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With NBA playoff action underway, ALBERT "SCOOTER" VERTINO is busy at Turner's HQs in Atlanta, managing a portfolio of assets that includes NBA TV, NBA.com, NBA League Pass, WNBA.com and NBADLeague.com. Vertino, now NBA Digital VP/Content, began his career as a production assistant for ESPN. He has spent the last 14 years with Turner, producing the NBA on TNT and the network's coverage of the NBA All-Star Game and Conference Finals, as well as MLB on TBS. Vertino spoke to Staff Writer Theresa Manahan about his pick to hoist the Larry O'Brien Trophy, how he got the nickname Scooter and what keeps him up at night.
Favorite non-sports person to follow on Twitter? HARLAN COBEN is one of my favorite authors and AISHA TYLER is one of my favorite comedians.
First jersey you ever owned? Probably was a JOE FERGUSON jersey.
Who’s going to win the NBA Championship? My hometown Wizards are out of it, so I will go with the Chicago Bulls.
Q: What’s a typical day for you?
Vertino: Well, there’s no real typical day. That’s the beauty of this particular position. And your work actually starts before you get to the office because when you get up, I’m checking NBA.com among other NBA websites to see exactly what’s going on and to kind of gauge the pulse of the NBA in general -- news-wise, information-wise and stats-wise -- before I come into the office. On a non-playoff day, I try and get to the office around 9 or so. Then we’re here usually regular hours, but then after a day of meetings and planning, I head down to the studio for whatever is going on that night or kind of taking all the studio stuff in from home as well.
Q: How do your responsibilities change during the playoffs?
Vertino: We tend to come in a little bit later because we’re always for the most part going to stay later because of all the stuff that we have going on at night across the platforms.
Q: What’s the biggest challenge in your job?
Vertino: Trying to strike a balance, because I oversee the content for both .com and TV, because I’m a television “veteran” and I think that .com and thinking of elements for .com don’t come nearly as natural to me.
Q: What’s the biggest difference between your job as a producer and your current role?
Vertino: The travel. The travel is the biggest difference, or lack thereof. I still go out and will go to the tent pole events if you will, so Hall of Fame, All-Star Weekend, the NBA Finals. Those still all factor into my itineraries, but it’s not nearly the same as going out on Wednesday coming back on Friday for 24 weeks or so.
Q: Can you compare working for a property that owns the league network (NBA TV for Turner) versus a straight sports media property (ESPN)?
Vertino: I think the difference is just that it is a collaborative effort with your venture partner. We’re just cognizant of the fact that we do represent the NBA along with representing Turner Sports. I’ve always been encouraged to cover things down the middle at NBA Digital, whether it be .com or TV. So for a controversial play, like the other night KENDRICK PERKINS was credited with a tip in that he shouldn’t have been given and the NBA sent out a release about it. Our instructions are to report the news as it occurs, we’re not taking sides and we’re not trying to shade our viewers or our readers one way or the other. The only thing is that on occasion, if we are going to report something that we think might be controversial or maybe off the charts a little bit, we give the NBA or I give my counterpart at the NBA a heads up that we are going to report it. But I don’t get told, "Don’t do that or don’t report that." The NBA is well aware that we’re only as strong as our credibility when it comes to our fans.
Q: What keeps you up at night?
Vertino: Our son has been having trouble sleeping for the last month, so that’s one thing. (laughs) I just want to make sure that we’re always a step ahead as opposed to being a step behind. I realize you can’t plan for everything. It’s just trying to make sure that we’re prepared. I know that’s a cliché or it seems a bit simple, but anything can happen. … Content must be accurate.
Q: How did you get the nickname Scooter?
Vertino: When I was young, my father apparently said something to the effect of, “Look at that little scooter go” as I crawled across the floor. So, 39 years later, it has stuck. Fortunately, I don’t work as an accountant or an attorney or a stock broker because I don’t know if you want Scooter representing you in court or doing your taxes or working on your hedge fund. But Scooter watching your TV for you or helping to program your website is not nearly as crazy.
Q: What sport business story are you following?
Vertino: I always keep my eyes on things where other people are trying to do the same, so rights acquisitions are something that shows up and catches my eye.
