the Final Four. So, before we get into that story, just talking about those things with administration, the building, all those things, like, what, what’s that like as a player when you see all that stuff going on? Do you pay much attention to it? Is it kind of like, “Oh, new AD, whatever,” or is it actually something that you like feel and it impacts you as an athlete?
No, I’ve always just, you know, I’ve seen… see the stuff. You see what goes on. I’m around with different sports. You see the stuff that goes on with different AD changes. And, you know, me, I’m the type, I stay to myself. I don’t really comment on too much things like that.
But, yeah, I see it. But, you know, I’ve always been told, Coach Pearl always does a good job of telling “there’s no control what you can’t control.” So I have no control of what’s going on over, over the AD, over a coaching change maybe. So, you know, I see it, I just hope that we’re… at the end of the day, of course, we’re in all good hands. But, you know, I, like I said, I just try to control what I can control. You know, as you’re playing, you’re trying to work towards something. And that’s, and that was getting to a Final Four. And I just felt like when you have your mind truly set on something, you won’t let any distractions interfere with that. And I feel like that’s what, not only myself did, but my teammates as well. We did a good job of just, you know, locking in on what’s the biggest picture and what’s the big goal.
Now, let’s back up. Let’s go… you’re in high school, growing up in Atlanta. And, you know, you’re at Columbia High School, that’s where you began your career. Correct? And you lead the team to a great season, but then you experience an injury as they’re making a run to the state championship. And at the same time your father goes through a really traumatic experience health wise. Tell the whole story.
So I hurt my back in what was this… it was actually the Final Four of… I hurt my back in the Final Four, junior season at Columbia. And, you know, at the same time that happened prior, like a day or two later, my dad had a heart attack, you know, and it was the first time I experienced somebody having a heart attack or witnessing it. So, you know, I really, you know, I heard my dad in pain. He was yelling. I was playing the game. I was upstairs playing a game. I said I was in high school, so he was just watching TV…
You’re playing a video game.
I was playing a video game. I was just playing 2K, playing a video game.
You were on the sticks.
And, you know, I hear my day yelling, like, and I’m like, that’s really nothing my dad would do. He never yell at the top of his lungs like that. And, you know, I could just tell he was in a lot of pain. So, you know, at first, first couple of times, he, you, he would call my name and said, “Bryce.” You know, I was like, “What’s up, dad? What’s up dad?”
Just kind of saying what’s going on because I’m kind of in a middle of a game. But… and then I realize, “You know, man, he’s really in pain,” because my dad really doesn’t… that’s out of characteristic for him. And so, I ran, ran down, ran up to his room. And, you know, he would… he got out the bed and he was actually on the floor just saying, “Call 911. Call 911.” I’m like, I’m not knowing what was happening because like I said, I’ve never been to a heart attack. I’ve never witnessed a heart attack.
And you know, he’s just saying, “Call 911, and we need… something is going on. I’m not feeling good. My heart is hurting. Chest is just… hurt.” He’s yelling, “Just call 911.” So I called 911 right away. And, you know, they get there in about… showed up pretty quick, about seven, about seven minutes. And, you know, they, they drove, took him off to the, to the hospital and, you know, I followed behind them. Me and my brother, we followed behind him. My brother had… in a meeting at our spot from his spot. And we followed, followed the ambulance on to the, to the hospital. And my mom met us there as well. She wasn’t at the house at the time.
So I was the only one at the house. So it was just a good thing I was there. I wasn’t out of the house and, you know, that was… that’s… it was, it was just really painful trying to balance wanting to be on the floor and at the same time is, you know, my dad in the hospital, I don’t know if he’s going to, you know, see another day or was it, you know, I’m just… I’m just not knowing. You know, I’m in pain. My mom… my dad is in pain. I’m literally a floor under my dad dealing with my back in the hospital and he’s, he’s, he’s in his room for about a week and then I began to heal up from my back injury. You know, this is, this is after the state championship after we had lost the state championship. I’m with my dad, and I’m with my dad. And he’s in, he’s in his room, and I actually was able to… they released me from my room, and I was able to go up to his room.
And, you know, I was just… remember my mom having to, you know, look out for me, look out for him at the same time in the same exact room. So she’s having to take care of both of us. It’ll be times I had to even miss a couple of days of school just so I can make sure my dad was okay. You know, so I didn’t want to, you know, I didn’t want to just leave in, in… I was wanting to make sure my old guy was okay. So I just tried to stay around and be around as much as I could, so, yeah.
