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Pat Connaughton Is Using The NBA’s Hiatus To Prepare For Life After Basketball

It’s really hard for basketball to be anyone’s top priority right now. The NBA is on pause for the foreseeable future due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and with no end in sight, focusing too much on basketball, like most every other sport currently in a gigantic holding pattern, can be difficult.

For Pat Connaughton, this layoff gives him the opportunity to pour a little more time into his off-court career: real estate. The Milwaukee Bucks’ guard has always been in and around that world — his father was a general contractor, and he’d spend his summers working on job sites even though, as he told Dime, “I hated it.” His father eventually gave him the chance to focus on earning a college scholarship or keep working, and seeing as how he earned a full ride to Notre Dame and got selected by teams in two professional sports, his decision to put his time and energy into the former paid off.

But Connaughton still got a degree in business, and despite having a pretty good gig as a member of the Portland Trail Blazers, then-teammate C.J. McCollum mentioned real estate as an area of interest away from the hardwood, according to the New York Times. Knowing the field a little bit due to his upbringing and being cognizant of the fact that basketball won’t be able to pay the bills forever, Connaughton was immediately interested.

“As I got more involved, I just started to realize more and more, this is what I want to do,” Connaughton told me over the phone late last week. “I just need to find a way to alter it a little bit. My dad did luxury homes. He bought them, renovated them, built them from the ground up, whatever and sold them, and that’s how he made his money year in, year out. For us, we’re fortunate. We don’t have to make our money that way. We have a salary coming from a professional sport, so what are we doing? That business model changes a little bit. Sure, making some money on buys and flips with homes is all well and good, but can we think smarter? Can we find cash flowing properties, assets that we’re going to own for a long time? Can we build a real estate portfolio both personally, because I’m going to do it regardless, but as I saw the interest from more and more athletes, can we do it collectively?”

Connaughton is still keeping an eye on basketball, doing workouts every day that exhaust him, and spending time on some other things he enjoys — he loves Billions and had plans to watch Uncut Gems sometime after we chatted. This is nonetheless a unique period for him, someone whose life has always involved playing sports or training for games on the horizon, and has afforded him the opportunity to work on his off-court venture.

Now, with a chance to focus on something in the present that lets him prepare even better for the inevitable future in which he can no longer play basketball, Connaughton is investing plenty of energy into real estate. It’s not just for him: While he has a handful of properties in his portfolio, Connaughton works with other NBA players, too, so that life without ball can be financially prosperous for them, too.

“If we’re able to kind of be collective with it and I’m able to get some guys involved because of the trust that we have, and explain it to them on their level, because we know we’re coming from the same types of areas and the same types of backgrounds, and involved in the same types of interests, I think you’re able to build something that will be pretty cool down the line,” Connaughton said.

But before he gets to that point, Dime sat down with Connaughton to talk real estate, basketball, Netflix, and life in quarantine for someone who’s not particularly used to slowing down.

Generally, how well have you been holding up with just everything kind of coming to a pause in the basketball world?

I’ve been holding up as well as I think I can be. It’s funny, I just got done doing a workout that basically killed me, so I try to just do workouts that kill me every day, so I don’t have the energy to think about not doing anything or being bored or anything like that.

But I’ve been holding up. I think the hardest thing, obviously no basketball’s the hardest thing, but also, since the NBA shut down the practice facilities, not even really being able to go into a gym and work out on basketball-strict skill, I think is the toughest thing. I dribble around my house, I got a basketball out here. I try to cross up my best friend who lives with me and his fiancé, but they’re not the same as trying to cross up some NBA guys. So it’s just about trying to, I guess, maintain some sort of feel for the ball itself.

Your daily routine now, is it basically just your day off routine or a day in the offseason routine, just you’re doing that every day?

Yes, but just a little different. I mean, I was saying that last night to my buddy, I can’t remember the last time that I’ve been in the same five-mile radius for this amount of time. Even when I’m home in the off season in the Boston area, I got a beach house in New Hampshire, I work out 30 minutes away from my home where I grew up working out, I go to the gym at my old high school, I’m seeing friends in Rhode Island or Mass or Maine or wherever. I’m still on the move.

