When Bangor’s Rita Sullivan graduated from the University of Maine with her degree in journalism, the former University of Maine basketball tri-captain wasn’t sure what direction her life would take next.
The one thing she did know was she wanted to give city living a try so she packed up and moved to New York City.
She landed a job as an administrative assistant with the Associated Press wire newspaper service and met someone who worked in the editorial department for NBA publications.
“I sent over my resume blindly and wound up getting a job. It was the lowest position available. At first, I was a staff assistant and then they started throwing some stories my way to see what I could do,” said Sullivan.
They obviously liked what she wrote and now Sullivan is working in public relations for the NBA and WNBA; writing for the two leagues’ official publication, Hoop magazine, along with the Web site.
Sullivan also writes for the NBA-WNBA Register and Guide books and for the All-Star game and NBA-WNBA Championship series programs. She cranks out stories for the newsletter, which comes out twice a week; and she has done things like type out the players’ and coaches’ post-game quotes after a championship series game for distribution to the media.
In addition, she has been responsible for helping to compile the media notes package for the championship series and all-star games as well as the respective drafts.
“I love living in New York and this is a great job,” said the 27-year-old Sullivan, who has a place in Manhattan. “It’s a dream job. It’s a great little niche for me and there is room to grow. I’ve always enjoyed writing. I did real well in school even though I had no clue what I wanted to do.”
Sullivan said multi-tasking is the key to her job because “I usually have a dozen things going on at once.”
The travel hasn’t been bad, she explained, because she usually stays around the city and goes to New York Knicks, New Jersey Nets or New York Liberty games to interview players from the visiting teams as well as the Knicks , Nets and Liberty.
She has found the vast majority of the NBA and WNBA players to be gracious and accommodating and said it’s unfortunate that the few bad apples in the group tarnish the league’s reputation.
Sullivan quipped that she has put her basketball background to good use in jam-packed post-game locker rooms.
“There’s a lot of elbowing going on [and fighting for position],” chuckled Sullivan, who graduated from Maine in 1995. “You’re all feeling the deadline pressure. But it’s exciting. It’s an adrenaline rush.”
Boylen at home with Rockets
Another Black Bear tie to the NBA comes in the form of Jim Boylen.
The former Black Bear guard and captain is in his ninth season with the Houston Rocket organization and his fifth as a full-time assistant coach.
The former Michigan State assistant works with the Rocket guards on shooting, positioning and adapting to the system including the defensive game plan.
“It’s fun coaching pros,” said Boylen, who was hired by former Old Town High School basketball coach John Killilea when Killilea was the director of player personnel for the Rockets.
He said head coach Rudy Tomjanovich “gave me a little bit of everything to do and told me some of it I would be ready for and some of it I wouldn’t be.”
On his way up the ladder, he has done everything from picking up the food order for the staff to videotaping games to scouting pro and college teams and to picking up potential free agent signings at the airport.
“I credit Rudy with giving me the opportunity to do a lot of different things. That molds you and makes you a better coach. You learn how to build a team,” said Boylen who added that because they don’t have a large staff, they also get to run the draft and dictate which free agents to pursue.
Boylen has two NBA championship rings (1994 and ’95) but said rebuilding the team is an intriguing challenge.
“To go from winning back-to-back championships to taking a dip to working your way back up is a neat thing to be a part of,” said the 35-year-old Boylen. “We’re a little inconsistent because of our [young] age. It’s a fun group to coach. They’ve got a lot of energy.”
Boylen said NBA players have taken a bad rap.
“They are very coachable. They all want to do well and be successful. We’re trying to help them be more successful. The more successful they are, the more money and fame they receive,” explained Boylen, a Grand Rapids, Mich. Native who graduated from Maine in 1987 and still has fond memories of his time in Orono.
He coached an NBA summer league team and said he would “love” to become a head coach at the college or NBA level some day.
Butterfield pursues options
Former University of Maine and Orono High School standout Brian Butterfield, who was let go as third-base coach of the Arizona Diamondbacks after manager Buck Showalter was fired recently, has a couple of job options.
Butterfield said one definite offer on the table would have him returning to the New York Yankee organization as a manager of a Class AA or A team. He spent 17 years with the Yankee organization before joining Showalter in Arizona.
“[New York Mets manager] Bobby Valentine said he would like me to be his third base coach but [general manager] Steve Phillips wants to hire from within the organization,” said Butterfield who is also waiting about a similar opportunity with the Montreal Expos.
Butterfield and wife Jan have moved out of their Cave Creek, Ariz., home and are relocating to the east coast. They are currently en route.
His wife, the former Jan Walton of Presque Isle, is a total image consultant for the LPGA tour.
Larry Mahoney’s column on Maine sports appears each Saturday. He can be reached at 990-8231 or firstname.lastname@example.org