And so, he’s doing great right now. We talked about that earlier. But it showed you the fragility of life. And also, another thing to drive you along with, you know, the recruiting process where you’re a three-star recruit. I think you were the 70th ranked guard in your class, and you end up getting the shot with Coach Pearl and the rebuilding of Auburn basketball. Talk… talk about that story.
It’s just, you know, one of those things, again, opportunities, you get so many of them in a lifetime you just want to make sure you make the right decision. And, you know, I mean, I just thank Coach Pearl for allowing me to, to, you know, join, join Auburn and, you know, allowing me to… just the maturity. I’ve seen myself growing each, each single year and I just, I can truly say Coach Pearl had something to do with that. Just, you know, the process of coming in as a freshman and how hard he is on us. And, you know, going back to your question, with, with Coach Pearl, you know, it was just, it was just a lot.
So, the question is, so, so you go through that situation with your father and you experience the fragility of life. And then I talked about how that became a big motivating factor for you. You know, playing for him, playing for your family but also, as you’re playing, getting recruited, you’re not the top rank guard. You’re not a five-star recruit, but you get the shot with Auburn while they’re rebuilding the program with Coach Pearl. How did that all come together?
Yeah, you know, getting the shot with Coach Pearl, like I said, I was, like you said, I was a three-star coming out of high school. And, you know, when I got there, I wasn’t the most thought-upon by my teammates. And, you know, so I had to get their respect as well as the Coach’s respect that are, I mean, they already had the Coach’s respect, but, you know, just coming in, proving, proving myself in front of my teammates and showing them I belong just because, you know, I wasn’t a five-star recruit, I wasn’t a four-star recruit.
So my path is going to be different. And, you know, and it’s… and it’s still different than most guys, you know, like I said, I went undrafted, you know, and I’m still being looked over, but, you know, it’s not the first time. And so, that’s why, you know, being a three-star just… it just, I feel like it truly just created a dog mentality in me just because I always wanted to, you know, go against those top-notch guys, you know. And you can see it in games against North Carolina, I’m just… Kentucky, I just thrive for those moments just because I’ve been looked over and I just can’t wait to get a moment like that just because that’s what drives me so much, I mean, so much and I just really enjoy, you know, playing against tough competition, you know, and proving myself because I’ve had to do it my whole entire life. So it’s, it’s not, nothing new to me and I just… I enjoy doing it.
Yeah, yeah, you know, I love that. You know my favorite Bryce Brown plays, right?
What is it?
I told you last time.
Oh, the backdoor dunk, right. Exactly. Oh, yeah.
Okay, so, so you get to Auburn. You have a couple decent seasons to start. Really at that point you’re gaining minutes, gaining the ability to get on the floor and then you have a great junior season. 15.9 points per game, you know, shooting percentage and just your overall, you know, ability to shoot in clutch moments is proven. And you thought about going to the NBA Draft in 2018. Why’d you come back?
You know, it was truly something that’s just… it was deep down in my heart just didn’t feel like… it wasn’t complete. You know, I didn’t, didn’t receive the feedback I wanted to, one, after the, after the, after my junior year, didn’t receive the feedback I felt like that was needed to make that next step to the NBA as well as I felt like, you know, we just had, you know, simply some unfinished business. We lost by 30 and a blowout to Clemson by… in the second round of tournament and, you know, that’s not what we predicted.
We were a top… we’re a top-15 team at that time and, you know, people respected us to go kind of far on the tournament. And, you know, and we did too, and so we were really disappointed and not just myself, Jared, and, you know, and other guys well. And that’s kind of why we wanted to come back, you know, and try to make a run at it again because we knew that, you know, we all had that same feeling. I just didn’t, you know, we felt like we were better than that. And we wanted to, like I said, we all had that dog mentality, underdog mentality. And we all wanted to, you know, shock the world and prove the world that we’re better than that. And I felt like we did, did it, definitely did that by coming back and making the Final Four.
Okay, okay, so, so, so let’s go into that. So when you decided to come back, you say you’ve got unfinished business, was there a vision? Was there a goal? Was there something written down? Was there a particular meeting where you guys said, “We’re going to go to the Final Four? I mean, what, where was the vision for the 2018-19 season established?
