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Ashley Brown: Former Evans basketball player now a hotel president

Posted: March 29, 2017 - 1:36am
Former Evans basketball player Randy Hassen is now president for hotel management at McKibbon Hospitality. Special
Former Evans basketball player Randy Hassen is now president for hotel management at McKibbon Hospitality. Special

I remember it like it was yesterday, even though it was more than 30 years ago. It was the summer before my freshman year at Evans High School and there were whispers about a pair of 6-foot-6 brothers from Minnesota who played basketball. I was a basketball player myself, and I was more than a little excited. Evans already had a talented group of young guards, and now we would have a couple of big post players to make us region, and maybe even state, contenders.

After meeting the Hassen brothers, it was clear the younger brother, Randy, was the more talented of the two and had some true upside. Randy was a freshman in 1985-86, while his brother, Rob, was a sophomore. That first season, Randy started on the junior varsity, but his size was too appealing for Varsity Coach Danny Black and Hassen soon was dressing with the varsity squad. He would spend his sophomore season as a reserve post player, but he played quality minutes. By the time his junior campaign rolled around, Hassen was ready to be a force inside for the Knights. He had a solid season and was primed for an even bigger final prep season in 1988-89.

As a senior, Hassen led a talented Evans team by averaging more than 13 points and 10 rebounds per contest. He parlayed his size and ever-improving ability into a spot on the USC Aiken men's basketball team. Hassen spent two seasons with the Pacers before transferring to the University of Georgia. The minute he stepped foot in Athens, Hassen knew he had made the right decision. UGA offered Hassen the true college experience: a sprawling campus, football games in the fall and always something to do.

Also, he planned to continue his basketball career by walking onto the Bulldogs squad. However, he never made it to the tryouts. Needing to make a little extra cash, Hassen applied for a job at The Days Inn in downtown Athens (it would later become a Courtyard Marriott), and even though it was only going to pay $4.50 per hour, he needed the money more than he needed basketball at that time. Little did Hassen know the decision to take that low-paying, part-time job would change his life.

"I still have that application," Hassen said. "It asked what position and salary I wanted, and when could I start. I answered, any position, open to any salary, and that I could start immediately."

Nearly 26 years later, Hassen is with the same company - albeit with a little nicer salary. Hassen took advantage of a scholarship program the hotel offered to study hotel management in college. Then, after graduating, he was offered a chance to move to Tampa, Fla., and help spearhead a revitalization of sorts within the company. The company, and Hassen's role within it, saw tremendous growth. He was no longer checking in people at midnight at the Days Inn in Athens. He quickly worked his way into upper management, thanks to that work ethic that seems to be an ongoing theme in this story.

Today, it is rare that you find a president or CEO of a company that actually climbed the corporate ladder, but that is exactly what Hassen did. He had parents who raised him the right way. He was taught that honesty, integrity and hard work were the keys to success. He had a high school basketball coach in Danny Black who demanded 100 percent effort, 100 percent of the time. He was also fortunate to work under Van Herring for 23 of his 26 years in the hotel industry. Herring is the CEO of McKibbon Hospitality and has been Hassen's mentor for more than two decades. McKibbon has three main divisions: Development, Renovation Services and Hotel Management (third-party and their own properties). Hassen, who started as a night time clerk making $4.50 per hour, is now the president of hotel management for McKibbon.

When he arrived in Tampa fresh out of college, the company had 12 to 15 aging properties. Hassen has helped oversee huge renovations and even larger growth. McKibbon now manages more than 80 properties for notable companies like Marriott and Hilton.

I have done plenty of stories on athletes from the county who went on to have success at the college level, and some even made it professionally in their sport of choice. Hassen did play a little college ball, but certainly never made it as a pro on the hardwood. I may enjoy this story even more. He took a great family foundation, a positive demeanor and uncanny work ethic, definitely enhanced by his sports background, and parlayed it into a career most can only dream of.

Only 0.03 percent of high school basketball players go on to be NBA draft picks. Well, I haven't run the numbers, but my guess is that about the same percentage of college kids who take the lowest job on the totem pole at a given company go on to one day become a president of that same company.

To say that I'm proud of what my friend has done with his life would be an understatement. I also know he isn't finished, and I'm excited to see what he does with the next 25 years.

 

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