Michael J. Taylor // 34
Director of Group Sales // Palace Sports and Entertainment, Auburn Hills // Employees: 2,400, full and part time // Revenue: NA
West Virginia State University
Coming off their first playoff appearance in seven years, the Detroit Pistons are poised for a breakout year with the addition of several role players, the resigning of All-Star center Andre Drummond, and a lineup of young, ambitious starters.
That wasn’t the case when Michael J. Taylor joined the organization in 2013. The team had a challenging time drawing fans, so Taylor and his eight-person sales staff introduced a number of outreach programs.
“We started hosting team-building events for companies on the court prior to the games, we started doing school assembly programs, and we came up with fun theme nights like the cheer and dance competition, yoga on the court, salsa night, and corporate basketball tournaments,” says Taylor, director of group sales at Palace Sports and Entertainment in Auburn Hills. The new activities worked.
Today, the team averages 17,000 fans per game — more than double the attendance in 2013. A Detroit native, Taylor played basketball through college before joining the professional ranks in Europe. “I wanted to get back to the United States, so I retired and decided to put my business degree to good use,” he says. “I sent out 200 emails to introduce myself to the management side of the NBA, and the only person who wrote me back was Steve Kerr.”
Kerr was then president of basketball operations and general manager of the Phoenix Suns. Today, he’s the head coach of the Golden State Warriors. “Steve said the best way to break into management was to do ticket sales, because every team needs help with that,” Taylor says. “So Steve made a call and I joined the Chicago Bulls as a sales intern. From there, I went to the Atlanta Hawks, and then I joined the Pistons in 2013. Our goal now is to sell out every game.” — R.J. King