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Seven: Sean Tribe's next step leads home to Australian basketball
After years spent alongside Ben Simmons, Tribe is ready to help unearth the next generation of basketball talent.
It became what Sean Tribe termed a baptism by fire.
On hiatus after spending eight years working in the streetwear and footwear industry, Sean received a call from his brother, who was in Louisiana State University at that time.
“Hey, I’m going to go to the NBA. Do you want to be my manager?”
Tribe, who had been thinking about doing something different in his career, paused. “I honestly had to think about it for a quick second, because it’s a big thing to take on, and I wanted to do it the best way I could. Ultimately [I] thought it was a good decision to help him out, and the rest was history.”
That eventful call from his half-sibling, Ben Simmons, would be the genesis of what became a six year journey together, overseeing everything from success and accolades, to injuries and criticism.
“[Our relationship] was like any other brother relationship,” Tribe shared in a chat with The Pick and Roll, earlier in September. “We had a lot of fun together. We’re siblings - we would fight, we would laugh together, and we’d have a great time. I think that’s been the great thing working with Ben, it gave me a real insight into being really invested into someone’s career like that.
“We had to go through a lot together. That first year being injured - that year sucked to be perfectly honest. But getting through that and coming though the gates absolutely killing it, they’re the moments you look back and say, it was definitely all worth it.”
Through his many achievements, as well as some highly publicised challenges, Simmons benefited from Tribe’s steadfast presence and support, that accompanied his NBA journey thus far. In turn, Tribe, who labels himself as being constantly inquisitive, was exposed to the dynamic experience of managing an NBA All-Star.
“I’m a friendly guy, I love basketball, I love my family, I’m very unfazed by anything to do with the limelight as far as it pertains to Ben and all that sort of stuff. I’m a very simple kind of guy. I love what I love and I love being good at the things I put my mind to. Family is first when it comes to me and that’s the kind of person that I am.”
The transition involved everything and anything all at the same time: from trying to stay invisible during predraft workouts while team personnel did their homework, to the business end of basketball learning about his brother’s contract, dealing with fans and more.
“Personally, you’re with someone every day, you have fans running up to him: how do you deal with that? What’s your composure like? You always want to protect your brother in any way you can. You always want to protect your family, so there was that part of it as well. Honestly, there were so many different things happening over that time that if I could go back and change anything, I wouldn’t, because that was the best way to learn, and being part of that process early on without knowing anything really, has put me in the position I am today.”
It was Simmons who empowered Tribe to begin thinking about what the next step in his career would look like. During those intricate moments like contract extensions or when a deal’s going down, there’s five to ten phone calls a day going back and forth on things between multiple people. He was very trusting with me in working with the entire team to get the best deals possible. That goes for his basketball and business side.”
The process began in 2020 back when COVID-19 first hit. There were more chats with others in the industry that included names like David Falk —agent to Michael Jordan— front office personnel, players and even representatives from major shoe brands - he wanted information from all angles. "The takeaway from all those conversations and meetings was pretty simple. Stay true to yourself, create relationships with clients and brands that are longstanding and that’s exactly what I intend to do. I’m not going to rush and am really going to jump into this industry for the right reasons.”
The years of exposure and decision to move into talent development and representation culminated in his new venture, which is aptly named Seven Management, for various reasons.
“I love numbers and what numbers can represent. I’ve always had an interest in tying back to Australia in whatever I do, and that’s been with my time with Ben also. Obviously the area code for Australia is +61, six plus one is seven. My old man [Dave Simmons]’s playing number from his time in Australia was 25 - two plus five equals seven. So seven was a number that made sense to me.
“I’m a movie guy. I love movies, and the journey these kids go on, and the journey that I went on with Ben is somewhat like a movie, so I’ve tied it into one of my favourite directors in Quentin Tarantino with the font, so that font will be familiar to those who watch his films. It was thought out and that’s the way I want it.”
Like everyone else, Tribe is aware of the attention Simmons gets, but reiterates the love for basketball being the goal. “I’m looking forward to seeing him back on court this year. He loves playing basketball so I’m happy he’ll be able to go back on the court and do what he loves - that’s what it’s all about.”
He’s also confident that he’s stepping away with Simmons in a strong position to make a resurgence with the Brooklyn Nets this upcoming season.
“I think Ben is in a really great place. From all accounts, he’s in a great place basketball-wise and I’m looking forward to seeing him hit the court. Not only our family, but anyone that is a fan of Ben. Watch this space. As far as me taking off, this has been in the works for a couple of years now. Timing is never perfect, but he is in such a great place to really hit the ground running, have success and make Brooklyn his home for a very long time.”
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Tribe, who plans to be based in Philadelphia with frequent trips back home to Australia, enters the scene with a unique perspective and ample experience: both a player manager, and a family member of a professional player. It almost feels like a natural evolution from his days spent with his brother.
“I think that my real world experiences —as it pertains to not only dealing with a top client, but dealing with my brother as well— I can relate to a lot of aspects that a lot of people wouldn’t be able to relate to. That point of difference in experience is something that I want to pass over to my future clients, and those experiences will help navigate different aspects of their career path as well.”
Having kept a keen eye on upcoming Australian talent whilst building his network out in the States, being able to represent local talent —especially developing talent— is at the forefront of Tribe’s focus.
“Australia is absolutely a focus for me and the young talent coming through. I believe Australia has such a talented pool of kids. You can point to the NBA Global Academy, as well as kids that are unheard of that will go under the radar for a long time until they perhaps hit college… ” Tribe shared, while also pointing out opportunities in the States, that could result in American prospects finding roster spots in Australia, in the NBL for example.
The situation with domestic talent flying under the radar, also includes to a “pay to play” trend at home that Tribe feels could be improved upon, when it comes to younger talent being exposed.
“I think as far as identifying talent, there’s always going to be a hurdle for players that aren’t in the position to pay for camps, or pay for development, there’s always going to be that gap and I hope too see that eliminated sooner rather than later, for a younger kid that has the talent but can’t necessarily pay to go to a camp or pay for ongoing development fees for local, state, national basketball. As soon as elite players aren’t forced to be in a pay to play situation, the better off the development [for] young talent will be in Australia.”
After identification, comes decision. What exactly is basketball talent, and how does it translate to success? A focus on character comes up repeatedly as an off-court point of emphasis, when Tribe talks about the concept of talent.
“Basketball talent can be viewed in many different ways.
“There’s a traditional way - looking at size, athleticism and things like that, but you also want to look at things like whether they’re a good teammate, a good person in general as well. You want to be working with good kids and good families in this industry and they’re things that I really want to look for as well is working with good people. You want to keep that for their whole career. You want them to be a good person foremost before anything.”
More than just unearthing on-court potential, there’s a focus on finding good people, and keeping them that way. It’s reminiscient of Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich’s promise to Hall of Famer Tim Duncan’s father, that he would keep Duncan as the same person that he was.
“Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.” It’s a phrase we hear often from NBA soundbites, attributed to coach Tim Notke, comes to mind, on how natural talent doesn’t always win, if the work ethic is lacking. But the willingness to work has to be present, before all else.
“Talent is talent, you can assess it however you want. If you ask me the type of players I want to have moving forward, someone like a Ben would be amazing, but I am down for the undrafted hustlers - I’m down for the Dellys [Dellavedova], I’m down for the Pattys [Mills], I’m down for the Joes [Ingles] - the guys that have worked their ass off to get where they are today.
“Give me those guys, and we can do amazing things.”
All images supplied via Sean Tribe.