BY KELLIE FREEZE | PHOTOS BY LAURA DIERBECK
Pat Connaughton is used to making an impact in sports. As he and the Bucks head toward the NBA postseason, the shooting guard is also working to establish himself as a force in the business world.
Growing up in Arlington, Mass. as the only child of Susan and Len Connaughton, Pat showed athletic promise from a young age. “My dad boasts that when I was eight months old, I threw my bottle on an airplane and it landed 10 rows back,” he laughs.
As the youngest of a bevy of cousins, Connaughton focused his frustration at being the smallest and weakest into the tireless work ethic he’s known for today. “My mom always told me, ‘Do your best. Don’t do anybody else’s best,’” he says. Connaughton used this mantra, along with advice from his father on the importance of time management, to excel in basketball, baseball and in the classroom.
“My baseball talent was always ahead of my skills in basketball,” says Connaughton. Instead of specializing in just one sport, Pat set his sights on competing in both at an elite level at the University of Notre Dame.
While an undergrad in the prestigious Mendoza College of Business, Connaughton was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles. After a successful collegiate basketball career, Connaughton declared himself eligible for the 2015 NBA draft and was selected 31st overall by the Brooklyn Nets, who immediately traded Connaughton to Portland where he spent his first three seasons. Connaughton arrived in Milwaukee in 2018 and has excelled as a multifaceted roleplayer. “When I come into a game, I come in knowing that my job is to bring energy,” he says. “Some nights it might be scoring. Some nights it might be rebounds. Some nights it might
Connaughton also adds to the Bucks as a member of Bench Mob, the team’s dynamic corps of reserves. “It doesn’t matter which one of us is playing well or not playing well,” he says. “We’re going to have a type of enthusiasm that picks everybody up, picks the arena up. It’s part of who the Bench Mob is: Bench Mob wants to win games, Bench Mob doesn’t care how we do it.”
As fans anticipate another Bucks playoff run, the team is focused on improving and winning one game at a time. “Coach Bud [Mike Budenholzer] has done a phenomenal job this year of, even in the games that we win, showing us things that we can do better,” Connaughton says. “I am striving for consistency.”
|Photo by Gary Dineen|
While Connaughton helps build a basketball dynasty with the Bucks, he’s also amassing a real estate empire. “I’ve done seven to 10 projects in different areas in the U.S., and it’s something that I thoroughly enjoy,” he says. “I started reading books about real estate on the plane and taking meetings in our hotel lobbies. My teammates started noticing and asking questions.”
Connaughton began mentoring his fellow athletes. “We have this opportunity to play a sport that we love and get compensated very well,” he explains. “This should set us up financially for life, and set our kids and our kids’ kids up for generations to come.
“I want to help athletes get involved in business and have control over their money,” he continues. “I want them to be as confident in the business world as they are when they step out onto the floor.”
Connaughton recognizes that his status as a professional athlete opens a lot of doors.
“For me, it’s about capitalizing on where I am to get in the room with leaders in business, and then utilizing who I am as a person, and my business sense, and the education I got from Notre Dame to stay in the room,” he says.
Although Connaughton’s pre-NBA knowledge of Milwaukee was slim — “I knew cheese,” he laughs — as a member of the Bucks, he’s fallen in love with Milwaukee.
“Basketball-wise, it speaks for itself: I love the ownership; I love the management; I love the coaching staff; and most importantly, I love the guys on the team,” he says. “And as a city, I love the people here and I enjoy seeing Milwaukee getting the attention it deserves as a city on the rise. And that’s part of the reason I’m investing in the city. I believe in it and I want to be part of its growth as it continues.”
Connaughton is building his first real estate project in Milwaukee, a luxurious three-unit building near the MSOE campus. And when he has downtime, he can be found sampling the city’s cuisine.
“I love Calderone Club. I love San Giorgio — they’re right next to each other. I like Carnivore a lot and I really like BelAir Cantina,” he says. “I’ve found the places that I like most are the places where I’ve developed a good relationship with the owners and the people who work there.”
In the off-season, Connaughton usually heads back to Massachusetts, but this summer he also plans to enjoy our Lake Michigan shoreline.
“I’ve always been an ocean guy,” he says. “I love being on the water. But I’ve seen the beaches that go along the lakefront and I want to experience what lake life is all about.”
When Connaughton sat down with MKE Lifestyle in late January, he hadn’t yet been named a participant in February’s Slam Dunk Contest but another goal was on his mind: “I’d love to have Aaron Rodgers bomb me the ball.”
Reminded of his own multisport success, Connaughton jokes that under different circumstances he might have played on another Milwaukee team. “Last year, I was fortunate to throw out the first pitch at a Brewers game. ...That didn’t go too well,” he groans. “But Craig Counsell’s a Notre Dame guy. One of their assistant coaches, Pat Murphy, was a legendary head coach at Notre Dame. I’ve met Christian Yelich a few times and he’s great.
“So yeah, I’ve met the MVP and I play with basketball’s MVP — maybe I could just switch jerseys.” MKE