Frisch Sports Management hosts ESPN NBA Insider Adrian Wojnarowski.
What is the journey to becoming a senior ESPN NBA insider? This past Monday, over 150 Yeshivat Frisch students had the opportunity to hear the answer to that question from Adrian Wojnarowski—or “Woj,” as he is popularly known. He visited Frisch in person to address Frisch’s Sports Management and Business Analytics Track (one of the school’s 11 specialty academic programs) and Sports Management Club. Frisch junior and event organizer Roni Heumann noted in his introductory remarks that Wojnarowski, a renowned sports columnist, podcast host and bestselling author, is recognized for transforming NBA news-breaking and reporting over the past decade, and is central in ESPN’s multimedia coverage of the NBA.
Wojnarowski spoke about what he does in his career today, and how he got to this point. The talk was followed by a half-hour Q&A, covering everything from advice to students who want to pursue a career in the sports industry, to setbacks Woj has faced and how he dealt with them, and the process of breaking a story.
Heumann, who currently heads Frisch’s Sports Management Club, said that students’ ability to meet Wojnarowski face-to-face was special. “My favorite part was seeing how excited everyone was to see him come in person,” he said. “It allowed an opportunity for students to communicate with him directly and build a one-on-one connection, something that is essential in this industry.”
“He was very down to earth,” said freshman Sports Management and Business Analytics student Eliana Kalman, who has an interest in the legal side of the sports industry.
Rabbi JZ Spier, Frisch Gemara rebbe and faculty adviser of the Sports Management Club, also observed that there is some surprising but deeply meaningful overlap between the yeshiva community’s values and those being espoused by sports industry professionals. For instance, when one student asked Wojnarowski how one becomes the guy that everyone reports to, Wojnarowski replied candidly that over the years, you build so many relationships with so many different types of people, and that being kind builds those relationships. “That’s our community of kindness,” said Rabbi Spier, echoing the words of Frisch Principal Rabbi Eli Ciner about Frisch’s core values.
In addition, Wojnarowski and other sports professionals have stressed the importance of hard work, even over innate talent. “As Jews, too, there are no shortcuts,” said Rabbi Spier. “The effort matters.”
Hearing from Wojnarowski was the latest in a series of incredible opportunities organized by club leader Roni Heumann for Sports Management students. Last month, students had the opportunity to hear from Brooklyn Nets Assistant General Manager Jeff Peterson. Two weeks later, over 50 students took a field trip to visit the home of the Brooklyn Nets, where they got to hear from Ian Eagle, the Nets’ television broadcaster, who also calls games for CBS Sports’ NFL and college basketball broadcasts, as well as Nets General Manager Sean Marks. Students arrived at the stadium three hours before the doors opened to the public, and got a unique glimpse of behind-the-scenes game prep while speaking with several departments within the organization.
A feature of both the Sports Management Club and academic specialty track (the latter of which is in its second year) is that students get a view of how broad the sports industry really is. “A goal of the program is to expose the students to the wide range of opportunities within the sports world,” said Jerry Caraccioli, Frisch new director of the Sports Management and Business Analytics Track. Of course, there are the agents and general managers, but there is also a range of careers in marketing, social media, logistics, finance, broadcasting, writing, legal and more. Caraccioli’s other goal for the program is for students to gain the practical tools and experience to pursue their passions and reach for the stars. “We want to get the students to a place where they have an idea of what they want to do and start to create their game plan of how to get to where they want to be,” he explained. “The sky’s the limit.”
Caraccioli himself brings a wealth of experience to the classroom. Most recently, he served as executive director, Communications at CBS Sports, where he worked in the communications department for 25 years promoting CBS’s broadcasts of some of the biggest sporting events in the world including the Winter Olympics, NFL, multiple Super Bowls, NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship and Final Fours, the Masters, PGA Championship and U.S. Open Tennis Championships.
So far, Caraccioli’s students have had a range of learning opportunities. One assignment had them negotiating as would-be agents and general managers over actual players who became free agents, with some students coming within single-digit millions of the final deal that was concluded in real life. In addition, they recently heard from guest speaker Sandy Montag, CEO of The Montag Group and the biggest agent in the sports broadcasting industry. Montag spoke about his career path from Syracuse University to the International Management Group (IMG) to owning his own agency, how he became an agent, his day-to-day duties dealing with his famous clients, as well as the reality of his exciting, but highly demanding, job.
For many students, Sports Management represents an opportunity to blend passion with career.
“One of the things Ian Eagle mentioned is that no matter what you do in life, find what you’re passionate about, and run and chase it,” said Rabbi Spier. “That’s another one of our core values: pursuit of passion. We have so many clubs and opportunities at Frisch because we want kids to find what they’re passionate about and realize that there are ways to do it. They’re sharing values that are consistent with the school. Coming from sports personalities, it packs a different punch.”
By Yaelle Frohlich