Danny Kordahi Q&A with Matt McQuade

The Co-Founder of DKM Blue & No1 Draft Pick, Danny Kordahi, is a man with seemingly boundless energy.

From heading a company that employs 25 staff and has offices in Sydney, London and Shanghai; to being the patriarch of a young family with a pair of boys keen on sport and an active daughter – Danny’s days are full, yet he meets everything with the same passion, determination and positivity he always has from his very early days.

He’s a man who draws others to him through his generous nature and easy going personality. One of the most respected individuals in both the business and sporting worlds, he has a way of connecting with people at all levels.

And through the great relationships Danny has built over many years in both sport and business, he has done a lot of outstanding work to benefit the sport for which he has tremendous passion – basketball.

That love of the game, the passion he feels every time he steps on to the court and watches his sons follow in their dad’s footsteps as an extremely talented player – are key reasons why he decided to start No1 Draft Pick.

He’s got enormous plans and he dreams big – hallmarks of an individual who is a success in business, sport, and life in general.

Danny spoke to Matt McQuade about No1 Draft Pick and his goals for the company.

Firstly, and this is a tough one – how much do you love basketball?

Basketball is a passion. It’s been a passion for me since the age of ten when I first picked up a basketball. Now my children are following in my footsteps by taking up the game, playing and loving it as much as I do. This has just increased my passion ten-fold.

What’s your history in the game?

I played as a junior for my school (De La Salle Ashfield) and loved that making the NSWCCC team. From there I tried out in the mid-80s for the Western Suburbs representative team, made that team and had an opportunity to play rep basketball for a number of years. My goal after that was to hopefully one day play as a professional and become an NBL player.

Basketball has been great to me because it’s allowed me to travel the world. I captained my high school team on a tour of the United States, got a chance to travel to the Philippines and play as an import to experience the craziness that is basketball over there and played for an Australian-Lebanese representative team that went to Lebanon twice.

Later on, while I was attending the University of Wollongong, I played for the Illawarra Hawks youth league team for Coach Larry Johnson, whose two sons, Terry and Rod, played in the NBL, and he was a great mentor for me. I then graduated to the State League playing for Hornsby, did that for a few years, but then due to a back injury I suffered had to give up competitive basketball at the age of 27. That was tough for me.

You’re a highly successful businessman and entrepreneur. Why did you start No1 Draft Pick?

I love sports administration. And I love the game so much that I really want it to succeed.

No1 Draft Pick actually started over a game of golf with Steve Carfino and came about mainly because my kids didn’t really have anywhere to play at a representative level locally – we always had to travel to give them the chance to try out for a team. So I spoke to Steve, and asked him what he thought we could do to help basketball in the area. He was unsure at first, particularly on the business side of things, but was keen on getting involved, so I told him that I would look after the business side and he would be the head coach and the face of No1 Draft Pick, which he agreed to.

From there, we’ve just evolved. We knew we had a unique product in the area, but it had to be a quality product, because if it’s not, people won’t come. The big attraction for us is that the people we were marketing to initially were people who were around when the sport was in its heyday in the 1990s. The mums and dads that are bringing their kids to our camps are the ones that grew up idolising Steve Carfino when he was playing for the Sydney Kings. That made our job a lot easier in terms of growing and building our brand.

There are a number of different academies around in Sydney. What differentiates No1 Draft Pick from the rest?

Our key point of difference is that we get quality coaches in and we mix things up, so the kids aren’t learning from just one coach and hearing just one voice; they are learning from multiple coaches who specialise in different areas. That gives the attendees a well-rounded experience.

We’ve got the likes of Damian Cotter; we’ve had Shane Heal; we’ve had an NBA-accredited personal trainer to work with the kids; Sam Gruggen, who was an assistant coach with the Townsville Crocodiles, has worked with us; and now we’ve just had an NBL legend in Wayne McDaniel join the team. So we’ve got a diverse range of coaches who teach at all skill levels, and the kids seem to really love that.

What’s also great are the many options we provide. Our school holiday camps are great fun and the kids get a chance to interact with others in their own age group and same skill level; we have development academies during the school term that allows kids to keep honing and developing their skills and then we’ve got our elite camps that cater for rep players wanting to take their skills to the next level.

You talked about the coaches and that coaching roster is as good as it gets. How have you managed to put that all together?

I think the key thing is sharing a vision for the game. I think once you articulate that vision and what you want to achieve, then good people will follow. Really, it’s as simple as that.

When it comes to the classes, the coaching clinics and the camps, what is your philosophy and the organisation’s philosophy on how they are run?

What we are trying to achieve is that it’s fast-paced, it’s a learning environment and most importantly the kids need to have fun and see they are improving.

We want the children to understand that everyone starts somewhere. Whether you are a superstar in the NBA or a beginner that’s picked up a basketball for the first time – everyone has been in the same position. So we don’t want the kids to feel uncomfortable in any way when they come to us for the first time and maybe worry that they don’t have enough skills. It’s all about teaching them and getting them to understand that it’s a long journey and doesn’t happen overnight.

It’s all the same in life and in business – in anything you do, really. It’s all about hard work and perseverance, getting yourself to other side of that tunnel and becoming a different person.

What’s the ultimate goal of No1 Draft Pick?

There’s a lot of different things we are working on in the business. The vision – and maybe you could call it an audacious goal – is to have someone from our program become the number one draft pick in either the NBA or WNBA. I mean – imagine finding someone who reaches that level! That’s the biggest dream we have. People might laugh about that, but without the dream, nothing can happen. Without the passion, nothing can be achieved.

We’d also like to be able to facilitate the opportunity for kids to go over and play in the United States in the NCAA college system under a scholarship and provide them with an education. Once they graduate, the hope is they then get the opportunity to play in a professional league.

In the end, we understand that not everyone is going to progress to that level. But we hope that No1 Draft Pick is able to impact every young person we engage with in a positive way, that the kids have fun and enjoy the chance to improve their skills and develop a sense of teamwork, and ultimately from working with us come away as better human beings.

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