How Did Hassan and Meleata Pinto Raise 3 D1 Student Athletes?

Hassan and Meleata Pinto are rockstar parents and professionals. All three of their children are on full scholarships playing soccer – at Elon then transferring to Duke, at UNC to play for the legendary Anson Dorrance, and at Princeton – all elite schools both academically and athletically.

Hassan is now the Senior VP of Business Development at Creative Allies, and Meleata is the Global Marketing Director at Lenovo. So while chasing their dreams professionally, how did they raise such great talent? What’s the magic? What’s in the Pinto water?

The Donald Thompson Podcast is hosted by Walk West CEO, mentor, investor, and Diversity and Inclusion Consultant Donald Thompson.

Music for this episode provided by Jensen Reed from his song, “You Can’t Stop Me”.

The Donald Thompson Podcast is edited and produced by Earfluence. For more on how to engage your community or build your personal brand through podcasting, visit

Donald Thompson:  Welcome to the Donald Thompson Podcast and today I have two great friends of mine, Meleata and Hassan Pinto. Welcome to the show guys.

Hassan Pinto: Hey, how are ya?

Meleata Pinto: Hey, thank you for having us.

Donald Thompson: You’re very welcome. One of the things that I’ve been really, in a genuine way, excited to talk to you guys together, right? I’ve talked to you guys individually and we’ve seen each other over the years, but as a couple, and both of you guys are accomplished business people, and I want you guys to share just a little bit about that background, but we really want to dig in today about how you make the magic work. And what I’m going to tell my audience, I’m going to give you a little snippet on the magic because both of these guys are very accomplished, but also very humble and Meleata works in global marketing for Lenovo, extremely successful MBA, rockstar, as a career professional.

Hassan is a serial entrepreneur.  He serves as the, senior vice president for Creative Allies. And he’ll tell you among the many different things, sold businesses, grown companies, has a beer brand that he’s working on and they have three amazing kids, all scholarship athletes. You guys correct me if I’m wrong, Princeton, Duke, UNC, right?

And all accomplished division one athletes. And one of the things we want to talk about is certainly their business successes, but how they’ve blended that all together into a great family life. And a great example for a lot of us. So, Hassan, why don’t you take the ball first and then pass it to Meleata, but we want to give it a little background on how you guys met.

Hassan Pinto: Great story.

Donald Thompson: And then we’ll dig into some of the family stuff and weave in some other things along the way.

Hassan Pinto: So the way we met was a friend of ours, a mutual friends of ours on your softball team, told me she had a girl that was perfect for me. And I said, you know, I don’t know.

I don’t need any help in that category. I, you know, I can do what I, I, I’m okay. You don’t have to set me up. I met this wonderful young lady at Players  in Chapel Hill was like the renowned hookup spot in Chapel Hill.

Meleata Pinto: It was an athlete bar in Chapel Hill. It is legendary.

Hassan Pinto:  She said hello to me. One of my friends was like, Hey, there’s this girl Meleata. She’s, she’s given me vibes. I said, ah, go get her. I said, see what happens. And you know, I was, and I was actually testing her to see if, you know, this was for me or that was for him. And so it ended up for me, right?

Meleata Pinto: Yes, the great story, from that night is we had a good time, we danced and hung out or whatever, and  Hassan was going to take me home. Back then, pre cell phones, I told my girlfriends, first of all, I told them earlier in the night and I was like, I think this is the one. Not quite sure why, why jumped to that immediately?

But I definitely did tell them that. And then I told them that if I wasn’t home in 15 minutes to come to room. Five oh Five.

Hassan Pinto: That’s a true story.

Meleata Pinto: Five Oh five. If you go back and look at our wedding video, all of my girlfriends talk about room 505, but I was back at my dorm room, in Morrison dorm in 15 minutes. Hassan was a perfect gentleman, and he dropped me off .


And then we, and then we started hanging out

Hassan Pinto: And we started hanging out. Yeah.

Meleata Pinto: We had fun. It was college. We had a really good time. We just found out that we had a lot in common. We were, both athletes, you know, we came from out of state and we just found out that we had a lot of commonalities and like to have fun and had a pretty diverse group of friends. And we’ve continued that to this day.

Hassan Pinto: For me, I always wanted to do stuff that was just kind of out of the ordinary. And so I was always looking for the young lady I thought I could build something special with and she was that person. So net net, if we tell the true story, I was the guy with like the junkie car, old model car.

She was the girl with the nice new car and she jumped in my car and she didn’t care. Kind of like a Michelle, Barack Obama type thing. But I had like super, super big dreams. And part of the reason why she went to Fuqua  business school is because her grades went up when she started dating me. I told her she had to study.  and I had really big dreams.

And I said, look, I’m, you know, I’m not settling for what I’m supposed to do, I’m going to settle for what I wanna do. And she really, she would always encourage me. She said, Hey, you can do this. You can do that and that’s really for me why I think we worked, because I felt like this was somebody I could build something special with.

Donald Thompson: That’s  awesome. When you think about transitioning from college and then going into the workforce and then starting to chase some of those dreams, tell me about some of the ups and downs there along the way  that built your story, those lessons that were learned.

