Fountain of information: Warren-native Kevin Ross has turned love of sports and statistics into jobs
It’s the little nuances of sports that Kevin Ross enjoys most.
And he’s good at noticing them.
That’s because he’s seen a lot of games.
The 1999 Warren Area High School graduate barely had enough time for this interview on Monday – before he was off to work at a Wagner College women’s basketball game in Staten Island, N.Y.
Ross worked in sports information departments at St. Bonaventure University and Kent State University, and is now in his eighth year as assistant director of sports media relations at Wagner. He’s the contact person at Wagner for men’s basketball, baseball, men’s and women’s tennis, and men’s and women’s cross country.
He’s gone from keeping score of a college lacrosse match to being the team spokesperson interviewed on regional television on how Wagner’s conference championship football team helped the public during Hurricane Sandy.
“Probably the most nervous I have been,” said Ross. “I am used to telling people how to deal with the media, not being interviewed.”
And now, this story in his hometown paper:
First thing he wanted to point out: it was 55 degrees in Staten Island on Monday.
A huge sports nut, playing basketball and running track while at Warren, Ross has crossed paths with a number of college and now professional athletes over the years.
In a communications field where Ross “hates seeing hard work thrown by the wayside, ala a 5,000-word article crumpled up in the trash the next day, and where minor errors are highlighted by masses,” he said, there is also an enormous upside.
Like when one of the athletes he works to promote gives him tickets to a Bills game to thank him for helping to enhance his athletic experience; or when a player gets drafted professionally and one of his first calls is to him.
These small rewards help ease the late nights on a Friday and Saturday, when he has to miss a friend’s bachelor party. He sees his family just a couple times a year, but he will see LeBron James up close and personal on Friday night.
Ross also serves as an official scorer for the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets, which host the Miami Heat on Friday.
But from working with the Hurley brothers when they coached the Wagner men’s basketball team to having Major League closer Andrew Bailey – a Wagner alum – put him in a friendly headlock, Ross doesn’t often find himself in awe.
He does it for the work; it’s the connections he’s made that have helped him get where he is today, and where he will be someday.
Bailey laughed at Ross and asked him why he couldn’t get out of a simple headlock. Ross says it’s because Bailey’s arms are bigger than his legs. Though never an elite athlete himself, sports seems a natural for this long-time fan that is being conservative when he says sports takes up 60 percent of his day. He admits it was once 80 percent, but he’s getting older. After a long day at Wagner and with the Brooklyn Nets, Ross talks sports with his roommate – Jamal Smith, a former men’s basketball player at Division I Wagner who played in high school with Carmelo Anthony.
Ross says it isn’t the famous athletes that he meets, but rather the relationships with the people he works with that truly make him love his job; that and the nice summer break when school isn’t in session.
He would eventually like to parlay work into yet another gig – maybe for YES Network and the Yankees, as YES broadcasts the Nets games.
“It’s a networking thing,” said Ross, who considers his current role with the NBA mostly freelance, like when he branched into working at the NBA Draft.
He says he can handle all of this – Wagner, the Nets, etc. – all from one address,
“I don’t want to jump from place to place, which is such a grind,” he said. “This is a much better lifestyle.”
For Wagner, Ross is responsible for getting the Wagner name out there to the media – media guides, press releases, press conferences after men’s college basketball games.
And now the world has gone viral – and Ross is responsible for immediate information, streaming, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook.
He also takes stats. He’s seen it all.
If a no-hitter is broken up when a baserunner is hit and automatically out on a ground ball, Ross has probably seen it. The hitter is credited with a base hit, by the way. Ross has to know this.
The information machine never stops.
“He’s been great,” said Wagner College Athletic Director Walt Hameline. “He’s one of those guys that just loves what he’s doing and he’s really good at it. If you want to know a stat… I don’t ask the coaches, I ask him. He knows every stat in the game – who’s out of the game, who’s in; he does a scouting report on every player in every game.
“He’s full of energy and loves what he’s doing, and he’s looking to do things the right way,” said Hameline of Ross. “The next thing you know, he’s doing the Nets games and he notices those (small nuances the normal fan doesn’t see),” said Hameline.
For the Brooklyn Nets, Ross uses an NBA-issued touch screen system for official league statistics.
“It’s a very simple program,” said Ross. “Last night I was in charge of making sure we got the subs (substitutes) right, and timeouts (recorded).”
Once in a while, he’ll have a player ask him about a stat.
“They are really big on tipped rebounds,” said Ross, “because players’ contracts are in direct correlation with stats.”
Ross plays it down and says his audience is mainly the newspaper beat writer that covers Wagner College sports.
“The thing that makes it the best for me is I work with an awesome group of coaches,” said Ross. “Coach Hameline, the basketball and baseball coaches – I get along with them great. I hear horror stories of people working with coaches that are jerks, but I go the extra mile for them and they go the extra mile for me.”
Ross stopped short of calling himself obsessive compulsive, but the Wagner athletes have to love this young man.
“I’m really good at multi-tasking,” said Ross.
Hameline said it goes beyond that.
“You ask any of the kids – they are always going to ‘K-Ross’ to find out this or find out that,” said Hameline. “One of our basketball players had 10 blocks (in a game). He asked K-Ross, ‘Is that a school record… how’s that (rank) with the NCAA.'”
Ross would know.
The little things Ross notices are the same reasons he is good at what he does.
The things he’s in awe of aren’t when NFL wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey is sitting on his couch in his apartment, watching the NCAA Tournament. It’s watching Kevin Garnett, of the Nets, work out before an NBA game.
“No one from the Nets can talk to Kevin Garnett during his workout,” said Ross. “The average person doesn’t realize how unbelievably talented these players are. Kevin is in his own world when he prepares for game.”
Or, from two to three rows back, seeing a Jason Kidd pass hit Dirk Nowitzski’s fingertips, leading him perfectly in stride.
That’s what it takes to impress Ross.
Covering the NBA Draft may have been the highlight of his career.
It’s what these players have been dreaming of their entire life, and Ross gets to see their expressions in person when they ascend to the pinnacle of sport.
Heck, Ross has the Heat on Friday, the Magic on the 21st, the Raptors on the 27th, and the Sixers on Feb. 3. Yet, he’s mentioning putting together a wiffleball tournament next summer in Warren, with his hometown friends.
He doesn’t mind his friends asking about LeBron James, but he’s certainly not looking for a girlfriend that’s a huge sports fan.
It’s not a prerequisite anyway.
As sports minded as he is, “the high point of your week is when I get to watch “How I Met Your Mother.”
Who is he kidding? He doesn’t need any time away from the games.
“Beyonce was at a game last year, and that was neat,” he said.