Grant Hill at CRE.Converge

Grant Hill on Coach K, Leadership and Attracting Young People to CRE

Attendees at CRE.Converge this week had the unique opportunity to hear from seven-time NBA All-Star and sports icon Grant Hill. Skip Kalb, principal, Skip Kalb Strategies, LLC, and incoming chair of the NAIOP Research Foundation, interviewed Hill about lessons learned through his time in the NBA, his recent appointment to lead the USA Basketball Men’s National Team in the 2024 Olympics, his transition to a powerhouse commercial real estate investor and owner in several markets across the country, and more.

Kalb asked Hill about what he took away from his experience working with one of the most innovative and celebrated coaches in history – Mike Krzyzewski (“Coach K”) who coached him while at Duke University.

“Coach K was one of the major reasons why I gravitated towards Duke,” said Hill, who described him as “a great leader who just happened to coach basketball.” Hill said that whatever business Coach K had gone into, he would have been successful.

“He had the unique ability to get everyone on board and buy into a common vision – that was his genius.” Krzyzewski was able to get individuals from different backgrounds, different personalities, to come together and bond as a team.

“When I was first there, he would say: ‘We have five fingers on a hand, and a basketball team has five players. If those fingers separate and try to strike something, they can’t make much of an impact. But if those five fingers come together to make a fist… now you can really do damage!’”

“He taught us things that were truly transferable to any part of work or life. I’m lucky to have been a part of his legacy,” he said. “I still feel like when I’m in his presence I’m 18 and I’m in trouble,” he said with a laugh.

Hill talked about his interest in commercial real estate, and what he learned from his parents.

“My parents have been and still are very savvy real estate investors, especially in the Washington, D.C. Metro area, and they’ve never sold anything!”

Roger Staubach, a Dallas Cowboys teammate of Hill’s father and a longtime family friend who founded commercial real estate business The Staubach Company, also opened Hill’s eyes to the industry.

“I took some CCIM courses, got that designation, and started to invest in triple-net lease office space, eventually transitioning to multifamily, which is predominantly the sandbox I’ve been playing in for the last 15 years,” Hill said.

One of his recent ventures is Centennial Yards, a mixed-use development in Atlanta.

“It’s a little bit of a crazy time to be launching something like this,” Hill acknowledges, “But I’m excited to see when it comes to fruition. We think we have a chance to do something transformational in downtown Atlanta.” He added that altogether the project will invest over $4 billion into the downtown area.

In the closing Q&A, attendees asked Hill about how the commercial real estate industry can attract more young people of color into the talent pipeline.

“So many young people of color or people from different backgrounds don’t have the access or the relationships,” said Hill. “So, I think at the internship level, getting that experience is hugely important.”

Of DEI initiatives now gaining traction in corporate America, Hill said: “The way I look at it, you’re adding more seats to the table, and everyone gets the chance to participate.”

“Companies that make [DEI] a point of emphasis and bring people into the infrastructure at both the leadership level and the entry level will move the needle over time.”

Finally, Kalb asked Hill if he had any advice for youth athletes today.

“Enjoy the privilege to compete at any level you’re at. It doesn’t last forever.”

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This post is brought to you by JLL, the social media and conference blog sponsor of NAIOP’s CRE.Converge 2021. Learn more about JLL at or

Brielle Scott

Brielle Scott

Brielle Scott is Director of Marketing and Communications at NAIOP.

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