Hassan Pinto: You start,

Meleata Pinto: Oh, I’ll start that.

So Hassan’s a year older than me and he graduated and his brother was moving out to Los Angeles to go back to grad school at USC and Hassan had big dreams. That’s part of the reason, one of the reasons I was attracted to him is he or he always talked about doing big amazing things. So at this time, he’s like, I’m going to LA, I’m going to, I’m going to meet Jerry West and I’m going to work for the Lakers.

He was like, but I’m going to do, let’s go after it. So, again, pre-internet, we spent some time writing some letters to Mitch Kupchak, who at that time was the general manager of the Los Angeles Lakers. Mitch is also an alumni of UNC Chapel Hill as well as Brentwood High school, which is where Hassan is from.

We started that letter writing campaign and then I’ll let Hassan tell the rest of the story about getting out.

Hassan Pinto:  So she would say, Hey Haas, on this day of the month, no internet access. She’d say, Hass, we write our letter. It’s like, yeah, we’re going to write our letter. So every day of the month, for 12 months, we wrote Mitch Kupchak.

And, he never wrote us back. So, when I said, Hey, I’m going to work for the Lakers, the final, I guess in the 12th month of me leaving for Los Angeles. I said, Hey Mitch. Basically, thank you for not returning my letter, but I’m coming out to Los Angeles. I’ll be there next two weeks.

My brother and I took a two week road trip. We went to every college town in the nation that we wanted to go to.

Meleata Pinto: Along I 40.

Hassan Pinto: Along I 40 and we partied across the country for two weeks. We went to Vegas and went to Tyson Holyfield 2, in Vegas. And then came into Los Angeles and the next day, I think the day after I came, and my brother said, well, what are you going to do?

I said, going to get my job. He said, how you gonna get this job, Hass? I said, well, he’s gotta walk in some door, I said, so I’m going to walk in that door. I’m going to figure out where it is. And I’m going to say I’m here. I’m going to say, give them a little packet. I had it prepared. She prepared it for me, and I said, I’m going to tell him I’m living in Los Angeles and it’s time for me to get my job. So there’s a, when you walk into the Lakers front office, which was in the Forum. At the Forum, like in the forum club address, there’s a secretary outside of the secretary, so I had asked the secretary Jerilyn, does Mitch Kupchak and Jerry West walk by this and enter that door that she said, yeah, every day.

And I said, okay, can you do me one favor? Can you just give him this packet and say, he came in here. And this is his packet and he will be back tomorrow at 10:00 AM. So and I was dressed for my meeting that day. So, I went back to my apartment with my brother and he said, what happened? I said, well, my meetings tomorrow.

He said, well, how do you know that? I said, I don’t know it. I’m just getting dressed for my meeting and I’m going there tomorrow. So the following day I’m dressed up. Meleata calls me, she wakes me up cause you were waking me up every morning.

Meleata Pinto: At that point, I was living in DC working for the state department.

Hassan Pinto: And so she woke me up. She said, you ready for your meeting? I said, I’m ready for my meeting and I put on my suit. And I went to Jerilyn and I said, can you call Mitch and say I’m here for my 10:00 AM? So Tinea his assistant basically said she was worried that she didn’t have Mitch and Jerry’s 10:00 AM on her appointment book.

And so what happened was she went back to them and said, do you have Hassan here for your 10:00 AM ? And they were like, Ha, Hassan who? And he was like, Hassan Pinto, he’s out in the lobby. Do you have a 10:00 AM with them? And so basically I wasn’t on the 10:00 AM, but they were like, we’ll meet with you in 30 minutes.

And so that’s how I got in the door. So it was persistence, perseverance, and some good, good old, I would say luck say luck and blessings. Yeah.

Meleata Pinto: Yeah little blessings along the way.

Donald Thompson: Yeah. I mean that, I mean, I think for entrepreneurs, for people chasing a dream, you have to be a little out there to believe enough for it to work.

Because if you don’t believe enough, you’re going to only do a little bit when you’ve got to be fully committed, win, lose, or draw, and I’m getting chills a little bit about that story only because like that’s just the story of my life also. There’s no way I just look, all right, I’m going to start a marketing company.

Well Don, you don’t know marketing. It’s like, yeah, but I’ll figure it out. It’ll, it’ll be big. You know, people will want to do this, so it’ll, it’ll be big.

Right? And you just start and you ask questions, and you learn, and you read and you get nos. You get fired, you get hired,  but  you keep pushing. And so many people think it’s a microwave outcome for success. And really it’s that perseverance. So 12 months of letters and then Meleata. I appreciate your humility, but like this podcast is not the moment. You just dropped and Oh yeah, I was in DC working for the state department. Right. So.

Hassan Pinto: That was supposed  to be her real life. That was supposed to be her real life.

Meleata Pinto: After I graduated, I moved home for a year, lived at home and ended up being a defense contractor working at the state department in DC. And back then, that was actually the first time the government had ever run out of money. So this was back in ’95, ’96 timeframe. So the government was furloughed and it was shut down, around the Thanksgiving timeframe.

