Danny Green On Starting Your Career, The Advantage of Being a Student-Athlete, and How He Transitioned Into Sports Management
If getting to college ends up being a culture shock, what happens when you graduate and have to stop playing the sport that carried you throughout your whole life? We’ll let our first interview answer that question. We had the chance to sit down with Danny Green, a Founding Partner of sports agency, FFA Sports Management.
He is the Founder & CEO of Green Sports Management, a consulting agency designed to create unique and unmatched experiences in professional sports and has worked in the front-office with BSE Global and the Miami HEAT. While with BSE Global he was Senior Manager of Global Partnerships where he developed new global marketing and sponsorship opportunities for three professional sports franchises (Brooklyn Nets, NY Islanders, LI Nets), five entertainment venues (Barclays Center, NYCB Live, HSS Training Center, Webster Hall, Paramount Theatre) and numerous other affiliated properties. Prior to BSE Global, Danny served as a Corporate & Premium Sales Executive of the 3-Time NBA World Champion Miami HEAT and boasts a 2013 NBA World Championship ring from the Miami HEAT.
What’s your story?
I attended Colgate University in upstate NY, a small liberal arts division I school. I played basketball there for all four years. Prior to that I was a standout high school player in NYC at Poly Prep Country Day School and played with NBA player, Joakim Noah while there. A lot of my other teammates in high school went on to play at great academic schools like Colgate, Haverford, Princeton, Amherst, and Middlebury, so we had a pretty talented team in high school. We won the State Championship my sophomore year.
What was your experience at Colgate like?
It was a culture shock going from NYC to rural upstate NY, but I made the most of my opportunity to receive a free education. Some of my teammates are still my best friends. We still currently keep in touch on a daily basis which I think speaks to the bond we formed as teammates. I love those guys tremendously.
So how did you deal with this culture shock?
Colgate was a different experience for me coming from Brooklyn. My teammates were a strong support system, but I also engulfed myself in the Colgate community by having my own radio show with a close friend. I was a part of different cultural organizations on campus. I was also part of Colgate’s Student Athlete Advisory Committee. I was already in a new environment so I just kept putting myself out of my comfort zone to grasp the entire Colgate experience.
How did you spend your summers in college?
My summers in college were spent pretty much playing and training. I took odd jobs that I could fit around my training schedule just to sustain and make ends meet throughout the summers and still be a college kid. At the same time, being a college athlete is essentially a full-time job and you always want to be performing at your highest level. So that’s why my summer consisted of odd jobs. One summer I was a doorman. Another summer I was a counselor at a educational summer camp. I also spent time working different basketball camps.
How did you start your career?
Right out of school, I worked for a sports agent because I didn’t know of any other careers that were in professional sports except for coaching. And I wasn’t a big x’s and o’s guy so I didn’t take that route. I was fortunate enough to get an internship with a sports agent that was working with BDA Sports Management at the time. That job led to me working with another agency, Rose Professional Sports Management (currently CAA).
I was learning the ropes. I was taking calls, reaching out to GMs trying to get pre-draft eligible guys set up for training. I was recruiting guys for their future sports business. I was networking and engulfing myself in the industry. They gave me the opportunity to view marketing contracts, NBA player contracts, and really get a grasp on what the business side of the industry entailed.
Before going into sports management and working with professional athletes, did you have dreams of playing professionally?
Any student-athlete that plays at a very high level, especially division I, has aspirations of eventually playing professionally. However, that’s not the norm for many of us. I knew that if I didn’t play professionally, I always wanted to work on the business side of sports. I knew that from a very young age. I knew the percentages. I attended the prestigious 5-Star camps and invitationals. And it was always a numbers game. They would always remind us that less than 1% of us would go on to play professionally. So I always thought to myself, I’m in a very fortunate position to be a talented athlete around other very talented athletes. So I’m sure I want to do that in my professional endeavors. I always wanted to be around the game so I knew that if I didn’t play professionally I would want to be on the business side.
