If one looks to the sideline of any Hawks game, they will soon spot assistant coach Matthew Hill, who helps coach Lloyd Pierce during games. However, Kevin Durant’s former teammate in Austin is not the only Matt Hill of critical importance to the Atlanta organization.
Working behind the scenes and far from the sidelines is another Mr. Hill. The UT-Chattanooga graduate who hails from Signal Mountain has carved out a role in the Hawks’ live events and production department. While this Matt Hill qualified himself as a “below-average high school player” at Chattanooga Christian, he has turned into a superstar of sorts within his department.
“We run the show during games, but my specific role is more focused on events,” Hill said. “So rather than gameday responsibilities, my department puts on a lot of events around the Atlanta area, so community engagements and things like that. I’m involved in logistics and coordinating the staff.”
He said one of the highlights is the Heartbeat Festival, which is presented by the Hawk’s sponsor Sharecare. It is one part three-on-three basketball tournament and another part health festival. So Hill’s team draws the community in with hoops, and then educates Atlanta on health issues. While he is passionate about coordinating these kinds of events, the pandemic forced many of those events to disappear.
“Without live events, things are not as busy as they would normally be,” Hill said. “Things shut down on March 11, and that was arguably one of the busiest weeks of the year for us. We had two big events and three games that week, and then things just stopped. It has definitely been strange and having to learn to shift and do things virtually.”
Like he briefly alluded to, Hill and his staff have shifted to virtual model. Rather than hosting a lavish in-person party for the NBA Lottery (Atlanta drew the 6th pick), Hill and the Hawks configured a virtual assembly. Hill said “things are still coming down the pipeline, but we’re just obviously not going to get out into the community as much as we’d normally be able to.”
One of the few in-person events the Hawks are hosting is one that could only happen once every four years. The NBA and their players have repeatedly spoken about the importance of voting in the upcoming presidential election. The Hawks are helping facilitate this act by turning State Farm Arena into an early polling location from Oct. 12 to the 30th. Hill has done his part by actually working the polls for the last few weeks.
“It’s been a really interesting experience,” Hill said. “I’ve voted before, but I’d never really seen the behind-the-scenes role of what it means to be a poll worker, so that’s definitely been interesting.”
While working a polling station may be considered an odd job for someone who has such a lofty title, such a thought does not cross Hill’s mind. He harkened back to a class at UTC, where he learned about effective leadership.
“It was really interesting talking about the different philosophies and aspects of leadership,” Hill said. “One of the things I really try to do with my staff is making sure that I don’t ask them to do anything I wouldn’t do. A leader can come across as hypocritical if you are asking folks to do something but you’re seen doing something else.”
“There’s no job too small, and as you grow in your career, you need to still have that same process in mind. Even though maybe it’s not my job to do this, it’s okay for me to step in and show others that I’m willing to do it.”
But even before taking that class, Hill was already prepared for a job with Atlanta’s finest basketball team. As a then-senior at the University of Tennessee, Hill needed to take an internship to finish his undergrad degree.
“Our department sent out an email advertising some opportunities with the Atlanta Hawks,” Hill said. “I went on and applied and interviewed, and I got offered the internship.”
“After I interned for four months, I was looking for other jobs and didn’t find anything. So I looked at my supervisor and asked if they had anything or needed me to help with anything so I could get some hours. And she said come on down and we’ll find some stuff for you. And that turned into a part-time position, which eventually transformed into a fulltime role I’m in now.”
Now fully entrenched in the Hawks organization, the sometimes poll-worker and full-time event coordinator is perpetually busy working for a premier basketball team. However, he said the variety is one of the perks of the job. While he may not be manning the sideline like the “other” Matt Hill, this one still has a unique job and an important role with the team.
“When you’re working for a professional sports team, we just have to wear a lot of different hats sometimes,” Hill said. “Some days you may be sitting at your desk all day long, and other days I may never be in the office. I’ve gotten to do a lot of things, and see a lot of fun and different areas of Atlanta.”
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