You know, I actually feel like it was established. It was a night where we… the night where we got our… received our round of 32 rings when we made it to the top tournament, received the round of 32, 32 ring and, you know, we were very happy about that. We were very proud of it. I’m very blessed and… but, but Coach Pearl called whole team, obviously, you know, we were… he made an announcement, he said, we were very blessed to have this ring, I want everybody to know that, but we have unfinished business.
He already called it. He already called it. He said… he said next year I want one that says, “Final Four.” And I kid you not, I have a video on my phone of him saying those exact words. And, and I actually sent him the video of him saying it. I sent it to Coach Pearl about a week ago. And I’m like, “Coach, you, you said it. You said it,” and I was… and it was just, he was like, “Wow.” So, I mean, that’s definitely some… he’s just keeping… that’s probably some… I’ll put it out because that’s… he said it. He said it right there. He said, “Next year I want one that says Final Four,” and we got it.
Okay, so, you come back and I remember me and one of my staff, we went to your game early on against Washington. And I didn’t really know what to expect. I mean, you know, I obviously get a chance to follow you guys closely because you’re a client and I always tell you’re one of the most active on the INFLCR app, you and Jared, you guys are great on social.
But when I went to that game against Washington, it was clear you guys really had a team. And you don’t see that a lot in college basketball because of the one-and-done factor. You guys had gelled. You guys had been there for several years. Talk about growing into a mature man. There’s a big difference between you, 21 soon to be 22-year-old, and a guy that’s 18 even if that guy is going in the NBA. I noticed that at Summer League a couple weeks ago when we were hanging out. Talking to you is completely different than talking to a guy who’s a one-and-done.
I’ve also been told that by a few different people who are leaders at your school who really, really think a lot of you that you have grown tremendously in your maturity over your time there, things that might have got you mad, might have got you to say something that you didn’t mean to say don’t get you as easily mad now. So just talk about the maturity process before we get into this Final Four season that you went through in those first three seasons.
I’m really just, you know, when I think of maturity I just think of experiences because I’ve been through those mistakes several, several times, maybe to wherever there is… how I reacted to a teammate, reacted to a coach. I’ve been through those situations so much… so many times. And I understood.
I just came to the point where I just understood every time I would do something, what I would say, something that’s very immature like I would find out that the backend of that wouldn’t turn out very good, and the consequences, you know, aren’t, aren’t very good for that. So, I mean, just, just having to make those… making mistakes over and over and, you know, just coming to my senses and just becoming smarter and wiser and, you know, I feel like Auburn has a big, big thing to do with that.
You know, Coach Pearl, you know, he make sure, you know, we’re helping the community and, I mean, you know, those little things right there just, just helps you appreciate and you go off and, you know, look, just by going to Italy and seeing how it is over there just helps you appreciate what you have more. And I feel like above, most, above all, I’ve just become more appreciative of life, more appreciative of my opportunity. You know, I don’t take it for granted.
And maybe when I first got here, I went… first got to Auburn, you know, I, I was just a kid out of high school out of Atlanta that is a kid just wanted to kind of probably want to have fun and, you know, want to just go to… go to school and play basketball and be known. But, you know, it’s much bigger than that. Life is much bigger than that. It’s about maturing, getting better as a person, becoming wiser and making, making the right decisions, making the right choices. Having… setting right priorities and managing time, just, you know, it’s a lot more than what you would think coming in as a high schooler, I feel like.
And, you know, it takes a while. It definitely does take a while and I feel like, you know, Auburn has definitely helped me with that.
That’s awesome, man. You know what I hear in that, I hear leadership. It sounds like you had a lot of people around you that helped lead you. But also, everybody makes mistakes, and there’s no better way to learn. You’re an emotional guy. I am too. So it takes one to know one. But I see it on the floor, right? Like you play with emotion and that most of the time is going to be great. But sometimes it can work against you. Talk about that.
Really just, you know, you know, I’ve always been told, you know, never get too… never, never be on your highs and never be on your lows too much, however that saying goes or…
Never get too high, never get too low. Be even keel.
Never get too low. Exactly, and as I feel like with my emotions I just… maybe I’m… I just feel like at times I probably go over the top because I want it so bad, you know, and that’s, that’s where that, that three-star thing comes in. I want it so bad and I want to prove my point so bad, you know, and that’s kind of where that emotion comes out at. I feel like, you know, I’m not, I’m not, I’m not a mean guy. I’m not a bad guy, none of that. I just… I’m on a court, I want to win and then if I feel like I’m getting away from, I feel like a teammate is getting away from, I’m not afraid, you know, maybe let it, let it, let the person know but, you know, I’ve definitely gotten better at it over the years. I definitely can, can admit but, you know, it’s something that I will continue to have to work on, but it’s just the competitive, competitive nature with me, man. That’s really what I had to say. Yeah.