But I was a contractor. My contract had been paid and at that point, there still wasn’t widespread internet, so it wasn’t like I could go, go to the office and just, surf the internet for hours at a time because there wasn’t any work to be done and the work that I did, that I was responsible for, I could pretty easily complete that in under a week. So you’re talking, okay, I’ve done my work for the month and now I’m chilling. Well as a wide eyed 22 year old, I was like, I don’t want my life to be this. I don’t, I don’t want this experience. I can give so much more. So at that time Hassan’s been joking about how I was his wake up call in Los Angeles.

Hassan Pinto: She’d wake me up, it was three hours early. It was ten o clock, seven o’clock. She’d wake me up.

Meleata Pinto: So 10:00 AM every morning. I would call him up and we chit chat cause I was at work. I, I didn’t have any work to do and we would just talk about our dreams and what we wanted to do. And I, at that time, I was like, Oh, I think I should have really done journalism while I was in school.

I should have gone down the RTVMP, major at UNC. But I chose to do industrial relations and business. And so Hassan was chasing his dreams and he kept encouraging me to chase mine. So I worked at the state department for about 11 months before I said, you know what? I can do more. And I quit my job, and my parents blessed the move.

So I moved across country to, live with Hassan and chase my dreams. And he has been fortunate because he got brought on as an intern with the Lakers. And so he was starting to meet people in Los Angeles. And, he introduced me, to Todd Fritz at ESPN. So I went in to interview and, interviewed with Deb Vogel and and Todd and Jason Ram and those are, those are my people. Like even to this day, those are my people. They gave me my start in television and started as an intern working on, Up-close with Roy Firestone. yeah. Yeah. So, Roy is a gem, he is just as genuine and person, as he appears to be in Jerry Maguire. So that was really my start in television. And, they gave me special assignments that actually led to future growth in television. So, I got a special assignment one day and I worked with Mark Shapiro, who now leads, Endeavor Entertainment

Hassan Pinto: Well make sure that they know what Endeavor is.

Meleata Pinto: Yes, it’s definitely, William Morris IMG.

Hassan Pinto: Yeah and he’s actually what, Ari Gold from like Entourage? He’s that guy. No, he’s that guy in real life, Ari Gold.

Meleata Pinto: So at the time? You know, this has been 20 years ago, but Mark was an up and comer with ESPN. He was producing the Take Two show with Jim Rome. And Mark had broken his, his thumb. And so I was his assistant for the day and, we hit it off.

He’s, he’s a great guy, great leader. and you know, casually that day, that one day he was like, Hey, if you want to move back to the East coast, I have a job for you. Like, super casual. I had been in LA for a short amount of time at that point, and actually was working part time, on the Up Close show and found out I was pregnant.

So I was pregnant with little Haas at the time and really still building my career and so I really didn’t think anything of it that, the folks that I worked with on Up Close were super supportive. Jason Ram and Steve Michaels and Chris Myers, who’s now on Fox. Those guys really gave me the support I needed to continue my career.

And when Hassan decided, gosh, it was two years later that he, that he wanted to go back to grad school, and we wanted to move back to the East coast. My path was already, it was already tracked at that point. So a couple of phone calls later, and Hassan’s pursuing his master’s degree and I got brought on at ESPN Sports Century.

Hassan Pinto: Yeah. So, it’s really been for us is like, dream your biggest dream. And I brought her out to the Los Angeles. I brought out a person who was my wife, and you know, I, I knew that this was the person that I was going to be with forever, but at the same time, I selected her to be my girlfriend years back because I knew I could build something with her and I could, dream build, and I knew she would, especially when she would ride in my car, I was like, wow, this girl, this girl would, this young lady is a ride or die. I was like, I said, look, we can dream the biggest dream. And I, I really wasn’t interested in the young ladies who were really materialistic that you had to have this, you had to do that because I saw materialism as being restrictive to your dreams, right?

And I felt like if you really want it to live the biggest dreams you had to be, you know, entrepreneurs are people who are dreaming what they want their life to be or what they want their business to be. But it’s not that at the moment. And so I needed someone to have delayed gratification and get the gratification from the journey.

And I think that’s the number one reason that Maleata is irreplaceable, is because, this is the person that I found who I could create a great dream with.

Meleata Pinto: Piggy back on that concept, delayed gratification is something we both understand and we both believe in. We’ve always had a saying that, you know, anything worthwhile, it’s going to be hard and it’s, it’s going to take awhile.

There are no overnight successes. That’s a fallacy that Hollywood, sends to people, even the ones that come out of nowhere. There was a lot of hard work that went to getting that person ready for that moment. It’s not like you just, you get discovered on the street and, oh yeah, somebody who’s willing to give you tens of millions of dollars.

That does not happen.

Hassan Pinto: Doesn’t happen.


Donald Thompson: I just, I totally respect it. I mean, there’s no overnight successes. Being an entrepreneur, being successful in corporate America, being successful at a high level of anything is a lot of hard work. And one of the things I tell people is they’ll ask, Hey, Don, what do I need to do? What are my characteristics need to be, to be where you are, to be further where you are to be a billionaire.