Now it’s like the offseason daily schedule simplified times 100. It’s wake up, cook myself breakfast, come get a workout where I feel like death after, but I feel accomplished. Go upstairs, cook lunch, and work on my real estate stuff, start to work on my foundation, the different business stuff that I have outside of basketball. Then all of a sudden it’s time to cook dinner, watch a show, go to bed, repeat.

Has there been something of an adjustment period to that? Are you going stir crazy or, after a couple of weeks of doing it, has it been like, “Oh no, I can make do with this for the time being”?

I think the first few weeks, I thought I could make do with it for the time being. I think now I’m getting to the point where it’s getting, I wouldn’t say old because I still like it, I still enjoy my life, to say the least. But it’s just one of those things where, like I tweeted it a week or so back, this is a simulation of retirement. Just in retirement, you hope you’re able to hang around with your friends and see people and travel, etc.

It’s funny because I keep coming back to that. I mean at the end of the day, I didn’t realize how much of my life was predicated off my friendships and relationships with other people and how much interaction I had on a daily basis with a different amount of people. Now all that interaction’s coming, whether it be via text or email or phone call, FaceTime. I think with the uncertainty of when it’s going to end is the thing that kind of weighs on your mind most.

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That makes sense. You’re an interesting guy because growing up and into college, it was, my guess, basketball in the fall and winter, baseball in the spring and summer. Then you get to the NBA, lose baseball and it’s just basketball full-time. When was the last time in your life you just had this indefinite window of just no sports on the horizon?

Never. I don’t think there was one point in my life. As far as long as I can remember, like you said, during the offseason I’m still doing things, I’m still being sports-related. When I was a kid I played sports as much as I could, knowing that obviously my parents were wanting to make sure I didn’t flunk out of school, so I had other priorities that I had to technically prioritize above sports. My dream was to make sure that sports became my number one priority someday, that I could do it as a living and get paid for it, put it as the top priority and look at my parents and say, “Well ,you can’t tell me to go do my homework now, because this is literally my livelihood.”

I don’t remember a time where I wasn’t playing sports. Even when I was a kid. I went from t-ball to play little tikes basketball on the lower hoops. Heck, I played flag football. I was always doing something sport related. I’ve never really taken a hiatus.

So you mentioned that your relationships lately have been via texts, calls, stuff like that. What’s been kind of the big conversation just with your teammates and texts with them, calls with them, has it been more basketball, then normal now that it’s gone, has been less because it’s just not going on? What’s that been like?

I think it’s been kind of a mixture of both. I think it starts off, no one really knows what’s going on. So I think you talk about basketball, you talking about when it comes back, you talk about making sure we’re all taking care of ourselves so that when it does come back, we’re ready. I think as it continues to drag on for two weeks, now it becomes more about making sure you touch base with guys, making sure everyone’s feeling all right, seeing what guys are doing on a daily basis to keep themselves occupied, because everyone’s into their own different stuff.

I think, honestly, now it’s just to a point where it’s like your group message will blow up once every few days. But I’d say it’s not as active as it once was, because no one has any new information to share. When new information comes to light, it blows up again and you talk about different stuff.

But I’d say for the most part, we as a Bucks team, I would like to think, stay in touch and have a pretty good relationship off the floor, better than most teams. But at the same token, when you’re not working towards the same cause that you started working towards the beginning of the NBA season, there’s not as much to talk about.

That makes sense. One last basketball question sort of thing associated with all of this, and that’s been the forced majeure stuff that we’ve heard in the CBA. Spencer Dinwiddie said he doesn’t think that players would come back if their paychecks got taken from them. You’re a business-savvy guy, I want to know what goes through your head when you hear about this clause and how, I don’t want to say it’s on the table, but it is possible that this could be impacting the paychecks that you guys would get every couple of weeks?

I like Spencer as a person, so I want to be careful about what I say. But I wouldn’t necessarily agree with him, I don’t think. Only because at the end of the day, everyone’s going to want to play basketball again, and not coming back doesn’t solve the problem of what’s going on financially from a business sense with the NBA. That’s kind of the way the CBA is set up. I mean, we as players throughout various past lockouts and negotiations, etc., that’s one of the things that the owners have the right to do. From a business standpoint, if I take myself out of being a player and I look at it from an unbiased opinion, if the owners aren’t making money, why would the employees make money?

