Doyel: Raise hand, repeat — how Elliot Bloom got his sports dream job – Indianapolis Star
WEST LAFAYETTE – Maybe this happened because of Purdue basketball coach Matt Painter. He’s the one who had the bizarre idea of taking his sports information guy, a former pre-med student named Elliot Bloom, and putting his publicist on his coaching staff.
Or maybe this happened because of Gene Keady. He’s the one who first gave the keys to the Purdue kingdom to Bloom. Here was a young man with no basketball experience since high school, and Keady was putting him in charge of the Boilermakers’ basketball schedule.
Or maybe this happened because of Elliot Bloom’s dad. He’s the one who wanted Colts tickets.
It was 1984, and the Colts had just moved here from Baltimore. When the team put an advertisement in the IndyStar telling fans how to apply for seats, well, Rick Bloom cheated. Rick’s dad used to work in the Star mail room, so Rick drove that night to the Star’s old building on Pennsylvania and got a newspaper literally hot off the presses. He beat the system, is what he did. He got his season-ticket application to the Colts before just about anyone else in town.
A few weeks later, a letter came by registered mail to the Bloom household in Hancock County, about 15 miles east of downtown: Season tickets at the RCA Dome. Fifty-yard line behind the visiting bench, 11 rows up.
Those seats were so good, and those early Colts teams were so bad, that Rick’s son would stop watching the game and study the sideline. He saw the team, and he saw other people too. They didn’t play or coach, but they clearly had a job. They belonged there with the team.
Elliot Bloom was maybe 7 years old and he was thinking: I want a job like that.
Maybe this happened because of grandpa.
Working behind the scenes, it wasn’t a normal dream. But Elliot Bloom wasn’t a normal kid. Eight going on 18, his parents used to tease him. So serious. So focused.
As a boy he cut his grandparents’ grass just so he could sit with his grandad afterward and listen to stories about sports. Charles Bloom gave the kid what he wanted, stories about the Cubs and Branch McCracken’s old IU teams and the Indiana Pacers in their ABA heyday.
Elliot played basketball but kept getting cut at Mount Vernon until he made the junior varsity as a 5-4 sophomore. Then came the growth spurt, and all that time shooting baskets on his driveway paid off. He made varsity as a junior and senior.
IndyStar archives show Elliot Bloom making it into the newspaper exactly one time as a basketball player at Mount Vernon. It was Feb. 11, 1995. In the local statistics that week, Bloom ranked 10th in 3-point shooting at 43 percent (51-for-118).
Same day, same paper: At 25.4 points per game, the area’s No. 4 scorer was a guard from Zionsville named Brad Stevens. At 6.6 assists per game, the No. 6 playmaker was Washington’s Jack Owens. They became head coaches, Stevens at Butler and now the Boston Celtics, Owens the new coach at Miami-Ohio after nine years as an assistant at Purdue.
As for Bloom, he wanted to be a doctor. Well, no, that’s not entirely accurate. He wanted to have a job in sports, and he knew teams needed a doctor. Yes, that’s why Elliot Bloom chose one of the most demanding career paths possible and went pre-med at Purdue. Midway through his sophomore year he was walking to class and thinking: I can’t remember what’s gonna be on this biology test – but I can remember every statistic I heard last night on ESPN.
Elliot Bloom changed his major and went into sports information.
No, I’ll tell you why this happened.
It happened because Elliot Bloom was always willing to bust his hump.
Hey kids, understand that what Elliot Bloom has done, the dream he’s living, came about not because he’s bigger or faster than anyone else. The gym rat from Mount Vernon was put in charge of Purdue’s schedule, then put on staff, because he raised his hand when there was work to be done.
The sports information department at Purdue? He badgered the SID at the time, Jim Vruggink, into an interview. Got the unpaid job. Volunteered for every assignment he could.
“I thought: ‘Hey, this is it. This is it right here,’” says Bloom, 40. “Every game, football and basketball. The old press box in Ross-Ade. Joe Tiller came aboard my junior year so football started to take off. Basketball was always having success. I was hooked.”
Summers, he was an intern at WNDE, screening calls for the “Sports Daily” talk show featuring Tim Bragg and former IndyStar sports columnist Bill Benner. When a boss at Q95 was grumbling one day that he couldn’t get his interns to work concerts, Elliot raised his hand: I’ll do it.
Soon his resume is enormous and he’s landing a post-graduate internship at Kansas, then getting on Duke’s 2000-01 sports information staff for a basketball team featuring Shane Battier, Jay Williams, Mike Dunleavy and Carlos Boozer. As the confetti and balloons fell on the Blue Devils after winning the 2001 NCAA title at the Minneapolis Metrodome, Elliot Bloom had a thought:
The only way to top this is if I could ever be part of it at Purdue.
Turns out, Purdue needed a basketball SID for the 2001-02 season. Elliot Bloom got the main job. He was 22.
“My goal was to help Purdue get where Duke had just been, however small that may be,” Bloom says. “That’s how I’ve approached my job since then. What can I do to help put Purdue in a better position to win a national championship?”
Under old-school Gene Keady, Purdue didn’t have a DOBO – director of basketball operations – which meant assistant coaches handled the administrative grunt work usually given to the DOBO. Assistant Jay Price did the scheduling, but when Price needed help finding a game for the Boilermakers, Bloom raised his hand, made some calls, got Purdue some games.
Then Bill Self left Illinois for Kansas and the dominoes started falling.
You know what happened next? A break Elliot Bloom didn’t see coming.
Kansas hired Self from Illinois. The Illini hired Bruce Weber from Southern Illinois. The Salukis hired Matt Painter off Gene Keady’s staff at Purdue. When Weber hired Jay Price at Illinois, Keady was down two assistants.
Bloom raised his hand: “Is it OK if I just pick up the ball and run with it on scheduling?” Sure, Keady said in May 2003. That’s what Matt Painter stepped into one year later when Keady brought him back as the coach-in-waiting. Painter already knew Elliot Bloom as the SID. Now the publicist was making the Purdue schedule? This just doesn’t happen in major college athletics.
Neither does this:
Painter’s DOBO, Kent Williams, left in 2008 to become an assistant at Missouri State — and Painter had an idea.
“Obviously I was around him a lot when he was the SID,” Painter says of Bloom. “When our DOBO position opened, it was a no-brainer to hire him. He’s very intelligent, has good people skills and understands how to navigate at Purdue. He has a hand in the overall success of our program, where most in that position do not.”
Former Purdue athletics director Morgan Burke used to approach Bloom about joining his staff, but Bloom didn’t want to be an assistant AD. He already has the job he wants, with an office at Mackey Arena and walls adorned by team pictures of the Boilermakers’ most recent Big Ten champions. If you look closely, you can see the former SID.
On another wall is a white electric guitar he uses to play Tom Petty songs; the amp’s behind a chair. The office is minimally decorated and usually tidy, but at the moment Bloom’s desk is clogged up by one especially large item.
The trophy case at Mackey is being enlarged, so when Purdue won the 2017 regular-season title and Matt Painter needed a temporary home for the trophy until the case was ready, well, you can imagine what happened next.
Elliot Bloom raised his hand.