I said, I don’t know what your goals are, but you have to have pain tolerance. I know that. I know that you’re going to have some people tell you in deals that you’re counting on. I know that you’re going to be tired and you’re not going to want to go to that next meeting, but you don’t have any choice and you need to be on point the moment you hit the door. And I know that that pain tolerance is something that is learnable. That’s an effort thing. That’s an attitude thing, right? There are certain aptitudes that people have that they should pick their lane, things where they can be unique and special, and then there’s some things where you just have to have the grit.

You just have to be willing to take that, that extra mile and then go two more. And so I appreciate those. Let’s pivot to the kids a little bit, cause I literally could talk to you guys for hours and listen. Right? No joke. Talk to me about each of the kids and talk to me about starting them in sports and how you help them evolve. Obviously they put in hard work cause they wouldn’t have made if they didn’t do it. But they had great guidance and great teachers. Talk to me about some of those.

Hassan Pinto: Let me start this. So, there was two things I wasn’t going to do. I wasn’t gonna marry a girl that wasn’t athletic, that didn’t like sports and wasn’t smart.

Okay. So my criteria was she had to like sports. She had to be pretty and she had to be smart. And, and the reason why I wanted a smart young lady was because I felt like if something ever happened to me, I never wanted to worry about my kids. Okay. So, I always said to myself, you know, my brother would say to me, why do you like her so much?

I said, well. It doesn’t matter. My kids are set. I say they’re going to be smart they’re going to be athletic,  they’re going to be organized. And I already knew that the mother was the key to all that. and so that’s the reason. So we started dreaming these dreams of our kids, naming our kids. I guess when we were like

Meleata Pinto: 1993,

Hassan Pinto: Yeah, like when we were 18, 19 years old, and

Meleata Pinto: We named them. All of them.

Hassan Pinto: You know, we kind of stuck to this plan that we were going to have really smart athletic kids.

Donald Thompson: I want to say something that threads to everything you guys are talking about that maybe most people won’t get, but the handful of people that do. You guys speak things into existence. There is a powerful set of circumstances when you allow the words that you speak to be ordered by the actions that you take and you don’t let other people’s negative view of you, negative words about you, enter your space.

And that’s something that just not even knowing you as deeply as I would like to that’s in your everyday walk. And most people allow the way they talk to be kind of of average. And success is about the work you do, how you program your mind and who you listen to as much as anything else. And you guys are given a masterclass in that, just in the way that you guys talk and program what you want.

And that’s really, that’s really good. So Meleata, I’ll turn it over to you, but that’s good stuff, man. Like I’m having this,

Meleata Pinto: We do, we have a lot of things that we’ve talked about 27 years ago have definitely come to fruition.

A lot but not everything.

Yeah, we have, we have a lot of work to do, the thing that we had always talked about is the type of experience we wanted our kids to have. Hassan traveled a lot. I’m a military brat, so I was used to walking in diverse bases and being quite comfortable no matter where I went. But one thing that was also very important to us is that we wanted to know who our kids went to school with. So, back in 2001, we were in New York, actually living in Connecticut at the time.

2001 is when, we were both working for major league baseball by then and, 9-11 happened and that was a pretty traumatic experience for most Americans, but particularly for us, given that we worked in Manhattan and, at that time, my dad was working at the Pentagon in D.C. and, you know, the outcome from that was, we really did a, a self reflection about is this the life we want to live. We’re grinding, my commute to Chelsea market from Fairfield, Connecticut was about two hours and 15 minutes each way.  So do the math, and I’m spending a good chunk of my day, commuting which meant that we weren’t spending time with our kids. And at that time, Hassan was, had just turned four.

And, so we knew the next year he would be going into kindergarten and we kind of looked at each other and we were like, is this, is this what we’re going to do? Where are our kids? We’re going to get a nanny and we’ll see our kids from 8:00 PM to 10:00 PM every night is that, is that what we want?

Hassan Pinto: That’s what we were doing.

Meleata Pinto: That’s not what we were doing. But they were young.

Hassan Pinto: That’s what we were doing but we also knew that the best way to change something is to take action right? So that’s really it. It’s really easy, right? So if you really want to live in Paris.

Meleata Pinto: You move to Paris.

and you figure it out. But to your point earlier Don, is your willingness to sustain pain? Like what is your pain tolerance? And we honestly, we looked at each other, we’re like, this ain’t it.

Hassan Pinto: So you move.

Meleata Pinto: And we said, we always talked about raising the kids in North Carolina. Let’s do that. That’s better than the life that we’re living today.

Hassan Pinto: So we went to our employers and we said, they said, where are you going? We said, we’re moving. And I said, we’ll, what league is down there? What, what, what’s down there? And we said, a great life and we’re going to buy a house. We’re going to live near the university. We’re going to focus on our kids. And we’re going to do whatever we have to do to survive in the interim until we get the things that we want.

And nobody really understood it. Right. But we understood it because when I said, Hey. I’m going to LA. The only way for me to get this job is to go to LA. Right. Cause the job is in LA. Right. So I have to get there to be there. Right. The only way for her to get the Sports Century opportunities for us to go to New York.

Right. And the only way for us to, Llve in North Carolina and just check off, one of our bucket lists was to move to North Carolina. So I always tell people, well, if you want to move to Paris, you want to move to Dubai, want to move to the Cayman islands, move there. Right? Just get on a plane, go and stay right.