Now obviously as a player, I think about it like, people come to watch us play. We’re part of the attraction to why people come and watch, come watch for any other reasons besides the guys that are on the floor. So if you think there is value there and you think with some of the things that, when you look at other businesses and because of how unique of a time it is with the government putting things in place that prevent real estate people from evicting tenants and stimulus packages for small businesses and different things like that, I guess you could make an argument that you would want to see the same thing happen.

But at the end of the day, I try to stay in my own lane. We as basketball players are fortunate to get paid to play the sport that we love to play, and we are fortunate to get paid a pretty penny to say the least. So regardless of what happens and when it happens, I think we all want to get back to playing. We’re all excited to get back to playing, not just for ourselves and for the money that we make, but more importantly, for the fans and the kids and the people that look up to us because of what we’re able to do and what professional sports means to the culture of not just the United States, but the world.

So let’s get into real estate a bit. Right now, are you focusing more time and energy to usual so you can just keep building and building and building your experience in that field? Or are you generally keeping it the same and going like, “Well this is temporary, when basketball starts back up, I’m not going to be able to dedicate this much time to it, I don’t want to get too far into it right now”?

No, I’m definitely putting a lot of time and effort into it. I think I put more time and effort into it than most guys know, reason being is I just try to utilize my time as efficiently and as smartly as I can. We’re on planes a lot. Say what you want, the season is busy, but there’s a lot of time where I can be re-watching movies, I can be playing cards, I could be doing a number of things. To everybody that likes doing those number of things, I like doing those numbers of things once in a while, too. But part of what I’ve always tried to do with my life, I mean heck, I played two sports for as long as I damn well could. I’ve always tried to utilize my time as most efficiently as I can.

So now, I just try to make sure that I’m learning more about real estate on a daily basis. But also trying to right now, during this specific time, trying to figure out how can we grow? What’s the next step for the company? I think at the moment obviously the company’s name is Beach House. That might change. I might try to make it more of something that has more of a story behind it, that the name relates to what we’re trying to do a little bit more. We might definitely try to grow to get more players involved.

I think one of the biggest things that I’ve seen with the real estate, but one of the biggest things that I’ve tried to be an advocate for and will continue to try and be an advocate for, is combating the 30 for 30 Broke, trying to get more professional athletes involved into the ventures, especially obviously the real estate venture that I’m doing, because of the wealth it can create longterm. Not just for us, for our families, etc. But it will help guys understand a little money today in the real estate world and doing it a smart way and doing it with somebody who you trust, because I’m part of the fraternity and I’m not seeking them out for their money, I’m not seeking anything. I only let guys involved that reached out to me, so just giving them an educational component as they get involved to make sure that they understand what’s happening, why it’s happening, where it’s happening, how we’re doing it, and why it’s going to benefit them longterm financially, so that when the ball stops bouncing because it’s going to stop bouncing for everybody at some point in time, they have made the right decisions and their finances are taken care of, they have another source of income down the line.

I think that’s somewhere where we’ve failed as athletes in the past, is to make sure that when our careers end, we’re set up for the future. We still have income, we’re not just trying to live off the salary that we created and dip into it year in and year out and have to completely change the lifestyles that you’ve been living, which will have to change a little bit, but how are you being smart with your money and how am I making sure that I get other pro athletes involved so that they could benefit from it as well.

No, totally cool. Totally cool. You did just kind of mentioned this, but what are you on the lookout for or is there something that you want to be uniform across all of the properties that are in your portfolio?

No, I think we’re opportunistic. I think from the business side, I started off in properties that I could afford, personally, because that’s the way it is. I’m a second-round draft pick, I wasn’t on a Giannis deal, if you will. But for me, I think from the asset classes, we’re opportunistic in real estate. Whether it’s multi-family, whether it’s mixed use, whether it’s office, retail, industrial, medical, I think you have to be opportunistic. I think diversifying amongst all those fields is great. Obviously at the moment we’re in some multi-family and those sorts of things are things that are easier to afford, we’re trying to be smart about the size of the deals.

