Stack’s Stats: New Year Brings New Firsts
Dwight’s rebounding, Kyrie and Rubio’s A/TO mastery and a new section.
Seven Questions Or Less
David Benner, Indiana Pacers, Director of Media Relations (@PacersDMB)
SLAM: What kind of message about the Pacers do you try to convey to the media and to the general public?
David Benner: The one thing we’ve tried to deal with the last few years is to try to get the message out that we’re slowly but surely rebuilding the team, but we’re rebuilding it not only with good players that can play but with good players character-wise, as well. With this team in particular, I try to caution everybody that it’s going to be a work in progress. Whenever I talk to writers, they all come up and say, ‘Hey, we really like your team.’ I say it’ll be a work in progress because they’re still getting back because David West is still getting back, George Hill is new, Lou Amundson is new and the core group of guys are still young. We should be better but we’ll still be a work in progress.
SLAM: In what ways has this lockout-shortened season changed the way you do your job?
DB: I’m getting more interview requests because we are better. That’s the one thing that changes. That always happens when you start to get better is you get more phone calls. Plus, back in our heyday, there wasn’t all the online stuff that there is now, and websites and things like that. So, that’s changed dramatically.
SLAM: How has the nature of your job changed since that time in the mid- to late ’90s?
DB: Well, technology is the main one because it’s hard to discern what’s legit and what isn’t. I mean, we know about SLAM Magazine, we know about SI.com, we know about the majors. You get a lot of these secondary things that…and my rule of thumb is them in Indianapolis is for them to come to a practice. That’s the easiest time to talk to our players. They all want game credentials. Well, I don’t even know who you are. So, I always say just come to practice and see what happens from there.
That’s the main thing is to be a mass media thing and try to control the Twitter things, try to caution your players that sometimes they don’t use their heads and also try to caution players about when you’re out…everybody has a cell phone trying to take your picture doing something stupid, so be careful.
SLAM: In what ways do you educate coaches and players to let them know that it’s important to maintain a sound public image?
DB: In our market, we remind them about them about a quarter of the season, we try to get them media training. I try to tell them all the time, ‘You’re young, you’re going to go out and you’re going to have a good time. When you’re out, just remember to be careful. Not only when you go out but during a game, are you aware there’s usually our [local] TV [station] is doing the game, visiting team [local TV] is doing a game, we have in-house TV and then we have all these photographers on the baseline. So, anything you do on the bench can be potentially seen and the next thing you know it’s up on YouTube or it’s posted on the Internet. You really have to mind your Ps and Qs at all times. That’s the main thing. And represent the franchise in a professional and dignified manner.’
SLAM: What takes up most of your day?
DB: Most of my day, when I’m at home, it changes from day to day. I’ll come in and I’ll have a plan, and something comes up that throws it all out of whack. A lot of times it’s [media] credentialing. I do the seating charts [for games], I take all reporter interview requests, I’ll go down and monitor practice when the media is in, make sure everybody gets to their appointed places. It’s just a lot of little things. It’s nothing major. I deal mostly with the basketball department.
SLAM: You’re a former writer yourself. What’s the relationship like that you have with us writers?
DB: I like to think my relationship is good because I know where they’re coming from. When they first asked me to do this, I said I don’t know anything about PR. They said it’s not really PR, it’s more media, media relations. So, I know where [The Indianapolis Star beat writer] Mike Wells is coming from when he writes something that’s positive or negative. I get asked by people in the office all the time, ‘How’d they find this out?’ Well, they’ve got sources everywhere. When I did it, I had a couple go-to people who told me stuff. I always tell people that when I was a writer, I thought I knew a lot but I really didn’t know as much as I thought I did until I got started inside the organization.
SLAM: I know about the Reggie Miller story where he’d have a pregame ritual with you in which he would fake talking trash to you to pump himself up. What’s another story about a player, past or present, that you can share?
DB: My favorite was Reggie was toward the end of his career and we’re up in Milwaukee. And that whole thing got started because I got pissed at him one time because he made me wait, so I kind of cursed him out. So then, he had a good game [that night] and he wanted me to curse him out all the time. Anyway, so I’d try to sit there and think of something to say to him every game. We’re in Milwaukee and there’s a guy wearing a Reggie Miller jersey. And I say to Reggie, ‘When we go to other arenas, I always find it interesting when people are wearing our garb.’ So, I say I’m gonna mess with that guy. I ask him, ‘You’re a big Reggie Miller fan?’ The guy says ‘No, I got it half off because he’s half the player he used to be.’ And so Reggie goes, ‘Oh, you think so? I’ll show you’ and he goes from there.
SLAM: What advice do you have for someone who wants to work in media relations for a sports team?
DB: Be able to write and do something with the media so that when you work for a team you know where they’re coming from. Understanding the media and what their needs are is really, really important. It also helps you understand that when things go negative, you have that perspective. You also learn to handle different things. Somebody once asked me if I have a crisis communications plan. I said tell me what the crisis is and I’ll tell you what the communication plan is because you never know what the crisis is going to be.