And then figure it out from there. So, we took another dynamic move, I think was the best move of our life. And,

Meleata Pinto:  it’s works out well.

Hassan Pinto: It’s worked out very and bought a great house.  We raised our kids here and we kind of knew it when we were looking at some new houses and my kids were like, don’t move.

Wait to we’re you’re like, graduated. We’re really happy with our friends here. so that was exciting for us. And, I think the, you know, the, the narrative here with us is like, if you don’t take action, whether that’s business, whether that’s family, whether that’s anything, you can have a dream, but it’s a dream, but it becomes real when you start taking action and it doesn’t mean the action means that everything’s going to work out.

It just means that you’re on the journey to get what you want. So I always tell people, you can have anything you want. I have the woman I want, but if I didn’t. I can have her, I might have to wait till she gets divorced. I might have to, I might have to wait and talk to her nice dog for 40 years and then at some point it’s going to open up and it’s going to be mine.

Right. She’s going to come to her senses. Right. So I can have any deal I want. I just have to be patient and I have to persevere and I have to stay. I can have any account I want. I can have any business I want. I can have anything in this world I want. The only prerequisite I asked to get out of this.

I may not get it when I want it, but if I keep working towards it, I’ll eventually get it.

Meleata Pinto: Yeah. So to circle us back to the kids. So that was a quality of life choice that we made. And probably a week and a half after we got here, we had little Hass enrolled in rainbow soccer in Chapel Hill. And, and that was going to be our life.

We always talked about going to soccer practices with our kids, and we didn’t see a path to it. And then New York and the Tristate area, so we made it. So, you know, there was no pressure on him. It was really, let’s get him in an activity. Let’s see how he enjoys it and he loved it and, and we kept doing it.  And so  we always gave them an option of what sports they wanted to play. So they’ve all played tennis at one point or another. They’ve all done swimming. They all played basketball. They all played tee ball and softball and then I guess it was what Haas was 8 when you decided.

Hassan Pinto: Yeah, so Haas was like, he was eight years old and he says, dad, I want to play in the ACC.

Can I do it? And I said, yeah. And he said, okay, what do I got to do? I said, well, we got to do everything different. You’re going to have to listen to me. I said, I’m going to have to coach you. I’m going to have to like really push you. I said, but if that’s your dream, we can get there, but you’re going to have to listen.

Because I knew he was a little bit behind.

Meleata Pinto: Behind, because we were sensitive, like we both played sports, so we were sensitive to forcing our kids to go into sports. We took a little bit of a laissez Faire attitude with them.

Hassan Pinto: When we read the books on it.

Meleata Pinto:  We did, we listened to other people.

Hassan Pinto:  We listened to other people. So I read the book, what to expect when you’re expecting, don’t let your kid pay the sport that you know. Right? Don’t let your, don’t coach your kid. Right? And so when he, when he told me he wanted to play soccer, I chucked the book, I burned it. I said, okay, we’re going to do it my way. And I’m, I said, so I’m coaching.

And then when I started to coach him, I said, look, I’m going to coach this kid. And get him to the skill level that I want to give it to him, then I’ll give him to other people. Then my daughter taps me on the shoulder and she says, Hey,  you coached him, you’re going to coach me too. And I said, I’ve never, I have three of the brothers. I don’t know this. So I hired my wife  and the women. I said, look, if I’m too rough on the girls, let me know because I, I don’t have any sisters. So I ended up coaching her for a bunch of years and then my youngest was like, well you coach both for them.

You’ve got to coach me. Right. So I would coach them until they just got sick of me coaching them and the net result will, it was, you know, my son had a dream.

He said, I want to play any ACC. So we got work to do. My daughter had a poster that she got from a Carolina soccer game. She says, dad, can I be an Anson girl? I said, 100% but you gotta but you’re not only have to dream it, but we’ve got to have a plan on how you’re going to get there. And my youngest was like, you know, I’m going to be a pro.

And he said, can I be a pro? I said, yeah, absolutely easy, right? Easy stuff. But we gotta have a plan and you got to get on the plan and we got to all decide what that plan is. And then there might be a time where we got to tear up the plan and create a new plan.

Donald Thompson: That’s right.

Meleata Pinto: Sometimes you’ve got to redirect.

Hassan Pinto: We got to pivot, right? So

Donald Thompson: you preach it now that’s just what it is.

Hassan Pinto: It’s sometimes that plan will work, right?

Meleata Pinto: It’s not a straight line.

Hassan Pinto:  It’s not a straight line. It’s up and down. So, that’s how our kids got into sports. I actually knew they were going to get to sports, but my first plan was, I was listening to what to expect when you’re expecting and then when they got kids it was like one to two. Don’t coach your kid two to five, don’t coach your kid.

Donald Thompson: I think that, I know I’m interupting. I know. Look, I totally agree. Right? Cause a lot of books and a lot of things from people are giving people permission to be average and that’s okay.

Hassan Pinto: Yes.

Donald Thompson: That’s what they’re doing. And they’re programming that, Hey listen, if you’re just a little bit above average, that’s okay. Right.

