By: Adam White, @FOSAdam
Front Office Sports is proud to have sat down with Adam Fisher, Director of Basketball Operations for the University of Miami. He is an alumnus of The Pennsylvania State University where he graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology. From there he received his Master’s degree in Educational Leadership from Villanova while he was a Graduate Assistant to head coach Jay Wright. He was gracious enough to offer up his insight on the ins and outs of college athletics, how many steps it takes to be a Division I basketball coach and why you must treat everyday like a job interview.
What were your previous positions, if any, before your current position? How did those positions help you get to where you are today?
I started as a student manager at Penn State and, from there; I went on to be a graduate assistant at Villanova.
We played a final four game Saturday night against a very talented North Carolina team that we ended up losing. Sunday night, after that game, I spoke with a Villanova assistant coach who had received the head coaching job at Boston University. I was on a plane the next day and I moved to Boston to be the Director of Basketball Operations for Patrick Chambers. We had a great run for two years. The second year we made it to the tournament as the 16 seed.
Patrick Chambers was offered the head coaching job at Penn State and I followed him back to work as his video coordinator and Director of Player Development.
From there, I came down to the University of Miami to work as the Director of Basketball Operations for Coach Larranaga.
As the Director of Basketball Operations for the University of Miami, what is a normal day like for you? What are some of your day-to-day challenges?
As Director of Basketball Operations, I handle anything from travel to tickets to hotels. I basically am in charge of helping run the program from a day-to-day standpoint. I’m also a liaison for academics and community involvement.
Every day is different. In the summer, we run a ton of camps where I’m the camp director. The summer is filled with a plethora of camps and clinics. As the season starts, it’s dealing with hotels, facilities and academics. Every day myself, along with Coach L and the assistants, meet to discuss topics ranging from recruiting to the week’s schedule.
The one thing that is a norm for me is my morning runs. I like to run 4–5 miles every morning before I get into work. It helps me clear my head.
What drew you to being a part of the operations aspect of basketball?
I wanted to get into coaching at a young age so I started out as a student manager. From what I’ve been told, that’s the best way to start along the coaching path if you didn’t play basketball in college. From there, I have taken steps toward becoming a coach. Whether it’s a Grad Assistant position or a Video Coordinator or a Director of Operations, I’ve been slowly working my way to my goal of becoming a Division I basketball coach.
What’s the highlight of your career to this point?
The number one in athletics would have been when I was at Villanova when we beat Pitt in the Elite 8 at the buzzer to advance to the Final 4. There was so much excitement it was absolutely amazing! The week of the Final 4 is an absolutely incredible experience for student athletes, the coaching staff and the entire staff.
Knowing that all of your hard work has helped the program get to that point is an indescribable feeling! It doesn’t matter the role you played whether it was a big one or small one, everyone’s excitement was so genuine.
The second best for me would be when I was at Boston University. We won the conference championship at home in my second year there. We were behind the whole game and took our first lead of the game with 2.1 seconds left. There is nothing more exciting than having one game left that will determine if you advance to the NCAA tournament. Especially at a smaller college!
What is your favorite part about working in college athletics?
I love working with the student athletes. You meet these kids when they are 16 and 17 years old making visits. Then you get to see them grow and mature into men by the time they are 22 and 23. There’s no better feeling then being able to not only to teach them the game, but by helping them learn simple things such as how to cash a check, and going to the grocery store to find healthy food. Knowing that you are a part of something bigger is the greatest aspect of the job especially here at Miami. Coach L is one of the best in the country at what he does. He makes the program feel so connected and special by including everyone in the success. We have amazing student athletes that not only do a good job on the court, but off of it too! Whether it is with academics, or community service they do an excellent job.
How important is networking in your eyes?
It is extremely important. I’m a big believer in it’s what you know, but also who you know and how you make an impact on those people. When there are 200 applicants applying for a job, what makes your resume stand out? Why is that person going to remember your name and choose you over the 199 other applicants?
Networking is so important. Just meeting someone and introducing yourself nowadays is not enough. It’s all about the follow up. You might not get responses but you can’t get discouraged. You have to continue to follow up and meet new people.
You can’t just reach out to people when you need something. It’s better to reach out to someone to see how he or she is doing. For example, a text to a coach telling him that his team played a great game is very simple but will go a long way in getting them to pick your resume out of the pile and having them remember you.
What are some tips you have for people who want to be successful in the sports industry specifically the operations aspect?
School first. You have to have done a great job in the classroom. From there, you have to separate yourself; you have to add value to whatever program or organization you’re going to join. Everyone is replaceable. You have to have something a program needs or you have to be good at something that a program is not.
You need to talk to people. Ask around and see what professionals are doing. The more you can learn from people who have done it successfully the better off you will be. Always be a sponge, there is always room to learn. Take notes on what you like and what you don’t like. Taking notes on what you don’t like is just as important as taking ones on things you do.
What is the best career advice you have been given so far?
Treat everyday like it’s a job interview. If you go to work everyday thinking it’s a job interview it’s going to be a great day. I always tell guys just to work as hard as they can. I don’t want guys wasting their time.
Many people think working in sports is all glitz and glamour, can you elaborate on how much work and how many hours it takes to be successful in the sports industry?
There are so many jobs behind the scenes in athletics that nobody ever see or thinks about. Everyone is a part of our team from the janitors to the custodians, everyone plays a big role in our program. It takes a lot of hard work. You can’t just say you’re a hard worker on a resume; you have to back it up with the way you complete tasks and follow up with tasks. I can’t do my job without having all the people who work for me do their jobs.
Did you have a mentor coming up in sports? If you did, can you stress on how important that is to you?
My biggest mentor growing up was my father. He coached all my sports teams and taught me so many great life lessons. He, along with my mother, showed me the importance of support.
When I got to college basketball, there were a couple of guys who took me under their wings and helped me. Early on, while I was at Penn State, Dan Earl and Kurt Kanaskie helped me immensely and then when I went to Villanova, Patrick Chambers was a great mentor and helped teach me the business.
Right now it would be Coach Larranaga, he’s as good as it comes in this business. As great of a coach he is, he’s an even better person.