Brooklyn Nets Q&A With Andy Birdsong
Get to know Brooklyn's new assistant general manager
The Nets have welcomed Andy Birdsong to the front office as assistant general manager. After running an AAU program and spending two years as a graduate assistant at Florida State under coach Leonard Hamilton, he got his first job in the NBA in San Antonio in 2011, went to Atlanta for three years, then returned to the Spurs in 2015.
We caught up with the new assistant general manager to chat about his basketball experiences and arrival in Brooklyn.
NETS.COM: What was your first year in the NBA like back in 2011-12 with the San Antonio Spurs?
ANDY BIRDSONG: It was the lockout, so there was a lot of preparation, but you never knew when anything was going to start. But at the same time, you’re sitting in on high level meetings. One thing about San Antonio, and it’s well-documented, they want opinions, genuine opinions. We had the opportunity to be in those meetings. You’re a fly on the wall, but at the same time you have a wide range of responsibilities.
NETS.COM: Your first season in Atlanta was the same as Kenny Atkinson’s. What were your first impressions of coach Atkinson?
AB: I picked up Kenny for his interview in Las Vegas. The first thing I noticed was the New York accent. I knew his acumen and the care factor he had from everyone we knew. He came extremely highly recommended from people I trust and had come to believe in. When Kenny came to Atlanta I spent a lot of time with him and his wife and kids. I got to know the person off the court first before the coach.
NETS.COM: What drew you back to San Antonio in 2015?
AB: The family-oriented nature of San Antonio, and it wasn’t that Atlanta didn’t have that. When I left the Spurs, it was, “we’d love to have you back and would love to work together again.” When the chance came, I seized it. A massive draw was Sean Marks. We were interns together. He and I dreamed about having the opportunity to do what he’s doing, and when he was in San Antonio he was a big reason I wanted to move back and learn and grow there. Obviously (San Antonio GM) R.C. Buford is a massive part of my story.
NETS.COM: Who do you count as your biggest influences?
AB: First and foremost my parents, but professionally Danny Ferry, (Florida State coach Leonard) Hamilton, R.C. and Gregg Popovich in San Antonio and the group there, Wes Wilcox, Mike Budenholzer. These people are giants in this industry and I have no business having these opportunities, and the only reason I have them is they believed in me as a person and in my ability. All these people that have marked my story, I represent them every day because they gave me an opportunity, and I don’t take that lightly.
NETS.COM: What were your roles and responsibilities in San Antonio the last four seasons?
AB: Day-to-day basketball operations management, serving as the lead with the G League team. Being a conduit between our development program in San Antonio and our development plan in Austin. Making sure there’s precise communication. Aiding our pro scouting process, free agency, interacting with the draft. Is someone a culture fit, a system fit? It’s a real collective effort, much as it is in Brooklyn. Everyone’s in charge of everything at some point. It’s ultra-collaborative, it’s ultra by-committee.
NETS.COM: What attracted you to joining the Nets?
AB: It was a hard and emotional decision to leave San Antonio. That’s family to me. I grew up as an intern and I’m leaving a family of 45 people. I got married in San Antonio, we welcomed our first child while in San Antonio. It was emotional to leave that. But the opportunity to come and build on what Sean and Kenny have done here and be a part of that, Sean and I dreamed about that to some extent. We really did talk about what it would be like to come and build a program and the people here are people I believe in. Most every coach on staff I know in a personal way. The majority of the front office staff I know in a personal way.
NETS.COM: You worked with Jeff Peterson in Atlanta, and now the two of you have come to Brooklyn as assistant general managers together. What was your experience working with him before, and how do you see the two of you working together here?
AB: Jeff and I had common people in our background, obviously the Florida State connection. When I got to Atlanta, coach Hamilton was one of the first people I called and he said, he had someone finishing in the program that we should look at. We lucked out in having Jeff come and work with us in Atlanta. We have really worked well together. It’s surreal to be working together again. We had a special camaraderie there. We were groomed and grown by Danny Ferry, Wes Wilcox and Rick Sund in the front office and to carry how we were raised into a new environment, that’s really cool.
NETS.COM: How familiar are you with Brooklyn and how appealing is it to be able to live in New York City?
AB: When you look at these opportunities, you want to get a fan base that cares and is passionate and has expectations. Sometimes people shy from expectation. We walk toward expectations as a family. Brooklyn wants to see this thing go to the next level and we look forward to that. To be able to take on that challenge with the people that are here, that’s what you work for in this industry.
NETS.COM: What’s your philosophy of team building?
AB: It starts and ends with people that are aligned in vision and that want to move towards a greater good and a greater goal outside of themselves. It takes a lot of hard work, but it starts and ends with people.
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