From the Bearcats to the Blazers and Celtics

by Jennifer Johnson,

  • Brandon Chinn ’14
    Brandon Chinn ’14, assistant communications manager for the Boston Celtics, at an informal team practice in Milwaukie.

On-campus opportunities opened doors to an NBA communications career for Brandon Chinn ’14.

Two years ago, Brandon Chinn’s midday jog turned into the sprint of his life.

As assistant communications manager for the Boston Celtics, Chinn ’14 must be available 24/7 to generate — or manage — breaking news about the team. In the middle of his five-mile run, his boss called: The Celtics acquired Kyrie Irving, the Cleveland Cavaliers All-Star point guard, in a trade. He had 30 minutes to get back to the office and write the public announcement.

He raced to the office, his phone exploding with messages. By the time he sat down, he was dripping with sweat as he wrote one of the most important press releases in the franchise’s recent history.

Moments like this don’t come along very often, but Chinn was ready. A few years in the Portland Trail Blazers public relations office prepared him for the Celtics job, but Willamette University first introduced him to this kind of work.

“When I was being interviewed by the Blazers, the interviewer — who was my boss — was impressed with all of the experience I’d had there. He said, ‘A lot of the stuff you had done at Willamette you’re going to do here, just at a bigger level,’” Chinn said.

Working in the real world on campus

As a rhetoric and media studies major (now known as civic communication and media), he chased every on-campus opportunity he could.

He contacted The Collegian and became a sports staff writer then editor. He offered to help Robert McKinney, athletics communications director, set up and tear down the field on game day. That responsibility led to bigger ones as an assistant sports information director: He wrote player biographies, stories about varsity athletic events and created media guides and game day programs.

Initially, Chinn wondered how Willamette could help him with a career. His brother, who was attending a state school for sports marketing, told him bigger colleges offer fewer opportunities to build real-world skills compared to Willamette — and he was right, Chinn said.

He said, “It was the experiences I was able to get on campus through the university that I couldn’t have gotten anywhere else.”

By the time Chinn graduated, he was ready for an internship with the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes, where he served as one of the team’s radio broadcasters, wrote game recaps and did a post-game show. His days began at 9:30 a.m. and ended at 11:30 p.m. He later developed a webcast for basketball and football.

All of his duties provided him with a well-rounded skill set because “there were so few people on staff and so much going on,” he said.

From the Blazers to the Celtics

During Chinn’s senior year, he spoke to Dave Rigsby ’00, associate vice president for advancement who used to be Willamette’s athletics director, about post-graduate careers in sports. Rigsby connected him with Colby Curry ’05, who worked in PR for the Kansas City Royals.

Curry knew Chinn loved baseball — a sport Chinn played throughout college — but when Curry spotted an internship for the Blazers, he asked Chinn if he’d ever consider basketball. Chinn applied and got the job.

He turned his year-long Blazers internship into a permanent position as the team’s communications assistant. He helped facilitate player interviews, wrote and edited press releases and authored the team’s game notes and stats packets. In 2016, he snagged a job with the 17-time World Champion Boston Celtics.

The work is demanding — his life each year is dictated in August by the release of the NBA schedule, and he can log up to 14 hour days for 41 home games over the regular season — but even when he fields a crisis at midnight or misses social opportunities with friends, he can’t find negatives with the job.

Since he entered the NBA marketing field in 2014, he’s worked at 17 different arenas across 12 states.

“This is what I’ve always wanted to do since I was a little kid,” he said. “How can I complain?”

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