Former Niagara University head men’s basketball coach Jack Armstrong returned to Monteagle Ridge Friday, Feb. 28, 2020, to keynote the fourth annual College of Hospitality and Tourism Management’s Sport, Recreation, and Tourism Summit.
Speaking to current and potential students, faculty, and administrators in the Russell J. Salvatore Dining Commons, Armstrong, who has been game analyst with the Toronto Raptors organization for more than two decades, shared anecdotes and lessons he learned over his 22-year broadcasting and 14-year coaching careers.
“If I can say one thing that helps you, I’ve done my job,” he began. “I had a 10-year experience here, and I loved it. These four years affect how you do the next 40. This place lays the foundation for your success. The habits you form, the relationships you make, the things you learn, the life lessons--both good and bad--that you go through, shape you and put you in the position, later on in life, where you’re ready to excel and achieve.”
Armstrong talked about finding a career rather than a job, and gave the students the following advice. “When I look at athletic administration and wanting to get into the sports world, a few things that jump out at me,” he said. “Number one, don’t always go where the pack is. How do you stand out in a place where there’s 15, 20 others just like you? Number two, value experience over money. You have to be willing to pay your dues. And relationships matter. It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.
“It’s not an easy profession to get into, but it’s a lot of fun,” he added.
Dr. Youngsoo Choi, associate professor in the college, gave the opening remarks for the conference, followed by a welcome from the Rev. James J. Maher, C.M., Niagara University president.
After Armstrong’s presentation, panelists representing a variety of professions in the sport and recreation management and tourism industries discussed their career journeys and answered questions from the audience. Panelists included Niagara University athletic director Simon Gray and director of recreation, intramural, and club sports Derek Puff; College of Hospitality and Tourism alumni Scott Swagler, ’85, general manager for the DoubleTree by Hilton Niagara Falls. N.Y./Merani Hospitality Inc., and Ray DeWire, ’09, assistant director of athletics for the New York Athletic Club; Dr. Kristie Bowers, senior associate director of athletics/senior woman administrator at Boston University; Matt McKenna, director of health, physical education, and athletics for the Niagara Wheatfield Central School District; Amy Scott, vice president of ticket sales and services for the Cotton Bowl Athletic Association; Art Eberhart, executive director of the Niagara Police Athletic League; Kenneth Simmons, director of recreation services for the City of Buffalo; Pete Harvey, director of sports development for Visit Buffalo Niagara; and Dominic Verni, vice president of hospitality, Pegula Sports and Entertainment.