Patrick Fletchall had an email address. That’s it.
The contact information for Mark Cuban was given to him by an IU professor last year. Cuban, who graduated from IU in 1981, is known for helping out graduates.
As a freshman on the IU men’s tennis team last year, Fletchall tucked it away in case he would need it in the future.
Fast forward one year and all Hoosier athletics in the winter and spring were canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. The men’s tennis team had jumped out to a 8-3 record before its season was cut short.
To keep the athletes engaged during the quarantine, the tennis program had arranged for speakers to meet with the team on Zoom.
As the team was searching for their next guest, Fletchall remembered the email that he acquired more than a year ago. Fletchall thought Cuban, a successful entrepreneur, would be the perfect person to reach out to. Plus, he loved watching "Shark Tank" and always saw Cuban, who’s the owner of the Dallas Mavericks, on the sideline of NBA games.
Fletchall found the Gmail of a billionaire and started typing out a note.
“Why not email him?” Fletchall thought. “The worst he can say is no.”
He introduced himself and explained that they were looking for people to speak to the team.
Fletchall told two teammates about the idea, but kept it quiet otherwise. According to an article by money.com, Cuban receives around 1,000 emails every day.
“I thought that there was like a 30 or 40% chance that he would respond,” Fletchall said.
A couple days later, Fletchall was studying for finals when a notification popped up on his phone. It was a response from Cuban.
“Wow, he actually responded,” Fletchall thought.
In a reply of all lowercase letters, Cuban said that he would love to talk to the team.
“It was so weird because I emailed a billionaire and he was responding without capital letters,” Fletchall said with a laugh.
Fletchall handed the communication to his head coach Jeremy Wurtzman, who scheduled the call with Cuban for a few days later.
When the time came, one by one, the men’s tennis players and coaches logged into the Zoom call, waiting anxiously for the arrival of Cuban.
They were all there about ten minutes early. There was laughter, and skepticism that Cuban would actually show up.
Wurtzman was hunkered down in his basement, where he makes all of his Zoom calls.
Suddenly, Cuban popped onto the screen with a black and crimson IU hat perched on his head. Wooden dressers and bookshelves filled with pictures were in the background behind him. Over his left shoulder was the Mavericks’ 2011 NBA championship trophy.
“Nothing like having Mark Cuban in your basement,” Wurtzman said.
Then, Cuban asked them what their names were and where they were from.
Fletchall pulled out his phone and snapped a picture of his computer to post on social media. It was quickly flooded with messages.
“He was very casual, very laid back and he was easy to talk to,” Fletchall said.
Cuban discussed what he looks for in employees and businesses. He relived the Mavericks championship run. He spoke about having swagger. More than anything, he emphasized the importance of being prepared and always taking time to improve yourself.
All of his stories tied back to chasing success.
“Whether that’s your serve, your strategy in your tennis game, forehand, backhand, whatever it is, you can give more,” Wurtzman said. “Whether that’s in the business world or being a doctor, you can always give a little bit more.”
Cuban also opened the microphone for questions. Fletchall’s heart was pounding when he asked about former Mavericks star Dirk Nowitzki playing tennis.
“I was like, ‘I can not mess up in front of this guy,’” Fletchall said.
At one point, Cuban recalled an anecdote about actor Jack Nicholson. One team member mistook the name for legendary golfer Jack Nicklaus.
“Yeah, we’re a big golf team,” the teammate told Cuban.
“We were all like, ‘What are you doing,’” Fletchall said with a laugh.
They talked more about the NBA season. They discussed life. No one pitched him any business ideas. After about an hour, the conversation had come to an end.
“I know that it will last for the rest of their lives,” Wurtzman said. “I think it’s something that we will be talking about and using and looking back on throughout the year and time at IU.”
Fletchall, who is majoring in sports marketing and management, wants to try to get in touch with Cuban again for an internship with the Mavericks.
“Just shoot my shot and the worst thing that he can say is no,” Fletchall said.
When Wurtzman and the coaching staff hosted recruits on visits, they would veer through a back hallway in Assembly Hall and stride past the Cuban Center, a state of the art technology center for digital production. Wurtzman would use it as a talking point and way to show the school’s prestige.
“Mark Cuban went here,” Wurtzman would say.
The next time Wurtzman passes the Cuban Center, he’ll have a different story to tell.