Intern Island: Life As A Sixers Summer Intern

by Matt Rose

In the back corner of the second floor of 3 Crescent Drive, two black wooden tables are pressed together and neatly tucked against the windows. It's summer's end and we've let the space become filled to near capacity: laptops, chargers, iPhones, an old Envy 3, pads of paper, water bottles, coffee cups, scissors, Little Bites wrappers, and bowls of burnt popcorn. Darwinism is evident – only the few who arrive early are able to secure increasingly scarce table space, while the rest is left to survival of the fittest.

“Intern Island,” as the area has been affectionately nicknamed, houses the premier intern think tank in professional sports. In early June, four college students from the East Coast embarked on an all-expense-incurred trip to the Island to master the intricacies of operating a professional basketball team. I was tasked with the responsibility of carefully observing their activities and documenting their statements.

Each intern has his own flavor that is vital to the overall composition of Intern Island. Unfortunately, isolation on the island seems to have left some with a distorted sense of reality.

  • Brett: “In the small and tumultuous world of Intern Island, I am the Law. As the elder statesman of the island, I bring an abundance of corporate wisdom and experience, while ensuring that we don’t break any of the laws in the intern handbook.”
  • Dan: “Some have called me the Sam Hinkie of the snack game around here. I’m all about stockpiling assets. The snack supply is restocked each morning around 9am and soon is exhausted. The average lifespan of a snack on an employee’s desk is 45 minutes. Those are cold, hard facts. So what makes an asset valuable? Rarity. So when are snacks hard to find, you ask? Mid-afternoon. Therein lies my strategy: the draft-and-stash. I tuck snacks away in my backpack, and then deal them sometime between 2 and 4pm, a time of need for all other parties. In doing so, I receive even greater value in return.
  • Zach: “I bring my backpack – including a laptop, water, various folders/papers, and usually a bagged lunch – and a good attitude!”
  • Chris: “Besides my comedic wit and general zest for life, I have a WatchESPN account that has been shared on certain occasions and is considered by some to be ‘invaluable.’”

Over the course of their stay, the group has been forced to adjust their palates to the local cuisine. Several factors contribute to meal choices, including proximity to the source, time available for the meal, and level of independence.   

  • Brett: “My favorite meal is from Brent Celek’s “Prime Stache” food truck, where they have the Ron Burgandy sandwich.”
  • Dan: “I’m a big fan of the Navy Yard food truck circuit. The one complaint about the food truck game is that there’s usually only one truck out there (excluding #FoodTruckThursday, which is basically a national intern holiday), so the options are limited. That said, I’ll eat pretty much anything, but my go-to has to be ‘The Western’ from Sum Pig. It’s just got everything you look for in a sandwich. Really gets me going.”
  • Zach: “I like to keep it simple and bring my lunch to work. A packed lunch not only allows me to hold down the fort while the other interns are gone, but also helps me avoid spending money. The one constant has been a Yoo-hoo. Although, one downside was learning that it is labeled ‘Chocolate drink’ as opposed to ‘Chocolate milk’ because it is not milk. That kind of grinds my gears.”
  • Chris: “I usually go with a Thomas Cinnamon Raisin Bagel that may or may not be buttered, depending on when I get up in the morning.”

As they continue to adjust to their new life, the interns desperately cling to their youth. They piteously tell anyone who’ll listen about that time a scout from Marquette came to watch one of their high school games or how they “could have gone pro if it weren’t for that patella injury.” Their delusions are getting worse…

  • Brett: “I’d say I’m like Eric Snow, specifically his 2000-2001 campaign. I just emit an energy that tends to make those around me better.”
  • Dan: “Definitely an Andre Miller-type. I’ve never been the kind of guy that necessarily plays above the rim. Instead, I rely on my decision-making, court vision, and pesky defense. So him and Magic Johnson are probably my best comps.”
  • Zach: “I would say Allen Iverson. Although some people counted him out based on his height, he used pure talent and explosiveness to ultimately make a name for himself in the NBA. I have a very similar playing style as Allen, along with a never-say-die attitude.”
  • Chris: “It took a while for me to grow into my body. I was always lanky, but had a silky-smooth three-point stroke. Combine that with my spiked hair and the comparisons to Keith Van Horn were inevitable.”