Well, like I said, it can be great too, right? I mean, some of the greats in all sports have been a dog and had the dog out there on the court and you have that for sure.
All right, so get into the senior season. So now I want to flip it and go more into social media, INFLCR. So, you’ve been using INFLCR your last two years. You know, we obviously have been real excited to have Auburn as one of our first clients. We’re based in Birmingham, Alabama, to have Auburn be our third ever client and to have multiple sports not just football but basketball too use it was all… was very exciting for me early on when I started INFLCR.
But in our second year, in our first full season of college basketball, you guys really embraced it. And watching you on social, and I mentioned Jared as well, both of you are just guys who… you’re out there telling your story on a daily basis and celebrating not just like things you guys have done, but your team and your program, and its brand and the things that drive you off the floor. Like, how did you really formulate and come up with your approach for social media?
Say that a little differently for me, I’m sorry.
Yeah. So, you know, you guys are… you you’ve been very active on social and it’s something that is a… is a proactive style compared to most athletes. You are, you’re posting regularly, daily, you’re posting on your stories. You’re not just doing things of what happens on the floor, you’re showing who you are off the floor. And it’s worked. You’ve grown a brand that people engage with on social. How did you come up with that formula?
You know, if you… if you ever go check out my Instagram page, I have… you’re able to see my growth and is this crazy. I didn’t, I didn’t… I don’t delete many pictures. I let you see.
Unlike the people on the elevator we were just with.
Right. Exactly. It’s exactly right. But…
Yeah, I don’t… I don’t delete many pictures at all. So, I mean, you’re able to see… you’re really able to see my growth, my very first picture on Instagram is a picture of me, you know, I don’t have any tattoos, no facial hair, none, there’s nothing. You know, it’s just very clean. And it’s like, wow, you know, this kid looks young. And as, you know, able to get throughout my Instagram, you’re able to, you know, kind of see the quality of my pictures and kind of the quality of my life even.
You just see it starts to get better and better. And that’s kind of how I wanted my image to be on Instagram. Like you could kind of see where I came from. And, you know, the older I’ve got, you kind of see, you know, the process I went through. And it lets you know… it kind of tells a story. You know, even though the captions I put at times, you… it just… I can… you could just tell that, you know, where I came from and where I’m at now. You’re easily able to see it. So that’s… that’s kind of how I came up of how I kind of wanted people to see me on Instagram on social media, you know.
Yeah, I love it, man. That is such a great philosophy. You literally are speaking the words that I just spoke to the Georgia Tech football team, you know, as… it’s… this is your digital character.
Like, literally, when somebody applies to work for my company, I want to look at their life on social and see who they are. And if they’re not there, then they kind of don’t exist. And if they are there, let’s see how well rounded and who they really are. And what was funny is when I was speaking to the team, a former Georgia Tech player was actually in the room who I have just hired. And I got a chance to kind of tell them that story full circle.
Do you think about the fact that NBA front office, NBA coaches, scouts, even, you know, fans and other people in that NBA ecosystem would do that with your social? Have you ever thought about that when you’re posting?
What do they do, what?
Well, just the fact that… so I’ll rephrase it again. So, as you’ve done what you’ve done on social, have you ever thought about the fact that people who may want to hire you, which is the NBA right now…
…have gone in and looked at your social?
I truly do understand that they do. They do do that, in fact.
And, you know…
So it’s that mindset… because the way you’ve done it, it’s going to help you, but it can hurt other people.
But as you’ve done it, was that ever in the back of your mind?
It was. It is. And, you know, I had… I know had to do… you have to understand, you know, I go back to what my freshman year of college, you know, I understood that, you know, I had to keep my Instagram professional at the same time I wanted to tell a story, and I wanted to tell where I came from and how I came up. And like I said, you’re able to see that on there. And so, you know, at the same time, you know, you have to keep it clean, you have to keep professional because I understand that, and I, and I know that I have, you know, people that’s trying to hire me, which is the NBA. I know I have them watching me. So, you know, I’m very… what would I sound…
Oh, very aware of what I post. I’m very aware of what people tag me in. If I don’t like what’s being tagged in me with, I will probably tell the person how to… I don’t, I don’t, I don’t like, I don’t want to be put in that category. You know what I mean? I don’t want to be looked at upon that. So don’t, don’t, I feel like that’s just part… and they will understand. It’s just part of me. And I don’t want to be looked at a certain way because I have people that… people that’s looking at me. So you have to be, like I said, you have to look a certain way on social media.
