Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Interview With Associated Press NBA Writer Brian Mahoney

As a successful sports journalist for the Associated Press, what tips can you share about what a good pitch to you and the media should look like?
Good access so the writer can get something besides what is being pitched. Tons of athletes and coaches have an endorsement deal or wrote a book, so it’s hard to do a story about that and make it newsworthy. But if I’m offered time with them to talk about other topics besides that, I’m much more receptive. And often, their story gets more attention.

As you reflect back on your career, do any particular events or stories that you reported on stay with you?
Jeremy Lin’s run of Linsanity with the Knicks in 2012 was pretty unforgettable, and the NBA’s work stoppage just before that was an important story because it meant so much to the fans and there were so few of us covering it. Michael Jordan’s Hall of Fame induction was fun. But I’d say covering the 2008 Olympic basketball team will probably always be my career highlight. Kobe and LeBron will go down as two of the all-time greats and a bunch of other Hall of Famers were on the team, and the atmosphere in China was great. Their first game was against the Chinese, and when Yao Ming made a 3-pointer for the first basket of the game, the crowd roar was about as loud as I’ve ever heard.

Brian, what advice do you have for those interested in pursuing a career in journalism and the media?
First, consider being a doctor or a lawyer instead. But if you really want to be a journalist, particularly in sports, know as much as you can about all of them. Everyone wants to cover the Super Bowl and you may know every football fact there is, but you’re more likely to be doing high school softball instead at first. For me, my first year at a previous job was Tiger Woods’ rookie year on the PGA Tour. I had barely ever watched or played golf, but suddenly the demand for coverage shot up, so I got myself involved in that and sort of figured it out. So, follow a wide array of voices and experts on social media so you can be a jack of all trades.

How did you break into journalism and what inspired you to enter the fray?
I always hoped there would be a way to work in sports but didn’t think it would be possible. Then my junior year at UConn, the Daily Campus had an ad in the paper seeking sports writers, and would have free pizza at a meeting. A buddy told we should go check it out because we needed an activity on the resume, and luckily I was to get a few assignments quickly and prove myself. From there, I got to cover a number of sports over the next two years and I was on my way.

You have interviewed a number of sports authors, including Hall of Fame athletes. Which books or players stand out in your mind?
It’s always fun when you get to talk to someone you watched as a kid, now that they’re away from the game and more relaxed. Michael Jordan, believe it or not, was never on the cover of an official NBA video game until after he retired. I interviewed him about that. I talked to Magic Johnson when a play was made about his friendship and rivalry with Larry Bird. They enjoyed talking about that stuff. Mike Krzyzewski, the coach, and Jerry Colangelo, the USA Basketball chairman, both wrote books after the 2008 Olympics, so it was neat to learn some details I hadn’t already known. And Chris Mullin, who now coaches St. John’s, was my favorite player when I was a kid, so it was a thrill when I got to meet him and then cover his Hall of Fame induction.

You have covered the Olympics, NBA Finals, NCAA Finals, and baseball. Which one is the hardest to cover -- why?
They all have certain types of challenges. The Olympics has the most obstacles with things like security, foreign languages, etc. Are your phone and internet going to work? Does the person you have to interview speak any English? But, it’s the most rewarding of them once you get everything all figured out. With baseball, you never know how long your day is going to be. You can start around 3 or 3:30 for pregame, then have a game that goes extra innings and next thing you know you get home at 2 a.m. and they have a day game the next day.

Have you contemplated writing a book?
Yes, I have. In fact at one point I thought I was going to do one. I had been asked by a company, and I started working on it but while I was waiting for all the necessary approvals from my company, they got someone else. The thing I realized then is how difficult it would be for someone like myself, whose average story is probably about 600-700 words, to write long enough. It’s like going from a 40-yard dash to a marathon.

What trends do you see going on in the media that concern you? Do you also see opportunities?
Obviously we all saw the recent layoffs at ESPN. I have a lot of friends out of work. So I think we’re all concerned. Players and teams have found ways to lessen the importance of the media by using their own writers and websites to provide (positive) coverage. But, I also think this last election and what’s gone on since has reinforced the importance of a professional, honest media that’s providing straight facts, so that’s encouraging.

Can you give hope to the fans of the team you cover, the Knicks, and tell us one day James Dolan will sell the team?
No, I cannot. To his credit, Dolan cares greatly about delivering a good product at Madison Square Garden, and the arena, entertainment, concessions and everything else are as good as you’ll find. But he’s terrible at owning a basketball team and makes poor decisions, such as firing good people too soon and sticking with the wrong ones too long. So, hope for the Knicks is hard to find.

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog 2017©. Born and raised in Brooklyn, now resides in Westchester. Named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby 

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