Sports Agent Interview:
with Matthew Vuckovich
Mike Naiditch is a 42-year-old sports agent and is the founder of Naiditch EntertaimenT (N.E.T) (www.naiditch.net). Mr. Naiditch is a basketball agent and he is based out of Chicago, IL. He represents players in America as well as in Europe. Check out Mr. Naiditch on Facebook.com (http://www.facebook.com/p/Mike_Naiditch/503962230) or MySpace.com (search Mike Naiditch). Naiditch EntertainmenT is a family atmosphere agency, and clients feel very welcomed by his representation. I was able to talk with Mr. Naiditch and learn about the agent business from a basketball perspective.
SportsAgentBlog: How did you get started in this industry?
Mike Naiditch: I started in the securities industry in 1986 as a market maker on the Chicago Board Options Exchange. A couple of years later, I founded a company known as Tower Trading. One of our first summer interns was Michael Finley (NBA – San Antonio), who at the time was a senior in high school. As I followed to many of his games, I started to develop a passion for the sport of basketball. In 1993, I decided to volunteer part-time at a local high school, exchanging a summer internship for a spot on the bench. Four years later, Whitney Young Magnet High School (whose star was Quentin Richardson of the NY Knicks) won the Illinois State AA Basketball Championship.
I realized I was way behind the coaching learning curve, but really wanted to stay involved in the sport. In 1998, the NBA went into a lockout. I was still trading for my company. My trading clerk, Cedrick McCullough, was a struggling professional basketball player, often taking leaves of absence to chase down basketball jobs around the globe, but nothing really big. One day, he received a call from a friend saying that the Lightning (CBA team) was looking for players as they had just lost a few players who went to the NBA as scabs. So Cedrick took yet another brief leave as he hustled up I-90 to Rockford. A day later, Cedrick called, huffing and puffing, saying that he was hot, and that I should put on a suit, get up to Rockford, and pretend to be his agent. He thought that would make him more credible. So, I did as he asked. The same day, Cedrick signed with the team. Getting perhaps ahead of himself, Cedrick wondered what would happen if he got an NBA call-up. So, he convinced me to send in a check and complete the NBPA agent registration. That’s how I became an agent.
SportsAgentBlog: Did you attend law school or grad school? If so, which law school or grad school?
Mike Naiditch: No. I went to Wisconsin (http://www.wisc.edu) and received a BBA.
SportsAgentBlog: Who was your first client (year), and how did you recruit him?
Mike Naiditch: My first client was Cedrick McCullough (see above). My first NBA client was Jannero Pargo, and one of my clients who had also gone to Arkansas referred him to me.
SportsAgentBlog: How did you handle your first contract negotiation?
Mike Naiditch: Draft night was rough, because I thought Jannero was going to have his name called. He had 15 NBA pre-draft workouts. I figured one of the teams would bite. I was prepared though. I had already made a list of all the teams who might have had a need for a Pargo and also had available roster spots. We received strong interest from the Lakers, Jazz, and Cavs. Ultimately, this was the single most important decision. We chose to send Jannero to the Lakers for summer league. In order to get a head start, we sent Jannero a month in advance of the summer league and put him in a nearby Residence Inn. I negotiated a make good contract and Jannero certainly made good.
SportsAgentBlog: What is the most important aspect of being a sports agent?
Mike Naiditch: Hard Work is the most important aspect.
SportsAgentBlog: At what age do you feel an agent with hit his prime/glory years? Why?
Mike Naiditch: Age is not a factor. Experience is what separates the agents in this business.
SportsAgentBlog: What is your opinion of larger agencies with less attention to their clients compared to smaller agencies who counsel more with their clients?
Mike Naiditch: Since I’m a smaller agency, I fight that fight every day. But, if I ever allowed my group to merge into a larger agency, I might have to change my answer. In any business, the customer is #1. Each and every customer should feel as if there is no other client. Some agencies do not adapt to growth. There are some solutions, like hiring competent junior agents. I think it’s more of a matter for the player to decide. We have a family atmosphere at our agency, and therefore attract players looking to belong to something special. That’s not for everyone, though. They might prefer to brag about having the same agent as Joe Basketball. There is no right answer here.
SportsAgentBlog: Where do you see the athlete representation industry going in 10 years?
Mike Naiditch: I don’t see any drastic changes on the forefront. Agents provide a service and will continue to do so in a competitive field.
SportsAgentBlog: Take our readers through a typical day in your life.
Mike Naiditch: I take the kids to school and I go to the office and return emails and voice messages. I call a few teams, a few players, and pay some of their parking tickets. Also, I read the sports news for the day.
SportsAgentBlog: What advice do you have for people looking to break into the industry?
Mike Naiditch: Don’t quit your job quite yet. Starting a business cost lots of money. Talk to relevant people, and don’t waste time with players who don’t work hard.
SportsAgentBlog: Does your agency provide internships for people looking to break
into the industry?
Mike Naiditch: No. We do not train our competition. If we hire, it’s for good. No turning back.
SportsAgentBlog: If you could do one thing to renovate the Sports Agent industry,
what would it be and how would you go about accomplishing that goal?
Mike Naiditch: I think all college coaches should have to disclose the name of their agent. I’m for any law that promotes disclosure and doesn’t cost anything.
SportsAgentBlog: What are some of the things an agent can offer to their clients besides the negotiation of contracts, getting endorsements, and others along those lines?
Mike Naiditch: Agents spend very little time negotiating contracts and getting endorsements. All the work goes into recruiting and maintaining. So, it’s important that the agent has the resources to steer their clients in the right direction regarding life management, financial planning, banking, budgeting, career counseling, and issues of this nature.
SportsAgentBlog: What drives you to represent professional basketball players?
Mike Naiditch: Watching kids turn into men and getting rewarded for watching them excel on the court.
SportsAgentBlog: What are some of the obstacles that you have to deal with when your clients are over in Europe?
Mike Naiditch: Players not getting paid, getting cut, and agents stealing clients.
SportsAgentBlog: What differs from representing clients in America opposed to your clients in Europe?
Mike Naiditch: In the NBA, we have uniform contracts. Europe is working on that, but it hasn’t quite arrived. So, when things don’t work out, it’s more difficult to have a fair resolution in Europe.
SportsAgentBlog: I see that you are using new technology that allows people to stay in touch like Facebook.com and MySpace.com. Can you please explain the benefits of having profiles on these sites with respect to the day and age that we live in?
Mike Naiditch: It’s free, it’s cool, and it works.
SportsAgentBlog: On behalf of SportsAgentBlog.com and all of our readers, I would like to thank Mike Naiditch for sharing his knowledge and experiences with us today. You can check his website out at Naiditch.net. Till next time, be safe and act ethically in the business that you love.