Doug Hicks was an economics major at James Madison in the early 1990s, sitting through classes he didn’t much care about and lacking a clear sense of what he would do for the rest of his life. Then his mom suggested he take advantage of his love of sports by working in a professional team’s front office.
MLS hadn’t yet launched in 1993. Hicks’s other favorite sport was basketball, and the “local” pro team was the Bullets. So without any experience or contacts, he sent a cover letter to the franchise, receiving a rejection letter in turn.
Still, Hicks persisted, asking for an “informational interview,” which led to an internship with the team’s then-modest marketing and public relations department. Hicks took the position, transferred to George Mason and threw himself into the world of D.C. sports. He never left.
“As soon as I started working, I was like, ‘This is unbelievable,’ ” Hicks recently told me. “I was just blown away by how much I loved it….I was just doing everything, right in the middle of everything, from running for coffee to writing press releases to grabbing guys for interviews. It was basic stuff, but I was just thrilled to be there.”
The internship became a real job — first with the Bullets’ customer service division, and then back in PR and marketing. Hicks was with the Bullets with Gheorghe Muresan and Rod Strickland, with Juwan Howard and Chris Webber, through the memorable playoff loss to Michael Jordan and the Bulls in 1997.
As he was completing the team’s media guide for the next season, Susan O’Malley told him the organization needed him to move over to the Caps. He told O’Malley, Abe Pollin and Wes Unseld that he loved working for the Bullets and knew nothing about hockey; they urged him to try it for a year.
“When Abe Pollin asks you to do something, you do it,” he said, and so Hicks started as the Caps’ PR director — the youngest in the NHL — before the 1997-98 season, which ended in the Stanley Cup Finals.
By 2001 he moved on to D.C. United, where he was the team’s vice president of communications for more than a decade. He managed the Freddy Adu mania, won four league-wide public relations awards, and was with the club through its 2004 MLS Cup victory, back-to-back regular-season trophies and several major front-office shakeups.
But Hicks, 43, lost his job last fall amid United’s latest reorganization, and recently was hired as the vice president of communications for the Chicago Fire. He’s already been working in Chicago for several weeks; this week he and his family will officially move from their Arlington home.
He is thrilled to be joining the Fire, of course, but is also leaving the city whose sports teams helped build his career, the place he’s spent his entire adult life.
Washington was where he learned to deal with big personalities, from players like Rod Strickland and Olie Kolzig to media stars like George Michael and Michael Wilbon. Washington was also where he learned to react to big stories; he was was in Denver the night Jim Lynam was fired, in Chinatown the night Verizon Center opened, in the office when Bullets officials learned Larry Stewart had been shot.
He dealt with future coaches while they were still competing: Olsen with United, Adam Oates and Dale Hunter with the Caps. He even met his wife while with United; Carrie was then working with a television real estate program that had gone to RFK Stadium for a shoot.
Hicks said he will remain a Bullets and Caps fan, although his MLS loyalties have obviously shifted. And he said he wanted to thank this city for everything.
“I’m really proud of all of the work I’ve done, the career that I leave here in D.C.,” Hicks told me. “I’m leaving with fond memories and a grateful heart.”