Family Matters: For GCU Alum, Life in the NBA Brings Him Closer To Brothers
By Bob Romantic
GCU News Bureau
Family get-togethers can be a little different in the Babcock household.
That happens when three of the family members also happen to be making personnel decisions for three different NBA franchises.
Rob Babcock, older brother Pete and younger brother Dave have a combined 70 years of NBA management experience. Rob is currently director of basketball operations for the Minnesota Timberwolves; Pete has served as president, general manager or director of player personnel for the Denver Nuggets, Atlanta Hawks and Toronto Raptors; and Dave has been the scouting director and director of player personnel with the Milwaukee Bucks since 1998.
So work has a way of creeping into social functions.
“One summer, at my niece’s wedding, all three of us were trying to sign the same free agent,” recalled Rob, a 1974 graduate of GCU. “We were at pre-wedding functions and we were all leaving the room to take calls. One time all three of us were outside wandering around and later found out we were all having conversations about the same free agent.
“Our wives were ready to strangle us.”
As it turns out, none of the Babcocks signed that particular free agent. But it made life in the “family business” interesting nonetheless.
“We all live in different parts of the country, but because we are all in the NBA we see each other numerous times every year and talk to each other almost daily,” said Rob, who also spent two years as general manager of the Raptors. “We have always been close, but working in the same league has made us even closer.”
The odds of three brothers reaching upper-level management jobs in the NBA, of course, are astronomical.
GCU now has an entire college — the Jerry Colangelo School of Sports Business — devoted to helping students find the kind of job opportunities the Babcocks have made their livelihood.
Rob’s path began as a basketball player at GCU, where he was a member of the 1973-74 team that went 28-2 and was ranked No. 2 in the country in the NAIA before losing in the second round of the national tournament. That team was a pre-cursor to the 1974-75 squad that won it all.
“We were a talented team and pretty successful,” Babcock said. “Of course, it helped having a 6-foot-9 future NBA center (Bayard Forrest) … but we had a lot of smart players and good unselfish guys. It was a lot of fun.”
After leaving GCU, Babcock had two things going for him in his pursuit of that dream NBA job.
First, he wasn’t afraid to start small and work his way up. His first job was as a teacher and freshman basketball coach at Paradise Valley High School. He later coached at Greenway and Maryvale high schools before becoming the coach at Phoenix College for five years.
During that time, Babcock also worked as a part-time scout for Bertka Views, a collegiate scouting agency run by Los Angeles Lakers assistant coach Bill Bertka. And when his brother Pete got a job as an assistant coach with the Clippers, that helped open the door to Babcock’s first full-time job as a scout in the NBA.
The second skill that helped Babcock was his knowledge and love of the game. That, more than anything, is a trait those hoping to follow in his footsteps should try to emulate.
“My main advice for sports management students is that they often times go in thinking their degree will give them a job in the basketball department in the sports portion of it,” Babcock said. “It just doesn’t work that way. Sports management can help prepare them for a job in the business side, but what they usually lack (for sports positions) is basketball experience.”
For those who do not play collegiately, as Babcock did, he suggests getting involved in coaching youth teams, volunteering at a high school or becoming a manager or statistician — anything that promotes being around the game.
“Basketball management is mainly ex-NBA players and coaches. There might be a business guy or two, but they usually have a basketball background, too,” Babcock said. “If you know that early on, you can be getting those types of experiences.”