Suns.com Web Analytics Coordinator and Bright Side of the Sun founder Dan Hilton came back lightening fast with his answers to the questions submitted by readers and yours truly for Q&A #2. Due to traveling, my first opportunity to post this was today, but he actually responded the same day I sent it over last week. Next time we'll have to think up harder questions, I guess.
TexSUN: Since our first Q&A back in August, you have started blogging on Suns.com. How is it different writing for the official Suns website versus a fan-run blog like Bright Side of the Sun?
Dan: It is definitely different writing for the official Suns web site. My boss has been great with letting me say what I want to say when I post something but I recognized at the very beginning that writing for the official web site would mean making sure I represented the company properly. The advantage in writing for the Suns is I have access I never would have had as a fan blogger. If I had to name a disadvantage, it would be that I don't get to write every day. I guess I could write something every day if I really wanted to but I am so busy with my other responsibilities at work, I really don't have the time to do it. But, in reality, that's not a huge disadvantage. I'm working for the Suns! I can't complain too much.
TexSUN: Suns.com got a makeover recently. Can you tell us a little about that and what your role was in that endeavor?
Dan: We're always trying to make Suns.com a better, more informative place for visitors. The web site has so much information, sometimes it's hard to find what you're looking for. I think the redesign does a good job of ordering the information in a more user-friendly format so everyone can find what they're looking for. The redesign was already in the works long before I got here so I really didn't have a lot to do with it. The big thing I did was go through the site afterwards and find any little problems that always seem to pop up when you launch a new web site.
TexSUN: How was your first Media Day? Did you get to do anything interesting?
Dan: My first Media Day was amazing. It was kind of weird to be walking down on the practice court with all the local media and players milling around. But after I got over the initial reaction of, "Holy cow, I'm at Media Day!" I had to get right to work. My job was to get each of the players to do an intro for the Suns.com audio and video presentations we'll have during the season. So if you are watching a video or listening to an interview and you hear LB say, "This is Suns Guard Leandro Barbosa. You're Suns.com video will begin right after these messages" you can picture me on the other side of the microphone.
The cool thing about doing that job was I got to meet most of the players. They were all very good about helping me out and I was grateful for that.
TexSUN: Who was your favorite interview?
Dan: Alando Tucker was my favorite person to interview. He's a great guy. Well, all the Suns players are great guys but I really enjoyed interviewing Alando Tucker. Maybe because he's a rookie so interviews are as new to him as they are to me.
TexSUN: On to training camp, how much did you get to see?
Dan: I got to training camp on Thursday and stayed through the scrimmage on Saturday night. So I went to all of the practices from Thursday through Saturday, was in the restaurant for the coaches/players dinner and the scrimmage.
TexSUN: Which players have been the most surprising so far?
Dan: DJ Strawberry has been really impressive. Marcus Banks seems to have made some improvements. But the most impressive guy so far has been Grant Hill. He's amazing.
TexSUN: Other than running the shot clock for the scrimmage, which you wrote about in your blog, what other interesting things did you get to do that week?
Dan: I drove Al McCoy to and from the scrimmage which was a really fun experience. Al is a great guy and he's really easy to talk to. It was kind of fun seeing how people react to him as he walks through crowds. You hear "Shazam!" all over the place. Another fun experience was the players/coaches dinner. We didn't sit with the guys but sat fairly close and were able to see the major events. In fact, if you look closely enough you can see me laughing at the rookies while the rookies run around singing, "I'm so pretty."
TexSUN: It sounds like the rookies are getting hazed a little. Has there been any hazing for "rookie" Suns.com employees such as yourself?
Dan: The only "hazing" I got was being thrown to the wolves on player/coach interviews! Just kidding. It seemed like a bit of hazing considering I had never interviewed anyone before but really everyone here has been very supportive. My boss is really cool and understands that I am both a fan and an employee of the Suns. So he's given me a lot of opportunities to grow and develop in ways I never would have imagined. I seriously thought I would be sitting at a computer working on numbers every day and instead I've been given the opportunity to interview a few guys, talk to the players and Suns personalities and experience things I never thought I would have the opportunity to experience.
TexSUN: I noticed Alando Tucker and Steve Kerr have recently joined the growing list of Suns.com bloggers. Are you planning to recruit any other players for the blog? Or how about one of the coaches?
Dan: There are definitely more bloggers coming. I can't say who they are yet because it's not solidified yet but we're hoping to have several big names blogging for the site in the next few weeks/months.
srp: Dan - describe how your life has changed since taking this job and how much worse it must be for you to no longer be blogging on BSoS.
Dan: My personal life really hasn't changed much but it's way different working for the Suns. It's definitely the most enjoyable job I've had and the most personally fulfilling. The other jobs I had were great and I loved working there but I feel personally invested in the job I have now. I'm doing something that I absolutely love to do and I'm helping to bring entertainment and information to people who really care about this team. Regarding BSotS, I really enjoyed doing the blog while it lasted and felt a lot of personal satisfaction from it but I can't say that I "miss" it. I've been able to do a lot of the same things while working here and I'm actually working for the organization that I've grown up watching.
JSun: Do you have to work during the games? I can imagine there are some positions that require that and it could ruin a dream job with the Suns -- like dying of dehydration in the ocean.
Dan: I work during some of the games but I get to watch the games I work so it's actually fun. I haven't worked any Suns games yet but did work one Mercury game. Obviously, it'll be different working Suns games but I should be able to watch the good parts of the game while I'm here.
JSun: Do you get free tickets? Discounts? What about merchandise? Are the fringe benefits any good?
Dan: The games are sold out so I don't really get free tickets. Since this is my first season, I'm not really sure if I even get discounted tickets. But there are some discounts on merchandise and the other fringe benefits are things others may not see as valuable. Getting up and actually looking forward to go to work - not only because of who I work for but because of the people I'm working with - is the biggest fringe benefit for me.
JSun: Are you expected to attend games?
Dan: I will be expected attend some games so during the season so I can write about them for the web site.
JSun: Do you have to wear purple and/or orange to work every day? Do you have "casual Fridays"?
Dan: We do not have casual Friday's or have a set dress code other than it needs to be business dress.
JSun: Where do you eat lunch? Is the food any good?
Dan: We eat at several places around downtown that are close to the arena. I've been to some really good places. And I've been to some really bad places. Just like any other office. :-)
JSun: During breaks, can you go down and shoot a few hoops? Is there any sort of intramural pick-up league?
Dan: During the season, the team is using the practice court so we don't really go down there a lot. I haven't been here long enough to know if there is some sort of pick-up league.
JSun: Do you have kids? Do they think it's cool that you work for the Suns? Do they visit you at work?
Dan: I have a 7-year-old son, a 4-year-old daughter and a boy due in January. The two kids I've actually met love that I work for the Suns and tell everyone they can. It's especially a major point of pride for my son. They have not visited me at work yet but my wife has and enjoyed the tour of the arena I gave her.
JSun: Does the Gorilla walk around in costume at work (kind of like Duff-Man)? Does he, like Duff-Man, have other responsibilities such as driving the blimps or working the scoreboard at the Roadrunners' games?
Dan: That's only a Gorilla costume?!?!?
JSun: Same question for the dancers.
Dan: (My wife may be reading this.) Dancers? What dancers?
JSun: Are you now blogging in a pseudonym? If so, what is it?
Dan: Yes, I do blog under a psuedonym. You can find my psuedo-blog here: http://suns.marqui.com/blog/Dan_Hilton_.aspx.