But I’d say overall, the thesis behind it and the overarching theme is just making sure we’re growing a cash flowing portfolio. Because at the end of the day, regardless of what asset classes we’re in, we want to make sure that our goal is to own these buildings and these structures, if you will, for a long time. Maybe you sell them and you buy a different one and maybe you trade in and trade out a little bit, but at the end of the day, the whole idea behind the things that I’m trying to get involved in, is we’re creating wealth for athletes for a long period of time, for hopefully generations to come, so that they are taking advantage of the fortunate position that we are in today with the sport that we’re playing and the money that we’re making.

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So plenty of players obviously have off-court interests that have nothing to do with basketball. What is the best advice that you’ve gotten from someone in the league about just business in general, not necessarily real estate?

Taking advantage of the network you can build while you’re involved in the NBA. That was one of the reasons I went to Notre Dame in the first place. They do a great job, they preach four for 40: A four-year decision to go to Notre Dame will benefit you for 40 years to come. It’s not just because of the education, it’s because of the community and the network that Notre Dame has.

I would say the exact same thing, I’m double dipping. I’m utilizing the Notre Dame networks to the best of my ability because I was a two-sport athlete there. I had a call this morning with a real estate guy from Notre Dame who I’ve wanted to have as a mentor for a long time. He’s very successful and I was fortunate to talk to him this morning.

To the same token, now put that on even a little bit more. The NBA, when you’re a professional athlete, there are plenty of people that want to meet with you that I had no business of meeting with. I think that’s the thing that I’ve taken advantage of best since my rookie year. I heard it my rookie year, I heard people say, “Hey, you don’t know how long you’re going to be in the NBA. Don’t wait until it’s too late, when you’re not on a team anymore, to start thinking about networking with owners, businessmen, corporate sponsors, anybody and everybody that you think you might have interest in a field that they’re utilizing, have a conversation with them.”

It’s people skills, at the end of the day. It’s taking the time, putting in the energy and the effort to build a relationship with somebody. That relationship may not bring about any benefit to you forever. But at the end of the day, that relationship could also bring benefit to you forever. So, in my opinion, it’s being a good guy, it’s trying to make sure that you’re getting to know the people that you’re around, the people that dreamt of being in your position. It takes two seconds to have a discussion with a guy that’s sitting courtside, whose kid idolizes you, and you never know where that guy came from, what he does and how he could potentially help you in the future.

I know you spoke to SB Nation the other day, said you’re huge Billions fan. You found Tiger King pretty interesting. What’s the Pat Connaughton pandemic streaming guide right now?

Pandemic streaming guide is, I’m a big Suits fan, I’m a big Modern Family fan, which I don’t usually admit out loud, so that’s a hot take for you guys. It’s kind of my feel good show, my guilty pleasure show, if you will. And I’m a huge Billions fan. I’d say those three are my go-tos.

I look for movies on nights where I want to switch it up a little bit. My next movie to watch is Uncut Gems. I haven’t seen it, but I’ve heard great things. But yeah, those three shows are kind of like my go-tos. I’ve actually seen Suits, I haven’t seen it all the way through, but I’ve seen a good amount of the seasons, but my best friend who I live with hasn’t, so I’m re-watching it with him because I like it that much.

Billions I’ve always been a huge fan of. I’ve been fortunate to visit set and meet some of the actors. So I’ve built a relationship with a few of them. I go back and forth with them on Twitter quite often. The new season is coming out in May, so I want to re-watch the end of the last season or the whole last season so that I just remember exactly where we take. Some day, I’m hoping to maybe be in a cameo on that show. I may or may not have made a wager with one of the directors about that and I’m just waiting to cash in on it.

Last question, I also saw that you’re still working and growing as a cook. What’s the signature dish right now and what do you hope it becomes as you get more and more comfortable in the kitchen?

Well, so I’m actually out of my element, to be completely honest with you. I fancy myself a pretty half-decent cook when I have a grill. I’m in an apartment building right now, which prevents me from having a grill. So I’m actually learning to cook other things without a grill, like tacos and some pasta dishes.

Look, if we’re being completely honest, I’m learning from my buddy’s fiancé, Erin, she’s the one that’s really helping us learn how to cook, so I might be taking too much credit for actually doing the cooking. But at the end of the day, I’ve got to take the time to figure out domestic values, if you will, on how to be able to, I guess, help out better around the kitchen than I have been able to in the past. I’m sure my mom would be mad that I didn’t take this much of an interest in it when I was in middle school and high school so that I could have helped her out a little more.