Olympian, all-American, coach, community advocate or sports executive. Whatever they go by, the alumni featured here have taken very different paths to fulfill their dreams.
Whether it was overcoming physical obstacles to pursue a love of competition or finding success first as players then leveraging that talent into successful careers or doing whatever it took to land a dream job, the things these alumni have in common are a passion for sports and the determination to succeed.
By Scott Osborn ’94
As a senior at Punahou, George Killebrew ’81 applied to a number of schools on the West Coast. His mother, a Southern Methodist University (SMU) alumna, suggested that he consider applying there. “She always had a good sense of what was best for me,” says Killebrew. Knowing this, he elected to enroll at SMU, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration and found a job with the SMU athletic department.
His ultimate dream, however, was to work for a professional sports team, and he set his sights on the Dallas Mavericks. Founded in 1981, the Mavericks were enjoying greater success than expected for an expansion team and had become a perennial playoff team, but job openings remained scarce at the organization.
Things changed in 1991. Donald Carter, founder and owner of the Mavericks at that time, purchased a professional soccer team, the Dallas Sidekicks. Sensing an opportunity, Killebrew applied for a position with the Sidekicks hoping that it might offer him the chance to work for the Mavericks in the future.
“My friends who worked for the Mavericks told me I was crazy and that it would never work,” jokes Killebrew. He accepted a job with the Sidekicks to head all sales and marketing efforts for the team. His gambit eventually paid off, and he became an account executive with the Mavericks sponsorship group.
He has made the most of his opportunity throughout the years, working his way up to executive vice president, where he oversees the corporate sponsorship and activation groups. Killebrew also works for one of the most influential owners in professional sports, current owner of the Mavericks, Mark Cuban. “Mark is a fantastic boss,” says Killebrew. “He has great trust in us and the work that we do.”
Interacting with the community is a part of his position, but Killebrew also makes it a point to do so outside of the job. He is on the board of Goodwill Industries of Dallas; he is the co-chair of the Seal Legacy Gala, which benefits the families of fallen Navy Seals; and he was recently elected to the SMU Alumni Association Board of Directors.
“Giving back to the community is the right thing to do, and it feels great,” he says.
His career path has provided a number of personal highlights, but nothing compares to June 12, 2011, the day the Mavericks won their first NBA Championship. “It was such an amazing feeling to be part of that, not just for me, but for everyone,” he recalls.
Killebrew has lived in Texas for 35 years but never feels far away from his roots. On a recent trip to Sun Valley, Idaho, he was shooting skeet while wearing a Punahou shirt, when another alumnus, whom he had never met before, started singing “O?ahu a.” He explains, “Wherever I go, if I am wearing a Punahou shirt, someone will come up to me with their story. It’s truly become a global brand.”
He credits his success with the Mavericks to his education at Punahou. “Punahou taught me to understand how to relate to people with different backgrounds and to try and appreciate their points of view,” he says. “I was as well-prepared academically for college as anyone else at SMU. I am not sure that I fully appreciated that while I was at Punahou, but I certainly do today.”