Farewell to our friend, Jaclyn Sabol Patton

Jaclyn Sabol Patton began performing with the Nets dancers in 2005. A journalism major at Rutgers University, she later became the host of “Jac Of All Nets,” a video feature on the team’s website. She also worked with the NBA as a choreographer and host of NBA Nation. In November of 2010, Jaclyn was diagnosed with brain cancer. As she moved into an advertising career, Jaclyn battled recurrences of the disease and became an active spokeswoman for Brain Tumor Society. Jaclyn passed away on Tuesday evening. The Nets send their condolences to her family and share this first-person account of her work with the team, which first appeared in the fall 2009 issue of Nets Quarterly magazine.

An Interview With Jaclyn Sabol of “Jac Of All Nets”

Why I Do It: I love the idea of bringing fans behind-the-scenes. I think the Nets are a great organization – it’s more than just basketball, and I think that’s something that people need to see. We have a team that has an amazing entertainment program, so I started with that: Look at all these things that we do. I started noticing as a dancer, speaking to fans, with the some of the questions they would ask. I thought, ‘Wow, they have no idea what goes into this.’ I felt it would be fun to bring that to them on a different level and have them really feel like they were a part of it. And then expand into everything else, because the number of topics you can cover is unlimited.

My Favorite Episode: By far one of my favorite ‘Jac of All Nets’ was when I got to spend two days at the IZOD Center and do the behind-the-scenes of the movie ‘Just Wright’ and I got to interview Queen Latifah. Are you kidding me?! That was one of the coolest moments of my whole life. And I also got to interview (Magic superstar) Dwight Howard and (the rapper) Common. It was great. I got to play around in the wardrobe room and meet the guy who had done the wardrobe on all these big-time Hollywood movies like Zoolander, and I was messing around in the wardrobe room trying on costumes.

Sources of Inspiration: There’s a lot of people that I look up to. Somebody that I find absolutely fascinating is Barbara Walters. I just love that she’s able to sit down and have a conversation with anybody in the world, and she’s able to ask them questions and the hard questions and be very real. But there’s a definite element to my personality that’s very fun and very playful and very relaxed. I always say to the players when I interview them, ‘You know me – nothing too serious, nothing too deep.’ and they laugh, because they know I’m all about pulling out their personality and showing a different side to the fans.

There’s so many people out there now that you can pull from, like Oprah. She has a talk show, but ideally, she’s a journalist. And she can talk to anybody in the world and be fun with it and be herself and be playful. I know I picked two big ones there, but hey.

The Degree Dance to Journalism: I went to Rutgers, where I was a journalism major and psychology minor. I started out as a liberal arts major and then I switched and became a dance major, but after a semester decided I didn’t needed a degree in dance and that I really wanted to pursue journalism. Most people, at that point in college don’t really know what they want to do, but journalism felt like a natural fit: I was good at it, I was good at writing and I was good at speaking in public to a group of people. I thought it would be great for me to study, and that at the very least I would enjoy all of my classes.

Advice for Aspiring Female Sports Journalists: I think, first and foremost, that you have to know what you’re talking about: you have to do the research and you have to be prepared as you possibly can. I think people are going to put more pressure on you as a woman in sports. Even if I’m not sitting there doing play-by-plays, it doesn’t matter – because it’s the sports world, people are automatically going to analyze you a bit more.

But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It certainly keeps you on your toes and makes you want to constantly improve and strive to get better. You never can rest on your laurels, and if that’s the type of person you are, it can be great.

One other thing that I learned is to just talk about what you want to do. I never talked about this my first few years with the Nets. I was dancing and happy to just dance and I didn’t really say anything about it. But as soon as I opened my mouth and people knew, I became the designated spokesperson for the dancers. Entertainment Manager Kim Garris knew I spoke well, so when we did TV appearances, she’d have me speak. Once that started happening, it gave me the confidence to say, ‘Hey, I do speak well on my feet, and I do have a degree in journalism, and this is what I want to do.’

I think the key is to take every opportunity that comes your way, because even if you fall flat on your face with it, you’re going to learn something.