The Dodgers have hired STEVE SOBOROFF as Vice Chair, with responsibility for leading efforts to improve the fan experience at Dodger Stadium, strengthening ties to the region's community and philanthropic organizations and expanding conservation and sustainability programs at the ballpark. He will report directly to Dodgers Owner FRANK MCCOURT. Soboroff currently serves as Chair of the Weingart Foundation and the Expo Center in Exposition Park in L.A. (Dodgers).
EXECS: Louisville Slugger President MARTY ARCHER is "stepping down" from the position after 24 years. He will become President Emeritus, with responsibility for Louisville Slugger's relationships with MLB, MiLB and amateur governing organizations. Archer also will serve as an adviser to his successor, BILL CLARK, who previously served as President of the Bionic Technologies division of Hillerich & Bradsby, parent company of Louisville Slugger (BIZJOURNALS.com, 4/19)....American Express has named VP/U.S. Advertising ALEXANDER CHANG VP/Sports Marketing and Access Strategy & Planning (AmEx)....Sunrise Sports & Entertainment has expanded the role of VP/Marketing & Brand Activation STEVEN ZIFF, naming him VP/Marketing & Brand Strategy. Ziff will continue to oversee marketing, creative services, fan development, brand activation and game presentation, as well as the Florida Panthers Foundation (SSE)....Competitor Group, Inc. has hired Susan G. Komen for the Cure Managing Dir of Sponsorship & Sports Properties KAREN HUGHES WHITE as VP/National Sales Central Region (Competitor Group)....Paine College has hired former Univ. of North Carolina-Wilmington Associate AD for Major Gifts TIM DUNCAN as AD (AUGUSTA CHRONICLE, 4/16)....Suns F GRANT HILL has been elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball HOF BOG (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 4/20).
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In Charlotte, Jim Utter reports H. CLAY EARLES, BOBBY ISAAC, COTTON OWENS, LES RICHTER and LEONARD WOOD "join a group of 20 previous nominees who will be considered" for the '12 NASCAR HOF class. Earles was Founder of Martinsville Speedway; Isaac won the '70 title in what is now the Sprint Cup Series; Owens was a driver-owner who won the '66 owner championship; Richter served as NASCAR Senior VP/Operations, as well as President of Riverside Int'l Raceway; and Wood is a co-Owner of Wood Brothers Racing (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 4/20).
HOSTILE TERRITORY: In Vancouver, Tony Gallagher reports a "change to the seating arrangements" at United Center" for the Stanley Cup Playoffs led to Canucks officials "being seated right above some of the more rabid fans in the cheap seats" for last night's Canucks-Blackhawks Western Conference Quarterfinals Game Four. Four rows of fans "became quite bellicose" and were "hurling abuse." The abuse was "largely directed at" Canucks President & GM MIKE GILLIS and VP/Hockey Operations & Assistant GM LAURENCE GILMAN, but also at "everyone else seated in the box." Canucks Owner FRANCESCO AQUILINI after the game said that he "might have to get a security guard given the location of his contingent's seats, although where that might be is not known" (Vancouver PROVINCE, 4/20).
NAMES: Former Southern Univ. AD GREG LAFLEUR, "fired three days after his April 3 arrest on a misdemeanor prostitution count in Houston, is suing the school for breach of contract." LaFleur is "seeking damages, including his base salary for the remainder of his contract, which he says was to expire June 30, 2013." LaFleur claims that he "received a termination letter April 8, two days after Southern announced in a news release" that he had been fired (Baton Rouge ADVOCATE, 4/19)....MULTICHANNEL NEWS has named MSG Varsity GM THERESA CHILLIANIS, ESPN VP/Programming & Acquisitions LEAH LAPLACA and NBA Digital VP/Content ALBERT VERTINO to its annual 40 Under Forty class (MULTICHANNEL NEWS, 4/18 issue)....Mavericks Owner MARK CUBAN yesterday confirmed that he has put Landmark Theatres and Magnolia Pictures "up for sale" (LATIMES.com, 4/19)....Former NFL coach JEFF FISHER, ESPN's TEDY BRUSCHI, former NFLer CHAD LEWIS and "four Wounded Warriors" next month "will gather on the east coast of Africa to climb 19,336-foot Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest point in Africa." They will be "doing so to raise awareness and money for those men and women wounded in action in Iraq and Afghanistan" (SI.com, 4/18)....Suns Senior VP & General Counsel JASON ROWLEY has been named a recipient of the '11 Phoenix Father of the Year award and will be recognized at an awards dinner on June 16 (Suns).