Being that I couldn’t play in the NBA, going overseas could have been an option, but I had family that I had to tend to. My mom passed away when I was a freshman in college and my sister unfortunately became disabled during my junior year. It was a turbulent time for me and my family. If I did play overseas I didn’t want to be far away from her. I wanted to be close to home so I could take care of her. So that’s why I jumped right into sports management after school.
What was the toughest part of the transition moving away from being a full-time athlete?
It was definitely an identity shift. From six until 21, my mentality was that summers were spent playing in basketball tournaments and camps, and the winters were spent playing for my school. That engulfed my entire life for 16 years and then that just stopped all of a sudden. So it was like, what do i do now with all this time? I definitely took that same level of structure and commitment and tried to incorporate that into my professional life and career which wasn’t as seamless a transition as I thought it would be. That was probably the biggest challenge, just changing realms in that capacity. At the same time, I don’t think it was that big of a change for me because I was around the game that I love which created a beautiful life for my family and I’m very blessed to still be working in the sport which has provided me with so much throughout my life and my career.
One thing that comes with sports is having coaches, captains, and teammates around you all the time. When you leave the game, that’s not necessarily a given. Talk about the importance of mentors in your professional career and how you may have surrounded yourself with the right people.
I’m very fortunate to have an uncle that played professionally for a number of years in the NBA and helped mentor me. Two things that he instilled in me that I carry to this day are to always maintain your honesty and integrity in anything you do. Whether you’re a college athlete, a professional athlete or a business professional, it should be that way. That’s something I hold in high regard. He’s currently in the front office for the Bulls. He’s had a number of positions coaching at the division I level and doing player development in the NBA. He’s played a tremendous role in helping shape my career. He referred me to my first sports internship out of college.
One of my high school teammates, Joakim Noah, also got drafted by the Chicago Bulls and ended up playing for the Knicks. He knew about my work. During that first year out of college, he provided me with an opportunity to be his full-time business manager for four years in Chicago due to my connections and knowledge of the industry. I was able to grow and learn the ropes with him as he grew in his career at the NBA. We came up in the ranks together and that was a great experience.
What would you tell your 18 year old self, fresh on campus?
I would tell him to seek mentorship early. If you can reach out to past players do it. I know everyone is busy, but seek mentorship early and stay consistent. I think if I had done that, I could have saved 3-4 years of trying to figure out exactly what my niche was in the sports industry. That’s what I would tell the 18-year old me.
And it’s something I value and I do it currently. I’m part of the Colgate Harwood Basketball Club and its a network of alumni that support the current student-athletes at Colgate from a mentorship standpoint. I also donate to the Colgate basketball program. I also assist with other student-athletes at Colgate through a career advisory board. I want to do my part to provide that mentorship that I didn’t seek out early in my college career.
What lesson or experience defines your experience as a student-athlete at Colgate?
As a student-athlete you’re put in a position where you not only have a full-time workload as a student, but also a full-time workload as an athlete. I think that gives you an advantage. Some may say no, you’re not able to do well academically, but I don’t see it as an excuse and I think that has translated into my work life where I’m willing and able to outwork some of my counterparts because I’m used to having essentially two full-time jobs as a student-athlete. Most students have four or five classes and then they’re chilling. For me, it was 4-5 classes, film, weight training, and practice. And if its a game day, we would leave the day before and have to plan ahead on how we got our work done. You also have your homework, and you have to study for your finals, midterms and exams. All of this is part of your life and you have to do it over and over again. That routine and that schedule has stuck with me to this day in terms of being able to balance and outwork my counterparts because I’m used to the daily grind that was instilled in me as a student-athlete
Finish this sentence: My biggest strength as a leader is…
Leading by example.
Ungoogleable fact about you.
I’ve traveled to over 15 countries. My favorite one is Thailand, which I visited with my fiance in the summer of 2016.