Michael West grew up in New Jersey, where he bled Giants blue and lived his “NBA dream” working for the Nets. But after more than a decade in Nashville, Vanderbilt’s Assistant Athletic Director for Ticket Operations he says he now bleeds Black and Gold.
I grew up all over New Jersey. We’ve been here in Nashville 14 years now and I don’t miss it a bit, besides some food and my friends.
I used to be a baseball fan. I was a massive Mets fan. The ’86 Mets, I can still tell you the lineup, one through nine, and the pitching rotation.
But when they signed Pedro Martinez, I was done. They’re no better than the Yankees. It’s just checkbook baseball.
At that point, I quasi-rooted for the lowest payroll team in the American League, and that was the Kansas City Royals. I literally went and looked up the lowest payroll team in the American League, and I was like, “Alright, let’s go Royals.”
I came to Nashville for a job at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center and worked there for two years. I was their director of external affairs. I oversaw the ticket office, concessions, group sales, and rental services. It was a brand-new department.
I first got into ticketing through an old high school psychology teacher. He was a high school basketball coach. He asked my wife, who went to the same school that I did, what I was doing with myself. I said I wanted to get involved in pro sports. He said he knew a guy with New Jersey Nets’ marketing department.
I met the senior VP of corporate sales and he brought me on as an intern. I interned with the Nets my entire senior year of college, working at least 40 hours a week. When I graduated, the Nets called me back for my first full-time job and I worked there for 13 years with coaches like Chuck Daly and John Calipari.
I was living the NBA dream. We went to back-to-back NBA Finals. I had a girlfriend at the time, who is now my wife, who was all about it. We’d go out after the games and have a blast. It was Shaq one night and Jordan another night and Larry Bird.
It was great. I got married and it was still great. Then I had my first kid and it was a little tougher. Then I had my second kind and it started to grind on me.
The NBA regular season is 41 home games plus preseason games and, hopefully, the playoffs. Being the fan I was, I was also watching every game on the road on TV, traveling a bit as well. It was 100 nights a year. Fifty of those nights I’m not home to put the kids to bed or read them stories. It was really trying on the family. It’s a tough life.
When 9/11 happened, it really shook my wife to the core. We lived in Union at the time, which was maybe 10 miles from Ground Zero. She wanted to get out of Jersey, out of that rat race, the tightness.
She said, hey, Nashville is cool. She even made me a cake one year with a Titans logo on it. One of my brothers had lived here previously and we had been here to visit.
I had spread the word through Ticketmaster I was looking, and a rep introduced me to Kathleen O’Brien at TPAC. Within two weeks our house was on the market and we moved down here.
I enjoyed TPAC, but I missed sports. It’s really unique that I’ve had the opportunity to work in pro sports, arts and theater, and now here at Vandy for 11 years.
I bleed Black and Gold now. It’s about the kids, the games, and about an incredible staff in the ticket office.
There are two ways to manage people as far as I’m concerned, and I’ve worked for both of them. You either fear your manager and you work for them out of fear and then worry you’re going to get fired, or you become family with them and they want to do things for you because they don’t want to let you down. That’s always how I roll with my team.
We are a family here and we look out for each other. We will do everything we can to help each other out here.
It’s like sports radio on these phones sometimes. Our fans want to call in and talk. We are that front line and we hear it all.
I have a 17-year-old daughter and a 14-year-old son. They’ve grown up here. They’re both bigger city kids. They love to go to New York or Chicago as much as they can. My daughter is applying to colleges and hoping to go to DePaul or NYU. They could care less about sports. They like to come to games and go to the press room to eat. That’s their big thing. It’s nice for me they don’t live and breathe sports. I can go home and it’s just all about them. You can’t do this job without an understanding family.
We like to take advantage of the restaurants around here. We go to concerts. We went to Fleetwood Mac, we have Mumford and Son coming up.
I’m huge into sports movies. Remember the Titans is probably my favorite movie. Baseball movie-wise, I like a lesser known movie called For the Love of the Game. I like the original Bad News Bears, Hoosiers is obviously a classic.
My friends would say I’m loyal. Extremely loyal. My one best friend I’ve known since I was three years old, and my other I’ve known since my first day of college. We speak probably five times a week.
I met my wife when I was 12. We were grammar school sweethearts, and now we’ve been together 35 years and married 22 years in August. Trust and communication are key. She’s great, and I wouldn’t be able to do any of this without her.
Interviewed by Andrew Maraniss