The Long Island Nets, not to be confused with big brother Brooklyn, is building a unique fan base one kid at a time. 

During Tuesday’s 106-86 win over the Grand Rapids Drive at Nassau Coliseum, Long Island Nets head coach Ronald Nored could tell that something was different from the previous three home games.

“Man it was loud,” said Nored. “It was really loud. I found myself having to scream a little louder in the huddles.”

You could attribute that to the crowd of 2,874 that came to see that game. But the atmosphere created wasn’t just due to the biggest crowd of the season but by the makeup of the crowd. It was Long Island Nets Education Day, meaning a majority of the crowd was comprised of students from local schools who attended the 11 a.m. ET matinee.

Long Island Nets
Long Island Nets

“It was an awesome loud,” said Nored. “It was good to have kids from our community here to see our brand of basketball and enjoy the experience here at the Coliseum.”

Each kid was given a packet with educational related activities, games, and quizzes geared to basketball. In their inaugural season at the Coliseum, the Brooklyn Nets G-League affiliate has made a strong commitment to the community with a fun experience and family affordable entertainment.

“We’re really happy,” said Alton Byrd, the Long Island Nets Vice-President of Business Operations. “I think if you look at the purpose of kids education day, it’s blending education and basketball. There’s so much around science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Basketball is all about statistics. We’re happy with the reaction and happy with the way kids have participated and the interaction. It’s something to build on.”

“Building” is the keyword.

As the new team in town, the Nets have begun the process of being a fan base on Long Island after playing their first season at Barclays Center in Brooklyn while the Coliseum was undergoing a massive renovation. Now that they’re in their permanent home, the Nets are rolling up their sleeves to get the word out and Tuesday’s event was a big part of that initiative.

Live everything else they are establishing this season, the annual education day game will grow each year.

“Everything that we’re doing this year is a foundational piece and a platform to build on,” said Byrd. “We’re really happy with the way it turned out. We look forward two or three years and this is going to be a monster event.”

At all other Nets home games, there is an interactive kids zone behind one of the baskets with games and inflatables. It wasn’t in operation on Tuesday because if the education day activities, but it’s been a big part of the Long Island Nets game day experience this season. But on Tuesday, there was still plenty of fun for the kids to enjoy on and off the court.

Peter Schwartz
Peter Schwartz
Peter Schwartz

In addition to the packet that the kids were given, there were a plethora of education activities that took place in the arena during timeouts. Kids were chosen out of the crowd to be on the video board with in-arena hostess to answer some basketball related questions that required some thinking. There were also t-shirts fired into the crowd and the players signed some autographs after the game.

What the Nets are now hoping is that these kids now become unofficial members of the team’s sales department if they went home and told their parents how cool of an experience they had.

“Kids will pester their parents into taking them somewhere that they want to go,” said Byrd during our halftime chat on Tuesday. “We hope that the kids will have a good experience and then low and behold the parents go oh I want to go back to that. We have a lot of room for growth and we believe that if we address and really cater to families and kids, we’ll build a fan base for years to come.”

The G-League is the NBA’s developmental league so coming to a game is a chance to see some players that could very well get called up the Brooklyn Nets or another NBA team. It’s a fast-paced brand of basketball but on this particular day, the action on the court equaled if not exceeded by the energy in the seats.

“At the beginning of the game you can see (the kids) were energetic,” said Nets forward J.J. Moore who played college basketball at Rutgers. “Throughout the whole game they were energetic. Hopefully they can tell their family, friends and everybody to come down to a game.”

This was not the first time that the Coliseum hosted a morning sporting event geared to children. The Islanders once played a morning “Cool School” pre-season game with the tickets being distributed to local schools. The former Arena Football League team the New York Dragons, who were owned by the Islanders, also had a similar event for one of their pre-season games during their time at the Coliseum.

The Long Island Nets have hit the ground running in their first season at Nassau Coliseum. They provide a quality product on the court and their spending countless hours in the community. But as they build their fan base, they know that the best way to do it is to make an impression on the young fans who will want to keep coming back to see more games at the Coliseum.

“We want that opportunity to have kids, families, and parents coming out and having a really good time in a building friendly place for basketball.”

The basketball is fun to watch, but an afternoon or evening at a Long Island Nets game is more than just what happens on the court. It’s about the whole experience from the time you walk into the Coliseum until the time that you leave. I took my family to the home opener on November 4th and it resulted in exactly what the Nets want this experience to be about.

One of the Nets players tossed a towel to my older son Bradley coming off the court after the game and then he was able to get some of the players to sign his game program. My younger son Jared had a great time as well watching the game and also spending time at the kids zone. On the way out, he said something that is no doubt music to the Long Island Nets’ ears.

“Dad, when are we coming back to another game?,” asked Jared.

To play off an old NBA slogan from years ago … ”Long Island Nets Basketball … It’s Fantastic!”

Peter has been working in the New York sports media since 1989. He is currently an update anchor for CBS Sports Radio and WFAN. Peter is also the public address announcer for the NY Cosmos of the NASL and is a play by play announcer for high school sports on News 12 Varsity. An avid Islanders, Jets, and Yankees fan, Peter resides on Long Island with his wife Sheryl and their sons Bradley and Jared who side with their mother in rooting for the Mets!