All right. So then you have this situation now in college sports where schools are investing significant money in staff to document everything for social media, for the team accounts, right?
What is that again?
So schools, it’s the new arms race. They’re investing in staff. So you’re Josh Wetzels…
…which is like the creative guy at Auburn, right? You’re your videographers, your photographers who are shooting everything you guys are doing as a team, practice, games, travel, right, they’re documenting everything. And INFLCR comes into play and says, “Let’s get that to the athletes because they want that content too.”
And you happen to be playing college basketball at a time where all this is going on. And so, all of this media that you now are appearing in is at your fingertips on your phone through INFLCR. How vital is that then to your social media?
I feel like it’s been big because, you know, I don’t have to… I don’t have to go searching for my name, knowing Google and our search engine just trying, trying to find pictures. And once I finally find a picture that I actually like, you know, it may have, what is it called, watermarks on it.
I don’t… and then, I think this is a problem that you can just take out. You know, it’s right, at your fingertips, you can utilize it right there very quickly. You don’t have to go searching for it. It’s right… a click away.
And that’s really what I really enjoy most about it is just because it’s right there at your fingertips. You’re able to just click right into where you don’t have to go searching all over the place. And once you search somewhere, you have to get permission from somebody to access a picture of you, which is, isn’t, you know, that’s, that’s really my biggest thing and what I utilize out of it the most is right there at my fingertips and it’s very easy, very quick.
And how important is it for you to be able to get access to that kind of stuff in real time? So right after practice, right after a game…
…not three, four days later.
Right, because, like you say, you guys are really quick with it and it comes up on my phone right after the games. And so, you know, when you go look up a picture for that, that game that was the same day on the Internet it’s not there. You know, you can’t find it. And that’s the thing about it. You can… after a quick win, after a quick… say, if we, after, hey, I’m not sure if I posted a picture or not right after the game, but if I wanted to I could just post a picture just celebrating or a picture of us beating Kentucky with me and Jared and, you know, something like that. I’m able to do that right after a game and not wait several days.
Like I said, the, the consistency of when it’s put out, which is after every game is just… it just works very well.
I’ll shift back to basketball. So you make this run. It really started, I mean, you had a great season, but you didn’t have as good of a season in your senior year as you guys did your junior year as far as regular season goes, right. But you go to the SEC Tournament and you win the whole thing. Most Outstanding Player, you’re standing there in Nashville. All the Auburn fans that came from Alabama for that game.
And they’re on the court taking pictures with you. And it was a pretty magical moment. I was there. Talk about that moment I mean that had to feel gratifying. I know it’s unfinished business. You got to go to the Final Four. But winning that tournament, being Most Outstanding Player after you decided to come back to Auburn.
You know, winning championships is… when I first got to Auburn, winning championships was something I dreamed of, not something that can necessarily see in the near future. And so, you know, anytime you win a championship like the SEC Tournament Championship or regular season championship in my junior year, you know, those are moments you want to cherish with, with your friends, your teammates, your coaches and know… and like you said, you were there, you seen after the game how, you know, all the confetti dropped, and you know, Coach Pearl cut down this, I cut down this. We all were able to pitch in and do that.
And I feel like that’s just… that’s, that’s the best thing about it, we were able to cherish it together and, you know, it will be… definitely something we will always remember. Like I said, we will be getting a ring for that. So, you know, that was just, like I say, unforgettable moments, man, just, just blessed by the man upstairs. Just be able to be in an opportunity to play for an SEC championship.
You had, you know, early struggles here and there and the tournament, but you eventually get the momentum going. And then Friday night, sweet 16, Carolina. What do you think when you’re going out on the floor, what do you guys talking about? What’s the mindset going out for that game?
Underdogs, we knew, I mean, that’s pretty much… that’s pretty much the story of my life, pretty much the story of my life. Pretty much the story of all the guys on my team, like, just because, basically, the story of the season. You know, we feel like, you know, going against Carolina, we, we knew that we weren’t capable of beating them. But we knew that everybody else didn’t think that, of course. So we, like I said, they… everybody said they play fast this, they play fast that. Like, it’s the same game. We do the same thing.
