Tuesday, December 12, 2017 1:00 am
Persistence at IU help lead city native to Mavs' PR job
Stephen Hunt | For The Journal Gazette
DALLAS – Sarah Melton truly has the greatest job in the world.
That's because Melton, a South Side High School and Indiana University graduate, is now in her 19th season with the NBA's Dallas Mavericks. Melton, who moved to Dallas in 1999, has been the Mavs' public relations director since 2004.
For much of her tenure, she has worked for fellow IU graduate Mark Cuban, who bought the Mavericks in 2000. But Melton's most notable co-worker is Mavericks' superstar Dirk Nowitzki, who has been the most valuable player of the regular season and NBA Finals, and a big reason the Mavs won the 2011 NBA title.
Working on two decades with the Mavericks, Melton's love and enthusiasm for her job remains strong.
“It's been my dream job; I wanted to work in sports,” Melton said. “I didn't know that you could really do that outside of broadcasting, coaching or playing when I was a high school senior.”
Melton remembers her light bulb moment coming her freshman year at IU when the Hoosiers' former sports information director, Kit Klingelhoffer, spoke at one of her classes. Immediately, Melton knew she wanted to work in sports public relations.
She recalls harassing Klingelhoffer for an interview before he eventually hired her to work in his office, which she did her four years in Bloomington. At IU, she also worked alongside Gregg Elkin, then one of Klingelhoffer's assistants. So when the Mavericks hired Elkin as PR director in 1999, he asked Melton to move to Dallas as an intern, a position that paid $800 a month.
Following her stint as an intern, the Mavs hired Melton full time, and when Elkin departed in 2004 for a similar job with the Texas Rangers, Melton replaced him as PR director.
“I worked really hard in college to have a leg up over my classmates,” Melton said. “I was thankful for that opportunity and then it led me directly to here. I clearly went into a lot of debt (moving to Dallas), but it all worked out. I'm sitting here right now remembering those exact moments. It's crazy.”
Melton considers herself blessed to have worked for the same organization for nearly two decades. Not only has she worked for the same owner since 2000, but she's also in her 10th season of working alongside coach Rick Carlisle. She has seen countless players come and go, which makes working with franchise fixtures like Nowitzki, currently in his 20th season, and guard J.J. Barea, who has spent nine of his 12 NBA seasons in Dallas, even more special.
“Oh, she's awesome. As a player, you can trust her,” Barea said of Melton. “Anything she says goes. It's easier to deal with the media when you got somebody you can trust. She's been through it. There's this family atmosphere here. When you can keep people like Sarah around, it makes it a lot easier for the players and for everybody that's been here for a long time.”
Barea and Nowitzki were part of that 2011 NBA championship team, the Mavs' only title. Melton is incredibly thankful for that experience, but it's a time she remembers as stressful because she spent much of her time after the title-clinching victory returning emails, text messages and voice mails.
“I want to say that it was the greatest thing to happen to me. In the moment, it was so insanely busy and so stressful,” Melton said. “I'm very thankful that I had an experience where we got to the Finals and we won. I got doused with champagne. I have really wonderful pictures that capture those moments, but when I do look back, I remember exactly how busy it was. I have a ring that I never wear, but I have it. It has my name on it. People can work in sports for millions of years and never have that experience, so I'm thankful for it, but the reality of it is that it was hard work.”
During her nearly two decades in the NBA, Melton has made countless road trips with the Mavs. But no matter how many frequent flier miles she has racked up, her favorite destinations in the league have never changed.
“I love going back to the Midwest; Indianapolis and Chicago remind me of being from Indiana,” Melton said. “They're my people. I still feel at home when I'm there even though a lot of my family isn't in Indiana anymore, but I still have tons of friends that I get to see and I look forward to (changing) seasons. I was just at IU a couple weeks ago and I got to see the leaves change. There's just nothing like it; we don't have that kind of a fall here.
“I miss it. This is my home now, but I will always be a Hoosier and I'm thankful that I'm from Indiana.”