Rich Sheubrooks acknowledged what became obvious just a few minutes into a long-distance telephone interview that connected a small village near the sunny coast of Barcelona, Spain, with Salt Lake City: the Jazz's recently hired executive director of global and professional scouting is living the high life.
"I have it good here," Sheubrooks said. "My family and I have been very, very lucky."
So good, in fact, that Sheubrooks will have to change little about his enviable living situation as he helps a small-market Utah franchise expand its worldwide basketball reach.
If anything, Sheubrooks' life should only improve. Barcelona will still be his home base, but he expects to spend more time in the Carolina region of the United States, scouting the Southeastern and Atlantic Coast Conferences for the Jazz while fulfilling a long-held desire to balance his extended European getaway with the ability to spend more time in his native U.S.
The specifics of Sheubrooks' new position won't be defined until mid-October, when he is expected to meet with Utah general manager Kevin O'Connor in Salt Lake City to discuss his role within the organization. But the simple fact that Sheubrooks' professional future is linked with O'Connor's already has the basketball-lifer intrigued about the next step in his unconventional journey.
"Kevin is one of the most widely respected GMs in the league, and I have a lot respect for him. He was one of the main reasons that I took the job," said Sheubrooks, who spent the past four seasons as Charlotte's director of global scouting and has organized the prestigious Nike Hoop Summit for 14 consecutive years.
The mutual respect between Sheubrooks and O'Connor was at the core of Utah's unexpected hire a move officially announced Sept. 12, and one that came during a time when many NBA teams are resorting to layoffs or financial cutbacks as they navigate through the uncertainty of the lockout.
O'Connor called Sheubrooks this summer with the intention of vetting a possible hire, wanting to get Sheubrooks' opinion about a job candidate. Sheubrooks responded with a minor revelation: the Bobcats were making alterations, and he might be looking for a change. Neither O'Connor nor Sheubrooks bit at first, feeling each other out as they discussed the possibilities of Utah's undefined position.
But O'Connor knew what he wanted an experienced, well-connected scout who could give the Jazz an edge in discovering prospects based in locations as diverse as Africa, Russia and Turkey.
Once Sheubrooks was informed that he could stamp his passport a few more times in the U.S. and still retain his international freedom, a connection that traces back to O'Connor's playing days as a devout basketball fundamentalist at Belmont Abbey College (N.C.) was renewed.
"I've had a relationship with Rich for a long time," O'Connor said. "We were just kind of fortunate to be what I consider in the right place at the right time."
Being in the right place at the right time has become a calling card for Sheubrooks. He runs background on potential NBA prospects before draft-dedicated blogs learn about their existence, and he first came across Jazz rookie center Enes Kanter when the No. 3 overall pick of the 2011 NBA Draft was an unknown young teenager.
Sheubrooks believes that honest, respectful personal relationships have provided the foundation for his rise, which has seen him trade an assistant coaching stint at Texas A&M Kingsville for high-profile roles with Nike and the NBA's Memphis Grizzlies. Sheubrooks has worked with legends such as Jerry West and Michael Jordan, and the former gave him a piece of advice that played a key role in Sheubrooks' decision to join the Jazz.
"Jerry told me that, since we work so closely with people in our profession and it's such a demanding business, you really have to like the people you work with," Sheubrooks said.
Sheubrooks admired Jordan while working for the Bobcats' respected Charlotte president of basketball operations, Rod Higgins, and was looking forward to working with new GM Rich Cho. The selection of forward Bismack Biyombo with the No. 7 overall pick during the 2011 draft represents a high mark during Sheubrooks' tenure, and the Bobcats hope to turn the mysterious Congolese big man into one of the most promising prospects of the upcoming season.
Now, Sheubrooks will bring his intuition and expertise to the Jazz. Spain is the current hotspot for international players, and Sheubrooks is only about 30 minutes away from Barcelona's airport, which can take him to Africa, Russia and beyond. He'll have to leave his seaside view and a climate that's sunny "320 days during the year" to do his job. But he can always return to the natural beauty.
"I traveled more last summer than some people do during their entire lives," Sheubrooks said.
Rich Sheubrooks file
Position • Jazz executive director of global and pro scouting
Resides • Barcelona, Spain
Career • Charlotte Bobcats, Memphis Grizzlies, Nike global basketball consultant and Hoop Summit organizer
College • Texas A&M Corpus Christi
Longtime connection • The relationship between Sheubrooks and Jazz general manager Kevin O'Connor traces back to O'Connor's playing days at Belmont Abbey College (N.C.). Asked what he was told about O'Connor's style on the court, Sheubrooks responded, "He was a student of the game."
Four-man crew • Sheubrooks will team with the Jazz's Walt Perrin, vice president of player personnel, and head scout Dave Fredman during the 2011-12 season to evaluate professional players and college/international prospects. The trio will be complemented by Richard Smith, director of basketball operations. Alberto Dal Cin, formerly the Jazz's part-time director of international scouting, is no longer with the organization.