KENNESAW, Ga.— Garin Narain wanted to be like “that Jerry Maguire guy,” but through a lifetime of hard work, willingness to try new things and the power of internships, he managed to become much more.
Narain serves as the Atlanta Hawks senior vice president of public relations, and on Tuesday, he visited Kennesaw State University to speak about how he became one of the youngest public relations VP’s in the NBA.
When he started out at the University of Florida, Narain was a just scholarship kid originally from Queens, New York. His plan was to get a degree in psychology to push him to law school. He depended on his strong work ethic to get him there, working hard to keep his grades up and keep his scholarships.
“My dad was a bus driver, I saw him work every day, nothing glamorous,” Narain said. “Seeing him, his work ethic, my dad has always been my inspiration.”
After his first semester, all A’s and the encouragement of a former writing teacher, Narain displayed the first sign of his enthusiastic attitude, deciding to kill his free time as a sports writer for the Gator Times. He planned on writing about his passion, basketball, but was instead assigned women’s soccer.
“Let’s just say, at that point, at nineteen years old, I wasn’t that into women’s soccer,” Narain said. “But when I went to that first practice and I saw the team, I said ‘who’s that tall girl who’s better than everybody else?’”
The “tall girl” was only Abby Wambach, future World Cup and Olympics gold-medal winner and international soccer legend.
“She was like the LeBron of women’s soccer,” Narain said about watching a young Abby Wambach play. “That [experience] really kind of tore down some walls for me mentally. I went in there thinking, ‘this is not going to be fun,’ but I learned a ton about writing, and I gained a much greater respect for female athletes, and got to be around one of the best in the world.”
Narin covered the women’s soccer beat for a semester and learned to hone his writing skills while also feeding his passion for sports and media. By the time he reached his second year in college, he was less interested in psychology and more interested in sports writing.
Narain managed to graduate a semester early after taking classes every summer and graduated with a bachelor’s in psychology. He then achieved his long-time goal of getting into law school, but with sports and media in mind, Narain decided against attending. Instead, he applied for as many internships as he could in an attempt to make a contacts inside the NBA.
Four months later, after applying to as many sports marketing internships as he could, Narain finally nabbed a communication internship with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
“To my parents dismay, I said ‘I’m not gonna go to law school, I’m gonna take an internship in Cleveland.’ Entry level, but I’m gonna take it,” Narain said with a laugh.
After the internship was over, his work ethic and willingness to try new things earned him a full-time job with the Cavaliers.
“Get an internship,” Narain advised students. “The competition is heavy and you need as much experience as you can get.”
Narain continued to move up in the ranks working for in Cleveland and was promoted to traveling with the team and setting up interviews. According to Narain, working with LeBron James was critical to Narain’s early success.
“Very early on we got national attention. It was important to be on the LeBron train and meet a lot of people,” Narain said. “I got to go to all-star weekend and meet everyone, who would later help me along the way.”
Narain stayed with Cleveland until 2012, when he then moved to Atlanta to lead the Hawks Basketball Operations Team.
“My day-to-day is never the same, and that’s what I love,” Narain said. “I’m like a jack
of all trades, I get to do a lot.”
His final advice to students is to seize every opportunity and just go for it, and when you want something to ask big.
“Make the ask, if they don’t want to do it they don’t want to do it. The worst that happens is they say no.”
Narain lives with his wife and two kids in Decatur, and oversees all of the public relations efforts for the Hawks Corporate and Philips Arena groups. He has long since surpassed his childhood dreams of being like Jerry Maguire as the youngest vice president of public relations in the NBA.
This article was entered in the 2017 War of the Words writing competition at Kennesaw State University and placed 1st in all categories.