By DAVID LLOYD JONES
66ERS PLAYMAKER: Erin Hoefer, director of public relations for the Tulsa 66ers, sizes up one of the team’s centers, 7’1??? Frans Steyn. Hoefer performs many duties for the NBA Development League team.
ALICIA SHRUM for GTR Newspapers
David Kahn may own 80 percent of the Tulsa 66ers with the remainder split among 14 local co-owners. Joe Berry may be president of the team.
But as important as they are, the whole operating might come to a crashing halt if it weren’t for people like the five-foot, seven-inch slip of a young woman named Erin Hoefer. She is the director of public relations and on her slender shoulders lie a multitude of duties.
“It’s amazing,” she was saying the other day. “There’s nothing the same every day. We have a small office and we all wear a lot of hats.” Excluding the players, but including the coaching staff, the 66ers employ a grand total of 11 people full time.
Hoefer is concerned about attendance. She is in charge of trying to create awareness of the team, build excitement, and make sure that tradeouts are arranged for things from gym memberships to hair salons. They even trade for the furniture in players’ apartments. Naturally, they trade for advertising and for printing. The age of barter is alive and incredibly active.
She has to make sure the media is adequately informed about each player that comes and goes, insuring a steady stream of (preferably) favorable mention of the team.
“I even had to organize the creation of the Lady 6ers (not 66ers), the dancing cheerleaders that appear at the games. We held auditions in August and September and the turnout was incredible. Out of those we chose the 10 winners.”
The Lady 6ers do more than dance. They greet patrons at the door, throw out shirts for promotions, and have even face-painted the kids at games. Erin looks over all this. She also helps make sure that stay-at-homes can keep up with the 66ers.
Games are broadcast on the radio, but unlike most leagues where hometown announcers send accounts back to the faithful, most D-League games are handled by one announcing team with the broadcast being sent to both cities: a cost-cutting measure.
“We do very well on television,” says Hoefer. “KWHB-47 (channel 7 on cable) will do four this year and NBA-TV (cable channel 256) will have up to eight. “If you’re not in Tulsa but have access to a computer you can even listen in by going to www.nba.com/dleague and finding the 66ers website. You can hear the game from there.
Hoefer hardly set out to do publicity for a sports team in Tulsa. A native of Kansas, she went to Washburn University where she majored in mass media and public relations. Upon graduation she was first publicist for a medical publishing company then marketing director for a financial institution.
Sports was the furthest thing from her mind. But then her husband was transferred to Tulsa and, upon arriving here, Erin was open to a new opportunity. The 66ers were created; she applied (the competition, she says, was stiff) and was chosen. When the season nears the pace can get frantic.
“When the NBA training camps come to a close we get the last players cut. Our coach has the rights to get four returning players from last year’s teams. We take the players sent us by our parent clubs and we have a draft.”
Eventually a team of 10 players is formed and Hoefer is given the task of creating a biography for each of them. It’s a scramble but it gets done.
Now the season is underway, hamstrung by the wintry blast that took crowds figured to be in the thousands and reducing them to the hundreds. Still, the season is young and there is time to retake lost ground.
Hoefer says she and the rest of the office are ready for it.
There are still lots of hats to go around.