94 feet, we’re going to match that. People didn’t think we’d be able to keep up with them. And you know, we just said, okay, you know, we, we knew, we knew what we were inside and, you know, we were going to play to our game, play to our strengths which is play fast. We’re going to change the game.
We have… just because we have UNC coming in and we’re playing them in the sweet 16. No, you don’t change your game. Stick to what you do. And I feel like, you know, we do… we did all season which was to make shots, play fast, play defense, and, you know, going into that game, it was… we truly thought it was going to be a much closer game, you know, we didn’t… we didn’t think, we didn’t know it was going to be 20-point blowout. But, you know, like I said, we, we were a bunch of underdogs and that’s just what it is. We’re not afraid to anybody… we’re not afraid of anybody. We’re going to come out with that dog mentality and, you know, we don’t care who’s on… who’s, who or who’s in front of us.
We’re there to compete. We’re there to win. Like I say, we won it. We won the national championship but that’s something though.
So, so, Sunday, I remember, you know, there’s two games left to crown two more regional champs to go to the Final Four, and you know, the country I feel like wanted Duke and Kentucky. You know what I mean? Like, the rematch.
And they played the beginning of the season and Kentucky got beat bad.
And they were going to get a chance, Zion and the star power of Duke and all that. And instead, you know, the other two teams won. And your guys game against Kentucky was filled with all kinds of drama, over time. But… but you won and you’re, you’re going to a Final Four. So now you’re cutting out a regional championship net.
And the unfinished business is a little less unfinished. How does that feel like? Was it surreal that, wow, like we’re like, I came back, I had one year to do this? Everything came together, this coach, these players, we’re going to the Final Four, like, what does that feel like?
It truly didn’t feel real, like, we would… we… after we won, we like, where we’re telling each other, “Yo, yo, we’re really in the Final Four,” that it just didn’t… it didn’t sink in at the moment. But we knew… we kind of knew we were doing, like, yeah, we’re in the Final Four.
You know, we wanted… we just wanted to continue to put on a show and represent Auburn the best we could. But it was just, you know, at the same time we’re surprised we’re here, but we want to let people know, you know, that we’re good enough to be here but we’re just, you know, so surprised as a team, like, you know, it’s just… it’s crazy. Like nobody picked us. And, you know, we even had people that went to the school would pick against us. How are you going to pick against your own school? But… you know, but it’s all good.
But I mean… we just tried our best, like I said, to go out, compete to our hardest, to the best we can. And, you know, it just, it let us go to the Final Four.
Now, when you were up at the Final Four, I was up there in Minneapolis, and we were texting back and forth to connect. And you were like, “Man, they got us going all over the place.” You know what I mean? The schedule is crazy. And you were telling me about it. And you told me that you have Bible study. And I thought that was pretty cool. I was like, “Wow, they do that as a team.”
Talk about the spiritual aspect of your team because I feel like it prepared you for what was about to happen on that Saturday night, which we’ll get into. But talk about the team, the spiritual aspect of the team, Coach Pearl many times, including when y’all won it in the SEC championship, right out there in the court like, pushing the glory to God, talking about how that’s, you know, really what matters to this team. Explain that.
Yeah, so we, as a team, we pray before every game. We pray after every game. And, you know, we pray. We have Bible study. Every away-game we have, we have a Bible study session. And when we were in a tournament, we had a Bible study… a Bible session before every tournament game. And, you know, we just know the reason for all this. You know, it wouldn’t be possible without the man upstairs.
And we… we understood that and that’s why we, after every game, that’s why we prayed. Because we, we understood that no matter what, we wouldn’t have the strength, we wouldn’t have the skills to be able to go out there and compete if it wasn’t for Him. So we just try to, you know, keep God and keep the man upstairs as much as we could in our locker room. And, you know, if things work out, they did, I mean, they did, and if things work out, they did. If they didn’t, then they didn’t. But at the end of the day, give Him the glory.
So the reason I say I feel like it set… sets you guys up to be able to handle what happened on Saturday at the Final Four is when I was there, I was like, right down first row like right where the tunnel is where you walked in and walked out.
And, first of all, what a game. I mean, it didn’t look like y’all had a shot for a little bit, bro. And then, you know, you guys were blowing people out…
And people were trying to keep up with you on tournament.
Mm-hmm. Yeah, yeah.