Well, that’s okay if that’s the maximum potential you have. I agree with that, but if you can be more and you didn’t try and you didn’t give the effort, my nightmare is not knowing. Like people will say, Don, why are you into this? Why are you into this? My nightmare is not taking every advantage my parents gave me coming out of the 60s coming from a little town in Bogalusa, Louisiana and not doing everything I could with those opportunities.

That would be my nightmare. I don’t know if I’m going to be a billionaire or be worth $100 million, but I’m going to try and then at the end of it, right, if I can write a check to send 50 kids to school, it’ll be worth it. Right,

Meleata Pinto:  Right.

Donald Thompson: It’s the expansiveness of your dream, but those books are teaching our kids how to be average.

Meleata Pinto: Yeah. So Hassan and I have a running joke that we are the dodge ball parents, like, because yes, I’m humble, but I’m also fairly competitive. So we joke about being dodgeball parents because there was a movement, I guess in the 90s and early 2000s that you would take dodge ball out of PE in school because you know, kids were getting bullied or whatever the reasoning was.

But I feel like dodge ball is a reflection of, it’s actually a reflection of life. Like you gotta adapt. So if somebody’s, like, I played with the boys when I was in third and fourth grade, that was my jam. So I, I know some dodge ball and I got great hand eye coordination. So,

Hassan Pinto: Great hand eye coordination.

Meleata Pinto: So when, as a society we started saying, Oh, no, no, no, no, we can’t do that. I get it because there there’s a fine line. Obviously you should not be picking on other kids, but at the same time, if you’re not athletic, then you have to revert to your brain. What? Like who do you stand next to, you stand next to the kid who actually can catch it because he’s not going to drop the ball and get knocked out.

Like you, you play the game differently. It’s not a physical game. It morphs into a mental game. And so when you think about pursuing goals. There’s always a physical aspect to what you want to accomplish. And then there’s a mental aspect to it. And you’ve got to train for both. So net net, the takeaway is, I’m a big proponent of Dodge ball

Donald Thompson: That’s awesome.

Meleata Pinto: I don’t like participation trophies. They’re not good. But

Hassan Pinto: Yeah. And I think that segways into the mental aspects. We always told our kids that, they need to be equally as good in the classroom as they are on the field. You know, and it’s funny, Malique yesterday we were watching the spelling bee. He goes, man, I could’ve won that.

He said, the Princeton kid, he said, I could have went to Scripps. I could. I think I could have won that. And he won his league. He won his division.

Meleata Pinto: He finished what, fourth his whole school as like a fourth grader.

Hassan Pinto: And one year he won his whole school. Yeah. Then he went to like counties and then he went to like the North Carolina championship and he’s like, man, if I would’ve focused, man, I could’ve, I could’ve won that.

And so that same kid where, you know, we’re advising them with college, is you know getting recruited by 15 schools. He’s going to schools that he knows good and well, he’s not going to, but he enjoyed like,

Meleata Pinto: He liked being courted.

Hassan Pinto:  He liked being courted. And he, and he got good at it. He said, how do you see me in your program? How do you, and he wanted to hear what they thought of him, but the same kid, we said, look.

You can play in the ACC, you can play at Duke. I said, but you’ve got the grades to do something that I didn’t do. You didn’t do. And

Meleata Pinto: I  did not apply to Princeton.

Hassan Pinto: We didn’t apply to Princeton. So we said, look. The third one, what people don’t know is the third one who told you he wanted to be a pro. He had multiple offers from MLS clubs to not go to college and go right out and start his pro career. And a lot of folks are focused on our daughter, Brianna. But the youngest one was also, asked not to go to college, put it off for a year, signed a youth to pro to contract.

But we said, no, no. I said, look, if you want to go with these clubs, you can see them in the summer. If you’re as good as you think you are, you are, you’re going to score a ton of goals in the Ivy league. And what we’re going to set you up is, so when you make that league and you are a pro. You’re going to, when you retire, you’re going to be the general manager of that club.

And so we’re already having those conversations. Look, you go here, you can be the general manager or the commissioner of the league and run all of that. Likewise with Brianna, we tried to get her to approach Harvard cause she had the grades for it. And we know she does cause right now she’s all ACC, all American and soccer, but she’s all ACC in the classroom as well. Academic all ACC but she, she wouldn’t do it, but we were like,

Meleata Pinto: Her dream was to go to Carolina and play for Anson.

Hassan Pinto: Yeah. I was like,

Meleata Pinto: She always wanted that. She’s always talked about traveling the world to play soccer, but her college dream since the time she was four was to go to Carolina and play for Anson. So she’s literally walking in the dream that she spoke.

Donald Thompson: Yes, that’s exactly right. Like from four years old to now, like what was it about the Carolina program? What was it about what Anson has created that where she could play anywhere, that aligned with what she wanted academically, athletically, in, in all those things.

Meleata Pinto: Well, the legacy of, of winning, Brianna is, a super competitor. She hates losing,

Hassan Pinto: Hates it.

Meleata Pinto: She hates being second in anything and has, since the time she was probably two when she would race her brother to tie her shoes, like they’d race from the car to the door, who could be first, who would be first in putting their seatbelt on.

Like everything for Brianna has been a competition. Basically, since she could form a sentence like that’s who she is. And for her, the competitive cauldron was something that really resonated with her. She likes

Hassan Pinto: So explain the competitive cauldron.