By late July, reality set in – for most – and they began to reflect on their time on Intern Island. Sadly, Brett and Chris seem to be lost causes at this point.

  • Brett: “I had no choice but to come here. The Sixers drafted me in the second round.”
  • Dan: “My dream has always been to work in sports. The common pieces of advice that I receive when talking to those in the industry is to work hard, make connections, and to try to put yourself in the right places at the right time. The Sixers have given me the opportunity to do all three of those things. I’m tasked with assignments that I believe truly matter, and working hard is easy when you feel like you have the chance to make an impact. I think that’s pretty rare as an intern in any field. This is absolutely the right place for me and other young employees looking to gain experience in sports.”
  • Zach: “I am working for the Sixers this summer because I am pursuing a career in sports, particularly in the NBA. I believe it is important for me to have tangible experience with a NBA team to help me decide if it is right for me.”
  • Chris: “Not many people know this, but I’ve always wanted to be on the Flight Squad. I was hoping I might find a way to get a tryout, plus I want to work in basketball one day. I saw this internship as an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone.”

Meanwhile, they work towards completing their final assignments, and consider the impact they have made on the organization.

  • Brett: “I’m working on fan likeness/fan ticket legal research.”
  • Dan: “Matt and I are interns for Chief Marketing and Innovation Officer Tim McDermott. The work that we have done has been incredibly stimulating and fulfilling. We’ve also been developing a blueprint for how to create a culture of innovation within the Sixers organization.”
  • Zach: “I have worked on a lot of different projects since I started interning here. The coolest ongoing project, however, has been my involvement with radio stations and helping to expand the Sixers radio network. I’ve had the pleasure of working and interacting with Tom McGinnis, the voice of the Sixers, and Dan Hauser, Senior VP of Corporate Partnerships. I have even traveled to some radio station studios and sat in on meetings.”
  • Chris: “I just finished a spreadsheet documenting possible future clients that might be interested in purchasing a suite.”

Realizing how much they have grown over the past two months, the group inevitably thinks back to where they started their journey… and some of the hiccups along the way.

  • Brett: “Once, I had a brilliant, dynamic, and revolutionary idea that I pitched to a senior member of the 76ers organization who was visiting Intern Island… He swatted me like Nerlens Noel.”
  • Dan: “I offered Allen Iverson a bobblehead of himself as he walked out of the Draft Party. He politely declined.”
  • Zach: “During the Japan and Columbia World Cup game, I startled the entire Group Sales Department when Keisuki Honda scored a goal. I was wearing headphones and did not realize I was expressing my excitement quite so loudly.”
  • Chris: “I tripped and fell over a box containing signed Arnett Moultrie jerseys while leaving the office to go to the bathroom.”

Ultimately, Intern Island instilled the values of teamwork, camaraderie, and loyalty in four people who were strangers just two months ago.

  • Brett: “Working on certain revenue-creating and revenue-protecting projects has connected my work to future team profits. And future profits mean more cash flow to invest in the team. And more team investment means more team success. So basically any future success the Sixers’ organization has can be easily linked to the hard work and triumphs of Intern Island.”
  • Dan: “I think when I look back, the most valuable aspect of my internship will be all of the connections that I’ve made. Sitting with all of the other interns every day, working with different departments, listening to leaders address the organization—all of that has been great, and it all revolves around the people.”
  • Zach: “The most rewarding experience has been all of the people I have had the pleasure of meeting and spending time with over the course of the internship. The work I have done here was definitely valuable and has put me in a better position to shape my future than before the internship began; however, nothing will beat all of the people I’ve interacted with.”
  • Chris: “Definitely the car rides with my colleague Brett Schwab, sharing great conversations with him. Just a real fun dude.”

During their time there, all four had some lows, inexplicable delusions of grandeur, and longings for their youth. Fortunately, the two months undoubtedly fostered individual growth, professionalism, and basketball expertise that will serve them well throughout life.