Adam Pensack is one of the owners of the Pensack Sports Management Group, a basketball agency based in the Bay Area of California. His company represents former NBA players and players performing overseas, but currently does not have any clients in the NBA. While he has been in the business for quite some time, Pensack says he is diligently working to expand his practice. The following is an interview I recently conducted with Adam Pensack.
Darren Heitner: What influenced you to become a sports agent? Why focus strictly on the sport of basketball?
Adam Pensack: My brother and business partner, Ben Pensack, and I have followed the NBA since we were both very young and we have always been avid basketball fans. To now have a career in a sport that we both truly love has been very gratifying.
Ben went to law school at Pepperdine with the goal of becoming a sports agent. When Ben formulated his plan we talked about it and agreed that we would one day be partners. Ben encouraged me to go to business school so that our academic backgrounds and skill sets would complement one another so I went ahead and got my MBA.
We focus only on basketball because it is the sport we are most passionate about. We also believe specializing in only one sport allows us to truly master the subject and to offer our clients the maximum level of representation.
Darren Heitner: What NBA players have you represented? What kind of services have you offered them in retirement?
Adam Pensack: We represent a couple former NBA draft picks, Kaniel Dickens and Dan McClintock, who both played in the NBA. We have numerous players who have played in the NBA summer leagues as well. Since we’ve been in the business roughly twelve years, we do have some players who have retired. We have helped a few transition into coaching and have provided general career guidance to others as well.
With our current clients, we consistently remind them that a player cannot play forever so it is important to think strategically for the long-term. Fortunately, basketball’s popularity has continued to grow around the world which has resulted in increased salaries for quality players here in the U.S. and abroad. Many of the players we now represent will earn enough during their careers that they will never have to work again if they are responsible and invest wisely. We consistently try to educate and support our guys when it comes to making important financial decisions. Stories that have come out recently about former NBA stars who are now broke help in this endeavor.
Darren Heitner: You have placed quite a few players overseas. Which markets have you had the most success in? How difficult is it to negotiate overseas contracts?
Adam Pensack: We have players in many of the top leagues around the world every year. We’ve probably had the most success in France, Italy, Germany, Belgium and Turkey but we don’t limit ourselves to any one market. Some leagues and teams are more reliable than others and the lifestyle off the court is better for players in some places, so we do try to focus most of our efforts on such countries.
Every contract negotiation is different and each presents unique challenges. This is where an agent’s experience and ability can really have a significant impact for the player. Ben and I both spend an awful lot of time studying the market and learning as much as possible about each team in each league. We also look at the General Manager of each team and call upon experience from past negotiations to determine which negotiating strategy will work best in a given situation. Being firm in one’s stance, but flexible in one’s approach can lead to better than expected results and that is always what we aim for in every negotiation.
Darren Heitner: Your brother, Ben, is your business partner. How difficult is it to work alongside a family member? How do you divide your tasks and responsibilities?
Adam Pensack: It is pretty easy to work with Ben. Our personalities are different and we each excel in different areas.
Ben is an attorney who truly is an expert in contract law and negotiation and he has uncanny ability to make sure all of the contract terms are beneficial to our players. We also both have different communication styles which complement each other, and this really helps us in recruiting and also in getting maximum value during negotiations for our players.
In terms of dividing up tasks, Ben and I both do pretty much everything. There’s only one task that comes to mind where I do the majority of the work and that is statistical analysis. This is an area that really separates the Pensack Sports Management Group from other agencies and it is something we use heavily to market our players to teams. Our work in this area has helped us get workouts for our players with NBA teams as well as helped our guys get bigger contract offers.
Interestingly, I’ve heard from a few teams lately that other agents are trying to replicate some of the work we’ve done in this area but, fortunately, I believe we are way ahead of the competition here and we are always working to grow that lead further.
Darren Heitner: You have spent more than 10 years in the business of basketball. How do you see your company changing in the next few years?
Adam Pensack: The next few years are going to be very interesting for Pensack Sports. We signed some great players this year and will continue to work harder and smarter than the competition, as we always have. Ben and I are always working to get better at what we do and I think some of the things we are working on today are going to pay big dividends in the coming years. Stay tuned.
Darren Heitner: What types of strategies and tactics do you use to recruit clients?
Adam Pensack: We are fortunate that at this point we can be very picky about who we recruit. We only pursue high quality players who are good people off the court too. Word of mouth is really big for us. We represent some great players who are really good people and they often refer potential clients to us. It is the ultimate compliment to get a referral and we are extremely thankful that it happens quite often for us.
Other than that, we utilize all the normal strategies to keep in touch with potential clients. We also go to a lot of games and watch games on TV to help identify potential clients.
Darren Heitner: How difficult is it to compete against guys like Arn Tellem, Mark Bartelstein, Leon Rose, Dan Fegan, etc?
Adam Pensack: Ben and I absolutely love competition, so it is great to compete against these guys. We’ve won our share of battles with some of the big name agencies and we will win some more in the future. Some of the things we recently started doing to market our clients is truly 2nd to none and the results will be seen in the coming years.
We genuinely care about the players we work for, so I go to sleep and wake up thinking about what I can do to help market them better or how I can get them a better offer. This is truly a labor of love and it shows in the results we get for our clients. Ultimately, this is also why we are able to win our share of recruiting battles even against some of the bigger agencies.
The agents you mentioned do great work, but Ben and I feel strongly that our experience and skill stacks up favorably against any other agency out there. We are good at what we do and are always working to constantly get better. We are much better today than we were a few years ago and I can say with a high degree of confidence that we’ll be even better a few years from now.
Darren Heitner: Please provide some advice to my readers who are interested in becoming sports agents.
Adam Pensack: The advice I would give them is to go to law school and do everything they can to get relevant internships. It isn’t easy and they’ll have more emails and phone calls ignored than they’d like, but eventually someone will give them a chance if they are qualified and persistent. Once they get an opportunity they need to take advantage. Show up first and leave last and do great work every day.