Name: Danny Zollars
Current Job Title: Senior Director of Game Operations
Company Name: Monumental Sports and Entertainment- Washington Wizards and Mystics
First sports job: Marketing Intern for the PGA’s Memorial Tournament
College education: Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing from Arizona State University
Executive most admired: Phil Knight
Brand most admired: Groupon
Danny Zollars oversees the game day operations for the both the NBA’s Washington Wizards and the WNBA’s Washington Mystics. This entails everything you see and interact with from the time doors open until the game concludes including all the music, videos, mascots, cheerleaders, concourse interactives, sponsorship executions and more. He is also the Executive Producer of Wizards Magazine which is a 16 episode show chronicling the journey through an NBA season. The team will also be launching Mystics Magazine this summer to follow the women through their journey.
Zollars began his career as a seasonal marketing intern for the PGA’s Memorial Tournament in Dublin, OH. This experience helped him land a game night position with the Phoenix Coyotes and in his second year, oversaw the game night staff. From there he worked his way into the Coyotes front office and parlayed that experience into an opportunity with the Golden State Warriors running their events program. Zollars left the Warriors after 10 months and went back to the Coyotes for a full time position as the Game Ops Coordinator. After 6 months with the Coyotes, the Warriors came calling with a full time position as the Assistant Manager of Game Operations.
After 4 seasons with the Warriors, Zollars was hired as the Director of Game Operations with the Washington Wizards and has been there since.
Tell us a little about your first job in the sports industry. How did you land it?
My first job was with the PGA’s Memorial Tournament in Dublin, OH. I did everything from paint fences, to pick up range balls, to delivering marketing materials around Columbus. I knew someone who had done it the summer before and they got me in. I spent two summers doing that and it was great experience and helped me land the Coyotes internship my junior year at ASU.
How does working in sports differ from working in other industries?
The hours are much different than my friends who work in the “9-5” world. It’s something you get used to but if you really want it, you need to know that you will be working a lot of weekends and a lot of late nights. When all said and done, I wouldn’t trade it for anything and couldn’t be happier with the path that I have chosen.
What advice would you give to students looking to make sports their career?
The biggest thing I tell students is to get an internship. Everyone who works in sports started as an intern somewhere in the industry. It doesn’t matter if you work in the NHL and want to be in the NBA; once your foot is in the door you will have the opportunity to get to where you want to go. Most internships are non paid but getting in with a team and showcasing your abilities will pay dividends in your career.
What advice would you give to people in established careers trying to make the transition into sports?
Begin to network with people that work in sports. The sports industry is a very small world and you would be amazed by who knows who. Everyone starts with a group of people and in ten years, you can see those same people all over the sports landscape. Everyone seems to know everyone so networking and picking the brains of those in the industry will be extremely beneficial to help jump start your sports career.
We all know that working in sports generally involves long hours. What are the perks that offset this?
You don’t know notice the long hours when it’s a game day. Everyone is excited and ready to go and the time flies when the game begins. It’s a very unique job and the perks are all over the place. You get to meet a lot of great people and get access to things that you may not normally receive. During a home game, I get to sit at center court and watch the best athletes in the world compete. That is definitely my favorite perk of the job.
When hiring, what major traits do you look for in a candidate?
I look at the jobs someone has held in the previous years and if they kept working regardless if it was full time or not. That work ethic is something that stands out and shows that the candidate is hungry. I also want to see some type of internship so that I know they are aware of what it takes to make it in the sports world. The internships are something I continually stress because they let you learn from the ground up and prepare you for the next step.
Where do you see hiring in the sports industry heading in the next 3 years?
Over the next three years, I can see a lot of hires happening from the sports management schools that are starting to form across the nation. Traditionally it’s been internships but the students that are coming out of those programs are getting stronger and stronger. I believe that it’s because these schools have formed fantastic relationships with their local teams and they work together on real time projects. This experience is invaluable so in looking for sports based MBA, find out what teams the school works with and the types of projects they have done in the past.