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Pritchard Hosts "How to be a GM" Seminar

by Scott Agness

February 9, 2013, 2:38 AM

Indiana Pacers General Manager Kevin Pritchard isn’t your ordinary NBA GM. He’s on twitter, where he isn’t afraid to voice his opinion on what he’s seeing on the court, within reason, and he’ll often reply to questions or comments from fans.

From twitter, the idea to host a seminar evolved and came to fruition Friday night prior to the Pacers squaring off against the Toronto Raptors. Four lucky fans were chosen -- out of more than 1500 entries online and at games – and they were allowed to each bring one friend. The ages, interests and desires of those involved varied greatly. There was a pair of students at Ball State majoring in sports administration, a retail manager eager to learn more about overseeing from the top, and a couple others that were simply curious about what his typical day is like.

One thing united the gathered audience—they were all Pacers fans.

The group assembled in suite 35 on the Krieg DeVault Club Level of Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Pritchard, who sat in the front of the room on a bar-style high chair, highlighted the key points of being a GM and explained the fundamentals of drafting, signing, and acquiring players.

“It was amazing how educated the people were in the room,” Pritchard said afterwards. “The people had great questions. That’s what it’s ultimately about, trying to help them get in this business.”

The number one job of a general manager, he said, is to communicate with the owner. It’s integral to constantly keep the team owner in the loop so that priorities are aligned, it’s understood what’s fiscally possible, and a culture is defined.

The culture of a team is exceptionally important and stems from the owner. A few words Pritchard used to describe this franchise are tough, hard-working, and unselfish. Pacers’ management, coaches, and players all seem to reflect that. They bask in the glory of team and hold one another accountable.

Those in the front office are also in constant communication with other teams. They potentially may divulge whether they are looking to make a trade, for whom and what they may be willing to give up. As you might expect, it’s a give-and-take process with information—some people you trust more than others.

And because deals could take shape at any moment – particularly at the trade deadline and during the draft – all teams must have their research completed and organized. (One scout’s binder that was on display looked to be about the size of a ream of paper, and changes are being made daily.) That’s why teams have a variety of scouts on staff to continually monitor players in college, overseas and right here in the NBA. One member of their team, Jason Buckner, goes in-depth to understand the character of potential players. He’s finding out how a player acts off the court, in the classroom, and with friends. It’s all part of a process to help management differentiate players and recognize what they potentially are getting into.

So you want to be a GM and wondering where to get your start?

Pritchard’s career after playing in the NBA began in the minor leagues. He sacrificed his salary, only receiving $20,000 per year, to get his ‘in’ and learn the foundation. That’s the route he suggested for those aspiring to work in a sports front office: Be willing to start at the bottom and do anything.

Specifically to the NBA, Pritchard said the top two paths to become a GM are with mastering the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, which he described as ridiculously complicated, and in analytics.

The last thing Pritchard introduced to the group was an Internet resource called Synergy. Front office personnel, scouts, coaches and players all have access to this system which simplifies the analysis process. It is an extraordinary, new-age tool that looked incredible as Pacers’ Director of Scouting Ryan Carr quickly clicked his way around while those in the room watched on a large monitor beside Pritchard.

For example, if Lance Stephenson wants to watch every clip of himself defending the pick-and-roll and see how he stacks up with other players in the league, he can. Should Roy Hibbert like to see his efficiency in posting up and scoring from either block, he can watch every move and save time because it’s pre-edited. And, it’s not just limited to current NBA players. The tool extends to D-League, collegiate and overseas players.

Before posing with each of the participants for a commemorative photo, Pritchard assigned everyone homework. He asked them to each break down Paul George’s strengths and weaknesses on both offense and defense and to then email him their analysis. Though they don’t have access to Synergy, which would be especially helpful in the process, it shouldn’t be too hard since they are all self-proclaimed Pacers fans.

The seminar, which was interactive rather than a lecture, lasted about 75 minutes and went over very well with those that filled the suite. Honestly, how many GMs, no matter the sport, would take valuable times away from work and family to provide such a unique experience? Pritchard volunteered to do this, prepared for this, and seemingly enjoyed the interaction as much as everyone else. And it is his hope to have a session with another group this season.

“There were some people along the way that gave me a chance and so hopefully I can give someone else a chance.”

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