And then we go to the Final Four and everybody is like, “Well, Virginia is going to slow it down.”
And I’m like, you know, “No, they’re not. They can’t slow this thing down.” And they did. They played great defense and… but then all of a sudden, you guys get hot, you particularly, and it looks like if you’re sitting there in the stadium, it looks like you won the semi-final and you’re going to the national championship. The horn goes off. The red light on the backboard goes off. You know, Guy missed the shot and I’m in, around all, all of these Auburn folks and everybody thinks that they’re going to the Final Four because if you’re watching on TV you might hear a whistle or, you know, the announcer might say this is what happened.
But you don’t know it inside there. Did you guys know it? Did you think for a second it was over, or did you hear the whistle?
We seen… we did hear the whistle and I seen the reaction right after like he was hot, I mean, we were all mad, but he was, in particular, he was, he was definitely mad at that the refs. And it was just something that, you know, like I said, you can’t control. And, you know, I even, I even said something after the game I was… I shouldn’t have said.
I want… I’m going to get into it. I’m going to get into it.
I’m going to get into what you said.
But, you know, like I said, it’s just my competitive nature. But it was just, you know, it was a tough moment to deal. And you know, I know that… we know that that’s kind of… yeah, that’s coming, yeah.
So, this is where I go back to faith, God, if it works out, it works out; if it doesn’t, it doesn’t.
Man, I’m not even on your team. I’m kind of unbiased objective bystander, right, I work with all the teams and I was rooting for you guys in that game because Virginia is not a client at the time and you guys are. But I could… I was torn up sitting there and then having to watch Guy go up to the line, hit the three free throws, you know, the last second goes off and watch you guys walk in the locker room, the pain that I felt and I’m, I’m not even an Auburn grad, right?
So I can only imagine how bad that hurt. And I watched it all happen, unfold. I was… it still is crazy to talk through. You, you had the comment, “fire all the refs,” God only knows what I would have said, okay. All right. Because I’m more emotional, outspoken than you believe it or not. But let’s move past that. I know you took that back.
You guys did a great job in that press conference overall, though. You went in there. You didn’t have to. You took the questions. Coach Pearl took the questions. And you guys handled it so well. And I felt like at least from the outside watching, especially after you had text me, “We got Bible study tonight,” I felt like you guys saw the bigger picture and that, “You know what, we didn’t even have to make it here, but we did. And we’re going to celebrate that and not dwell on what happened.” Talk about it.
Coach Pearl, after the game, you know, he, he brought everybody up. You know, it was very, it was a very emotional locker room. And, you know, he brought everybody together and just showed everybody, you know, just, you know, don’t, don’t, don’t let this define your season.
Understand what you guys did. This one loss doesn’t mean nowhere near as much as what you guys have accomplished. And he wanted us to realize that, and I felt like we did. And we understood that, well, we, we understood what we did for Auburn and we made Auburn proud by making it to the Final Four. You know, we had a lot of people that didn’t think we would get there but, you know, we’ve seen the big… like you said, we’ve seen the bigger picture. And, you know, like I said, we just wanted to be able to do it for Auburn and bring back the Final Four.
Man, I love that story. And to me, it’s a microcosm, even though it’s the Final Four, it’s a microcosm of your whole career, right? You made mistakes; we all make mistakes.
You had moments that you wish you could take back. We all have moments we wish we could take back. But you learn fast enough…
…to do things with excellence and do them on a bigger and bigger and bigger stage that nobody can ever take away from you, you know, and you should be proud for that. And what you’ve been able to do to get to where you are today, which is where I want to end is feed off of motivations from doubters, be inspired by the learnings from your mistakes to do things the right way.
And I want to say those things out loud because I want people listening to remember that this is no different. This is sports. But this is no different than life. You’re going to make mistakes. You got to learn fast, think on your feet, and change. You’re going to have people that doubt you. You can’t argue with them and tell them they shouldn’t doubt. You’re going to have to show them.
Let’s talk about showing the NBA. You’re 6’3”. I asked you last time, I can tell it didn’t bother you, but I could tell you had an answer prepared because you had been asked it before. I compare you to JJ Redick, and that’s not a bad comparison.
Yeah. It’s not. No, no.
He’s had a 10-plus year. But… but I know that you have a vision for yourself that is a specific type of player in the NBA. And so, what’s it been like so far. You’re undrafted. You go through Summer League, play with the Kings, play with Kyle Guy, that must have been fun. God is funny, ain’t He? So, so you go through that process, you realize Kings aren’t a fit, it’s not going to be the best fit for you.
