Q+A with the man behind Paul Pierce’s HS gym makeover.
by Yaron Weitzman / @YaronWeitzman
Basketball and design makeovers aren’t two things that typically go hand in hand. But then again, Bob and Cortney Novogratz aren’t your typical couple. That is, unless you consider having seven kids, two reality shows and a compulsion to renovate and move in and out of homes, typical.
Bob and Cortney Novogratz are designers. They run the design company Sixx Design, and specialize in turning downtrodden wrecks into stylish properties. On this week’s episode of Home by Novogratz, which is one of the couple’s reality shows, and airs tomorrow night (August 20) at 10 p.m. ET on HGTV, we get to see the Novogratz’s take their skills to Englewood, CA, where the pair is given the task of fixing up a dump of a storage room in the gym of Paul Pierce’s high school alma matter.
SLAM: How did the connection between you and Paul Pierce get made?
Bob Novogratz: Paul’s agent, Jaymee Messler, who is a friend mine, sent Paul a copy of my book during the first season of our Bravo show (9 By Design); apparently his wife is really into design, and was a huge fan of ours. Paul loved the book, and we ended up talking and discussing the possibility of doing something for his house out in L.A., and this kind of came through.
SLAM: Whose idea was it to turn the run-down storage room in Pierce’s alma matter in Englewood, CA, into a state of the art student-athlete lounge?
BN: That was all Paul’s idea. He and his agent had been brainstorming for a while; trying to think about something like this that Paul could do, and they said something along the lines of, “Let’s get Novogratz to do it. He’s a New York guy. And he’s a designed that loves basketball.” [Laughs] Not many people fit that description. And Paul’s more into the design stuff than you might think.
SLAM: What was your goal with the room?
BN: Well, when you’re doing a project like this, the first thing you have to do is follow the school’s wish list, in terms of things like technology and books. Coach (Patrick) Roy, who was Paul’s high school coach as well, and is a very impressive guy, wanted a couple of TVs so the kids could watch film, and also some weight and exercise equipment. So that knocks down the budget right off the bat. Then, and I feel this is the case everywhere in design, the better and the cooler the environment is, the more you tend to want to be there. So we wanted to make the room super nice, and turn it into something that the kids would be proud of, take care of, and hey, maybe come in and read a book. A lot of these kids come from home lives that might be a little tough, so we wanted a place where the kids could come in and do their homework, feel safe, and really just enjoy the experience. And then, of course, we always wanted to try to different things within design, which, with a Celtic involved, had to include parquet floors. No matter if you love or hate the Celtics, you have to love that floor (referring to the parquet gym floor in the original Boston Garden).
SLAM: Have you followed up with Pierce, or Coach Roy about the student-athlete lounge?
BN: I haven’t seen it physically, but Coach Roy has sent me two emails saying that the kids love it, and that the room is still in pristine condition. He said it’s something that the kids look forward to every day.
SLAM: The project was completed during last year’s All-Star Weekend in L.A.? Did you go to any of the weekend’s events?
BN: Yeah, and I think we all know that the Dunk Contest is better than the game itself. I love the showmanship. It’s hard to be original in dunking, and design, and I think Blake (Griffin) and the others came up with good concepts.
SLAM: I think you’re probably the first person to every compare design to dunking.
BN: Creativity is hard. It’s hard to be original. There are a lot of copycats outs there.
SLAM: As someone who loves both, do you see similarities between basketball and design?
BN: Absolutely. I recently read that Chris Paul said that in order to be a great basketball player, you have to listen, and realize that you don’t have all the answers, but you also have to be creative. And you can look at guys like Magic and Jordan, and Paul, and they’re all creative players. Watching any sport, whether it’s basketball, or soccer with a guy like (Cristiano) Ronaldo, seeing those athletes in action is like seeing an art form, and that’s where creativity comes in.
SLAM: On a separate note, you’re a basketball fan, right?
BN: Yeah, we’re (he and his family) big Knicks fan.
SLAM: So how was it working with Paul Pierce? And you do realize that in the episode, you say that Pierce is one of your all-time favorite players?
BN: [Laughs] I do love Pierce, but you can like the Knicks, and other people.
SLAM: How do you feel about the current state of the Knicks?
BN: You know, I like them but I think we still need a couple of pieces. I probably would have preferred to see Dwight Howard or Chris Paul come to New York, rather than Carmelo Anthony, but I still think those two guys might not be playing in the same places a year from now. But I guess the real question is whether the lockout is going to stay. And I honestly have no clue.
SLAM: Well you fix things for a living; do you have any ideas for solving the current lockout?
BN: It’s interesting. I’ve always felt that NFL players are underpaid, and NBA players are overpaid—a running back, whose career could end any game, gets paid $11 million a year, while some guys sitting on the bench in the NBA are making $14 million. So I think in the end, the players have to give in a little more than the owners. Especially with these mid-market cities like Milwaukee and Cleveland hurting the way they are, while big cities like New York, Chicago and L.A. form super teams.
SLAM: Do you think the forming of these types of “super teams” is good or bad for the League?
BN: I’ll say this: The Heat being hated was great for the NBA. Last year’s Playoffs were great, and, everyone was watching and, aside from Heat fans, pulling for Dallas. So on the one hand, it’s good to have a hated team like Miami. But in term of the long run, if you’re a team like the Bobcats or Bucks, it’s not good.
SLAM: Do you play ball?
BN: I was a decent player—I played a little high school and intramural ball, but nothing great. And I’m nothing like my son, Wolfgang. He’s quite good. I actually started a 14-and-under AAU program called “The City” where my son is the point guard, and we’re the top team in the tri-state area.
SLAM: Who would you compare your game to?
BN: Well, they called me “The Worm” [laughs] because I was scrappy and could rebound well. Like (Dennis) Rodman.
SLAM: Slightly different hair, though.
SLAM: Tell our readers why they should watch this episode of Home by Novogratz?
BN: I think Paul Piece is a great guy. I’ve been around a lot of professional athletes, and I feel there are very few that give back by writing a check and also showing up. Paul does both. Many times, athletes are shown in a negative light with escalating salaries, steroids and violence. This episode shows an athlete off the court doing great things, going back to where he came from, and giving back to kids. I also think it’s a fun and entertaining episode, and if you like basketball and design, you’ll enjoy it.