From the press box to City Hall: Bill Evans leaves professional and recreational sports to join Wilsonville team

SPOKESMAN PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Former NBA public relations guru was hired at Wilsonvilles communications and marketing manager. Nowadays, Bill Evans will occasionally watch the Portland Winterhawks from the Moda Center stands, orchestrate Fantasy Football rosters and even stroll through the Portland Trail Blazers media room and run into old acquaintances like Blazers coach Terry Stotts.

In his previous career, Evans witnessed Michael Jordan at the height of his greatness and stood amid the press gaggle for LeBron James' first professional game.

But, after shuffling through professional public relations departments for decades, sports are now a casual interest in Evans' life. And his improvisational comedy hobby has also been put on the backburner.

Instead, he spends his time raising his young daughter and adapting to his new gig as the communications and marketing manager for the City of Wilsonville. The City announced the hiring in early February.

"I'm looking forward to representing the City, to listening, and to collaborating with residents and business leaders on the best ways to keep people engaged and informed about everything the City is doing on their behalf," Evans said in a press release.

Though he's content with his new life, Evans is wistful of his time trotting from one NBA arena to next and his journey from sports-obsessed child to running an NBA communications department.

Every Monday during his childhood, Evan's mom would send him a list of scores from the previous day's slate of National Football League games and the game predictions of members of her betting pool, which resembled a nascent version of the "pick 'em" pools that are now ubiquitous among NFL fans.

Evans would tally the scores based on a comparison between the predictions and actual results and then bring the list back to his mom. The excersize gave him an appreciation for sports and statistics.

Years later, he earned a degree in journalism at Northwestern University. After graduation, he hoped to merge his love for journalism and his passion for sports.

So he interned at the Lakeland Ledger newspaper in Florida, where he covered Major League Baseball spring training games, and then earned another internship at Arlington International Racecourse.

Wanting to move to his mother's town, Seattle, and garner a communications gig, he cold-called professional and collegiate sports teams in the area.

Though he preferred baseball and hockey to basketball growing up, the Seattle SuperSonics were filling out their public relations staff at the time — providing a window of opportunity.

One morning at the race track, the Sonics director of public relations, whose father attended Northwestern, called Evans.

A week later, Evans nabbed an internship.

Evans later earned a full-time job with the Sonics, where he assembled team publications, set up interviews and provided stats to the press.

During the Sonics 1996 Finals run, Evans put up inspirational signs in the locker room such as "Not in our house."

After the Finals, Evans went to work for the NBA, where he earned a spot on the cutting edge of the internet and the sports media revolution.

Evans posted road trip tales written by NBA players on the league website, organized a published correspondence between then-rookies Vince Carter and Antawn Jamison and set up a very early version of a podcast between New Jersey Nets player Jayson Williams and NBA Personality Gary Sussman.

"Sports is probably one of the reasons that the media took off the way it did because you have all this new information that you couldn't get (prior to the internet)," he said.

After a stint with the Milwaukee Bucks, Evans joined the Cleveland Cavaliers as the team's director of public relations in 2003 — James' rookie season.

Evans says James, who was 18 years old at the time and is now considered to be one of the greatest players in NBA history, was a good teammate and the two bonded because they each had their first child around the same time. Now, when Evans sees him, James always asks him the same question.

"To this day, I see him at a game, the first question he asks is 'How's your boy?' My son's 14 now. He remembers that,'" Evans said.

Evans left Cleveland after one year and eventually moved to Portland to work in the Blazers' corporate communications department.

Alone in a new city and regretting not taking an improv class while attending Northwestern, he decided to join the ComedySportz improv class. He recalls improvising a scene between a soccer coach and a soccer mom. The woman who played the mom is now Evans' wife.

"At end of scene. I said 'Wow, that was really good.' She didn't understand why it wouldn't have been but they aren't all good," Evans said.

Through improv, Evans says he has enhanced his communication and leadership skills.

"For a scene to work, you have to take risks every once in a while and you have to listen. Improv scenes go awry when one character makes an offer that isn't reciprocated. It takes focus and collaboration," Evans said.

Evans felt connected to the Portland improv community and to the city itself. So when he was laid off by the Blazers, he decided to stay put and forge a career outside of basketball.

And for the past few years, he served as a specialist for the Tualatin Hills Parks and Recreation Department. This year, his boss at THPRD told him about the communications and marketing manager position at the City of Wilsonville. So he applied and during the panel interview with Wilsonville staff, he learned that the City's values align with his own.

"A culture that believes in some of the soft skills (like strong relationships, communication and empathy) is the type of culture I wanted to work in," Evans said.

His tasks include putting together the monthly Boones Ferry Messenger and framing the City's communications with the public.

"I want to make sure we're engaged in good two-way communication, that we're listening, that we're transparent, sharing council's goals and vision and communicating with the public as well as possible," he said.

Evans doesn't miss his time in the NBA in part because he gets to see his family more often but also because he still does some freelance work as a statistician during Blazers games for TNT broadcasts.

For Evans, the occasional taste of his old life is enough.

"Getting to still show up to the arena and see people in that life without having to live in that world is tremendous," he said.

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