Meleata Pinto: The competitive, the competitive cauldron, at UNC. Basically as, as the team trains in everything they do, they measure it. And

Hassan Pinto: Everything.

Meleata Pinto: Like, there are times on their sprints, how many pullups they get, how many passes they complete. Like they measure

Hassan Pinto: How well they’re doing in the classroom. They’re competing. The girls are competing at every, every facet of life, and they’re being measured.

Meleata Pinto: So the point of that is, Brianna can look and they post the measurements too. So you, so you’re acutely aware of where you, where you rank on the team. And, depending on your performance, that can dictate your playing time or your ability to start. So for her, it’s very clear. You want to start on this team, you need to be in the top three on these metrics.

So she’s very rewards driven. So for her, that was a perfect fit. For a lot of other kids, it’s not, it’s, it’s a little bit, it’s, it’s rough because it’s, it’s there in black and white. It’s very clear. You did not do like your 22nd on the team and in your beat test.

Hassan Pinto: And that worked for her and yeah. So she achieved her dream. My older son, he achieved his dream too, and he’s achieving his dream. He’s at business school at Fuqua. Well, I guess it’s a top five business school in the country at Duke. You know, I think initially we thought he was going to go to Georgetown undergrad, but he said, I’m from the South.

I was raised in Durham, North Carolina. He said they don’t have lights and I want to play at night. So he said, I’m going to, Elon and he said, I’ll go to like Duke and Chapel Hill for grad school. And at the time he had a, they had amazing coach who is one of the top coaches in the country in the pros, over at Elon.

He felt like Elon was a great school and it was a great experience for him great relationships. And then I said to him, you know, I think, I think you can start over at Duke and you can go into the ACC. I said, look, why don’t you finish up school a little bit faster, and let’s take that last year and apply to business school and, and let’s play it out over at Duke.

And I think he’s, he’s achieved his dream. I mean, his dream was to play in the ACC. He got it. He went a different direction with it but not only did he  play, he started and he started every single game and played every single minute. And I think he played more minutes than anybody on that team this last year.

And so now he’s, we made a deal with them. We said, look, if you go to business school, we’re going to give you three years of your life, four years maybe to.

Meleata Pinto: We’ll see.

Hassan Pinto: We’ll see. Okay.

Meleata Pinto: We’ll give him some time.

Hassan Pinto: Search out your pro dream, and then, you know, you know, at 27 we’re going to knock on the door and we’re going to, we’re going to say, well.

And evaluate how well this is going, and then if it’s not going as well as he wants it, then we’re going to say, Hey, revert back to that, that Duke degree and start your life.

Meleata Pinto: He’s just, he’s just 22. He’ll be 23 this summer, so he’ll have two degrees. One from Elon and his masters  from Duke.  So he really will have the world at his fingertips. So, you know, obviously our whole story has been about chasing your dream. And so for him, you know, playing at the next level and seeing how far he can push it is absolutely a dream. And we’re like, go do it. You can’t do it at 35.

Donald Thompson: That’s exactly right, let me ask you this, as we wind our time over the next few minutes, what advice would you give for parents along the way that have athletic kids in terms of getting that real world evaluation, right? Like my, I’m the son of a coach and football was my lane and you know, my dream was on scholarship signing day.

Because once I got there, I was like, I’m not quite big enough or fast enough. I’m going to be a special team, all American guy, this is going to be like, there’s, there’s some things I can’t fix that.

Hassan Pinto: Right.

Donald Thompson: But I remember getting real guidance and coaching with my dad about where I was, right.

Not just the pep rally, but, Hey, listen, you’ve got to do this. You’ve gotta do this, or this is kind of the, the ceiling. How do parents get that true North for where their kids are really a t when there’s people that are always wanting to sell them stuff, AAU stuff, go to this camp, buy this clinic.

How did they get through that to really understand if sports are a way to stay in shape, way to get a scholarship, can go all the way. How do they measure that when, when kids are coming up.

Meleata Pinto: You want to take that one

Hassan Pinto: You start it.

Meleata Pinto: Well, the joke in the house is that my kids call me ruthless. They’re like, you’re so mean.

Like you just tell it like it is. And I’m like, well,  I didn’t play soccer growing up. But what I do know is sports. There are some universal truths about sports, and I can also see effort because I know my kid and I know when they’re giving 100%, I know when their doggin’ it. So whenever they would play, I was pretty honest with their, like you gave 100% today.

Meh, today you didn’t have it.  And I’ll share this story. cause my, my youngest son shared it with me and he was like, you were so mean. And it like hurt my feelings. And I was like, well, I wasn’t trying to hurt your feelings. I really wanted you to be honest with yourself. As a parent of an athlete, I can’t want their success more than they do.

So, he had a bad game and you know, all the books say, Oh, you know, wait 24 hours, blah, blah, blah. And I’m like, let’s, let’s just be honest guys, like, I didn’t see the effort that I thought you should be giving. I know the talent level that you possess, and I didn’t see it today.

So why don’t you take some time and and debate like, where do I want to take this? I was like, because it’s a huge time investment for the family. It’s a commitment for all of us, and if you’re not serious about it, we can walk away.

