New acting executive director learns how to run City of Palms … – Gulfshore Business

Mary Schaack, who began her affiliation with the City of Palms Classic high school basketball tournament as an intern from Florida Gulf Coast University, has risen quite quickly to the top of the event’s totem pole in the past five years.  
An apprentice to the late John Naylor, Schaack, 31, began taking on more behind-the-scenes duties when his health began declining earlier this year.  
The 49th annual City of Palms Classic tipped off at 2:30 p.m. Friday at Florida SouthWestern State College’s Suncoast Credit Union Arena. The 16-team tournament field features 14 teams ranked among the nation’s top 75. Two other ranked teams will compete in the four-team Signature Series. The Classic has produced almost 200 McDonald’s All-Americans since 1988, and 95 NBA Draft picks in the past seven years.  
Single-day tickets start at $26. The slam dunk and three-point shootouts are slated for Sunday evening, and there will be games every day through the championship game, slated for 7 p.m. Wednesday. That will be televised on ESPNU, part of a new, 20-year operating agreement with Paragon Sports.  
Classic Basketball Inc., the nonprofit organization that operates the 16-team national tournament field, named Schaack the acting executive director. Her duties include all of the business tasks that make the event possible. She does everything short of selecting the teams, which falls to Vice President Donnie Wilkie. 
Even before Naylor died on Nov. 28 at the age of 76, Schaack managed the bookings of almost 1,000 hotel room nights for the 21 visiting teams. She has been securing funds from a myriad of sponsorships for an annual budget approaching $500,000. In the process, she realized Naylor did far more beyond those two most critical tasks to ensure the event’s success.  
For example, you can’t play basketball without the ball itself. When the ball pump broke, Schaack learned she needed to have a backup air pump handy on the job.  
A team of statisticians needed a copy machine. Naylor usually ordered that; Schaack realized she needed to.  
“When I was John’s intern, he did all that stuff,” she said. “Flights are getting delayed right and left because of the weather. Making sure the fencing around the arena is right. The air pump to inflate the balls broke. You don’t really know what goes on behind the scenes. It just doesn’t stop.”  
Schaack said she wasn’t complaining. She majored in sports business management at FGCU and is studying to earn a master’s degree in sports management at Southern New Hampshire. 
She had worked in ticket sales for the Charlotte Hornets. She liked being around basketball, but she gravitated more toward a job like Naylor’s.  
“He asked me, what do I want to do,” Schaack said. “I told him, that I wanted to take his job. He laughed, and we laughed together. And he knew. He said, ‘OK, if you want to learn, I’m going to teach you how to do it.’ Right before he passed, he told me, ‘You’re going to take my job, and you got this.’ And so, here we are.”  
The multi-year agreements with the arena and Paragon mean the Classic should continue its successful run for years to come, but Schaack has even higher goals.  
“My goal is to grow this,” she said. “There’s a lot of people who still don’t even know this exists.” 
Copyright ©2022 Gulfshore Business
Copyright ©2022 Gulfshore Business

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