Former NBA star and Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame inductee Dave DeBusschere once stated, “The best teams have chemistry. They communicate with each other and they sacrifice their personal glory for the common goal.”
Basketball is a game of individuals working symbiotically to achieve common goal. Former Pitt legend Charles Smith, once named the 1988 Big East Player of the Year and first team All-American, believes that same rules apply off the court. His strong belief that Pitt men can elevate Pitt men germinated into a compelling idea.
“I would come back to Pitt periodically over the years and I would see many of my former teammates and former players, we would catch up and then leave,” stated Smith. One interaction with a former guard bothered him greatly. “I had a discussion with the player and he wanted to know what everyone was doing. He was curious about the transition from basketball into the real world,” he said. “He had brought his wife and they were heading back to Chicago and I got the sense that he felt it was a wasted trip. He didn’t get anything from it. That bothered me.”
Smith realized that every past basketball player brought unique abilities, talents and experiences to the table. Many have proven to be highly successful in their chosen career paths. Several past players have developed into successful entrepreneurs. Bringing these players together, players that share the bond of the Pitt basketball family, can lead to networking and open doors to a bright future for many. With this concept in mind, Smith decided to launch the Pittsburgh Basketball Alumni Business Network.
Last week a group of 20 former Pitt players gathered for the inaugural meeting. A myriad of topics was covered: assimilating from the sports world to the business world, entrepreneurship, accountability, goal setting, networking and fundraising. Former Panther great Demetreus Gore best summed up the theme of the meeting when he spoke up and stated, “I look around this room and everything I need is in this room.” Gore, who described himself as a ‘serial entrepreneur’ stated that every business he had launched in the past had a direct link to a former Panther.
“This is all about value for former Pitt basketball players. This will provide opportunities to share challenges and experiences and to deliver progress,” said Smith. “As athletes in transitions, its those difficult roads that lead to beautiful destinations because we’re determined to change the narrative. Our mission, the Pittsburgh Basketball Alumni Business Network, is a permanent home whose mission is the professional, personal, civic, social, and economic advancement of former University of Pittsburgh basketball players. We foster exchange and encourage growth for all individual members of the group.”
“The core of our offering are experiences, connections, conversations, and business opportunities that distill the essence of purpose for our Pitt basketball family. To us connecting and building fruitful relationships are central to our purpose. The organization provides an environment where individuals may share information and expand their network. We’ll be able to provide our members with access to other players, facilitate change, exchange our services and promote ourselves.”
Smith, currently the Head of Sports & Entertainment for MediaCom, anticipates seasoned, accomplished and experienced past players, such as Curtis Aiken, Pat Cavanaugh, Demetreus Gore and Darelle Porter assisting younger past players like Tyrell Biggs, DeJuan Blair and Ronald Ramon with planning out their future to optimize success. He hopes there will be a replication of his fledgling network with other sports at the University of Pittsburgh. The Pittsburgh Basketball Alumni Business Network (tentative name) anticipates its membership will grow exponentially in the future.
“The act of getting back together creates opportunities for all. We believe that individual outcomes depend on the groups willingness and commitment to provide meaningful connections and support for those in the group,” said Smith. “From the scarcity of resources, we collectively face during the transition from our basketball careers to those that have become successful, the ask is more than giving back. Now it takes giving something up.”
Harry Psaros can be found on Twitter at @PittGuru