Since leaving his post as general manager of the Boston Celtics in 1997, Jan Volk ’68 has become an everyman in the world of sports.
He spends his days as the CEO of SportsPix, a company he founded that photographs sporting events throughout the region. Until last year, he had worked as a consultant for multiple NBA teams. And for over a decade he’s been on the faculty at Tufts University, teaching about the business of sports.
How is Volk able to balance all of these different ventures? “It’s a labor of love,” he said.
It wasn’t long after his nearly three-decade career with the Celtics that Volk jumped back into athletics. He first took a role consulting in the NBA. Sports photography quickly followed.
Throughout his life Volk has had a keen interest in photography. He took pictures at his son’s high school football games, and though Volk says he didn’t always get the best shots of his own kid, other parents were impressed by the photos he took of their children. The idea for a business was born.
“I played soccer in college and three different sports in high school, yet I don’t have any pictures of me,” said Volk, a grandfather of two who lives in suburban Boston. “These are special times in the lives of parents, and they won’t get a second chance to get pictures of their kids playing sports.”
It’s a seven-day-a-week job, Volk says, as he and his staff cover anything from youth sports to college athletics. Yet despite the demanding, nontraditional nature of his work, Volk couldn’t be happier.
“It’s really a combination of a job and a passion,” he said.
Around the same time that he started SportsPix, Volk began a longstanding relationship with Tufts, where he teaches a popular course called The Business of Sports, bringing his experience as an NBA executive into the classroom. “I really love the interactions I have with the students,” said Volk.
“It challenges me every time I’m there, because they are so knowledgeable about what’s going on and they really keep me on my feet.”
Volk brings in guest lecturers, from agents to members of the media, providing different perspectives on the evolving world of sports business. “I really like making my classes interactive,” he said. “I want a lot of discussion and analysis of hypothetical situations.”
After leaving the Celtics, Volk spent time as a consultant in the NBA, working for the Denver Nuggets and Atlanta Hawks. Now based in suburban Boston, Volk still keeps close tabs on the Celtics. But these days, Volk watches the team’s from a fan’s perspective.
“Like any other fan, I was surprised and disappointed to see Ray Allen go,” he said. “And now he goes to their archrival [Miami] and will compete against them. But the team had done a nice job retooling their roster. I really think they will be contenders next year.”
He should know. Basketball legend Red Auerbach named Volk his successor in 1984, a life-changing event. “On a daily basis, Red would push you to see what your limits were. He wanted to see how much he could get out of you. Red was always testing me. Thankfully, I ended up passing.”