And now you’re about to embark on a journey with a different team. But you’re kind of right back where you were when you showed up as a kid with no facial hair and no tattoos and maybe a little less polished and a little more immature at Arbor. But here you are polished, but still, you got to prove yourself. Talk about your mindset going to this level.
My mindset going to this level is, you know, just stand strong minded. You know, staying self-disciplined. You know, and be about your business because, you know, it’s going to be times where it’s lonely, like, throughout my, my, my summers has been so much traveling and just so much on my body with workouts, and like I said, traveling and things like that. It was just important that I took care of my body.
I will go through probably seven to eight different states in 11 days and, you know, that was just, you know, that was a lot for a 21-year-old. And, you know, so, you know, just having to have that self-discipline and, you know, like I say, I’m, I talked about it earlier, manage myself, managing your time. You’re going to be on your own. So, you know, just, you know, being about your business and knowing what comes first, setting your priorities. You know, I had to stay in the gym.
I have to, you know, I have to be able to, at the next level, I have to be able to, you know, get teammates involved with the ball. I can’t just be a score only. So, you know, I’m currently adjusting to that, being able to balance. I’m playing the one and the two and, you know, I can confidently say I’m getting better in that area and, you know, continue to work on it. You know, I feel like where I’m headed is a good opportunity for me.
At Auburn, especially at the end of your career, you were such a shooter that you could shoot your way into a game if you didn’t start off hot. Right now, that’s not a realistic possibility because you got to prove yourself.
So like, mentally being focused on, you know, you might get 5 shots, you might get 10 shots, you might get 8, but being focused enough to change your mindset for that moment, how difficult is that coming off of the license that you had with Coach Pearl at Auburn?
Yeah. You know, just going to have to be prepared just to, you know, when your number is called, you got to be ready. And you know, that’s all I’m… just all, that’s all I was able to do when I was… like I said, when I was in Sacramento, just when the number was called, I had to be ready to deliver. I couldn’t say, “Hey, let me get a couple more shots, Coach. Let me, let me, give me a couple of more calls, I’ll knock the next one down,” no.
You got come in and knock the shot down. So you just have to realize that, you know, it’s a little pressure on it but, you know, like I said, I feel like I was made for times like, like, like that. And you know, I mean, I feel like I had a pretty good summer league and… but just not being able to know shoot myself into games. Probably now it’s just, you know, probably going to be something that I probably have to work on now, just, when I get in the gym, get in the gym, start off hot. Don’t… don’t even start off with a warmup; just start off hot. And, you know, that would be something that would probably be challenging for me.
What’s the biggest thing you’re going to work on and your game outside of shooting? Is it ballhandling?
Definitely, definitely ballhandling but as well as decision making, pick-and-roll reads, just becoming a smarter player with the ball and not, not just, like I said, focus on shooting and scoring all the time but focusing on getting other guys open, you know, maybe create, create, maybe take some off the bounce and, you know, hit, hit an open teammate and just making everybody happy on a court and being able to take that, take, take on that task as a point guard and not only a shooting guard.
All right, so, wrap this up, so many good things, so many takeaways, and I’ll get to those in a minute with our listeners. But for you, basketball is a tool, the ball will deflate at some point, your pro career will be over. You have already accomplished so much, and I know there’s so much you want to still accomplish. I believe you will.
What do you want to do in the grand scheme of things here on this earth? Like what’s your, what’s your goal beyond basketball?
You know, I would love to be a coach one day. I would love to be a college coach, or I would also, as well, love to be a sports broadcaster, you know, some… similar… similar to Charles, what Charles Barkley does. So getting to connect with him one day would definitely… would definitely be a thing. So, you know, either between the two.
You know, I love inspiring people, so, and motivating people as well. So, you know, and I feel like Coach Pearl is a good, good person to look at when it comes to something like that, and he’s a perfect… he’s a great example of what a coach should do and what a good coach is like. You know, I just, I appreciate him so much for showing me what that is because that’s what is kind of what I want to do in the future.
Love it, man. Thanks so much for coming down here to Buckhead and spending some time with me and good luck with all your training. And I know you got a big surprise. You got a team that you’ve already committed to signing on with. And I’m excited for you man. I’m excited about all that lies ahead.
Thank you. I appreciate that.