Hassan Pinto: It’s okay.

Meleata Pinto: It’s okay.

Hassan Pinto: But I think the other thing that you can do is craft a role for your kid, right?

Yeah. That’s a huge, so if I take it to football, my kids are not going to be quarterback. I mean, Haas is like almost six two but maybe him. Right? But if

Meleata Pinto: He’s kinda skinny.

Hassan Pinto: Yeah, he’s kind of skinny. But if you’re not six foot four, six foot five, you’re not probably not going to play quarterback in the NFL.

And if that’s your dream, right? So I’m always looking at my kids and I’m always looking at the reality and I’m saying, okay, well what role can they play in the NFL? Right? It’s also about like looking at what your strengths and weaknesses and knowing who you are. So for example, we were in training today and I was telling Haas I said, look, you can’t be training against the people here.

You gotta be training against the people who aren’t here. And so you’ve gotta be working at the level that you think they’re going to be working at or you gotta be surpassed them. And I said, look, if you go into those tryouts and you try to be who you are not, I said, you’re not going to make it.

But if you go into that tryout and you try to be who you are and you’d play the role of where your strength is. And I said, your strength is, I said, this kid never takes a play off. This kid is locked into his job. And you became who you were supposed to be.

Donald Thompson: No, that’s good stuff. I mean, The thing that I’m hearing that’s powerful for our audience, for anybody that knows you guys, is number one, don’t settle for kind of what the books say, right?

Find some people that knew enough, right? That can actually show you where you can be special and then help you get there. And that’s such a powerful nugget of information. As we wind down. I want to switch gears. You spent some time in LA. You’re one of the few people that I know that knew Kobe Bryant.

What would you like to share? Right? I mean, people know him as an iconic basketball player. They know him as a businessperson, but what would you like to share with our audience about your relationship, his legacy? Anything that you want to want to share? But I just want to give you some space.

Hassan Pinto: So Kobe Bryant was the youngest player we ever brought into the Lakers, and I had the fortune to watch his workout. I think we brought a Alabama’s Dante Jones. We brought some other guy and they all were like one, two, three picks in the NBA and Jerry West brings them in and Kobe is just torching these guys.

One v one. As a 17 year old, and I’m not talking good college playerss. I’m talking one, two, three, four and five, killing them. So Jerry’s like, look, I’m getting rid of Vlade and I’m like, Vlade is an all star center. Divac is a good center. And I said, you’re going to get him for here? He said, yeah, so. I walk over and this is probably where I learned some of what I do.

And Kobe’s dad is named, we used to call him jelly bean, right? So his, I’d walk over to the jelly bean. I said, wow, you kids good? He says, yeah Hass, he’s going to save the league. I said, save the league. I said, don’t we got Michael Jordan? Like, what, what, what is he going to save? And Jelly Bean’s like, no, no. Mike’s old Hass.

He’s out of here, Kobe’s the next one. And I said, okay, he’s good, but save the league? So it was just in my head. So then we actually draft Kobe first days in the office. They’re like, Hass, Kobe’s in town. Pick him up, from the airport. And I had a list of itinerary things that he had to do. He had to do a shoot at Venice beach.

We had to go to the radio show, and me and Kobe drove around LA in my Toyota Corolla. I had a Toyota Corolla. Right. And thank God, in L.A. you don’t really need air conditioning.

Meleata Pinto: So it didn’t have air conditioning.

Hassan Pinto: So it didn’t have an air conditioning. Right. So it’s me, Kobe and my German Shepherd sitting in the middle of us, right?

So I’m having a conversation with this guy and I said, okay, Kobe, what are you trying to do? He says, and he starts to get agitated, like angry, like he’s cool with me the whole trip and starts to get angry. And I said, well, why are you getting angry? I’m just wanting to know. He says, well, what do you think I’m trying to do?

I said, well, are you trying to ease into the team? Figure out where you fit in? And you know, maybe start like a year or two from now? And he said, he said, pull over the car. So I pull over the car and he said. Look MFeR, I’m here to start right now. And like, he went from like this peaceful guy to a guy in rage, right?

And I said, well, come on Kobe. We’ve got this guy named Eddie Jones. I said, Eddie’s the two guard here and he just, I don’t know if you know this, but he just bought the owner’s house, in Playa Del Rey. I said, do you want me to take you by there, he bought it like two months ago and Kobe said, well, Eddie’s just got to pack his bags.

He’s outta here. And I said, he’s out of here. He said, he’s outta here because that’s my job and he’s not in the same class as me. And what people don’t understand is, and so what, what Kobe taught me was to dream big. He had a dream to be the greatest basketball player, and he was battling legends from the minute he walked into the NBA and his father was part of it.

His father would say, yeah, Kobe is going to save league, Kobe’s going to be the best player in the NBA. And then I would go back to Nick Van Exel, the players to Shaq, and I said, how good is this kid? They’re like, yeah, they would never say it to him, but they were like, damn, this guy’s good. And so.

That’s my recollection of Kobe is a guy that he dreamed the biggest dream, but he put the work in every single day. He was a monster in practice and he was a guy like Del Harris wouldn’t play him, but he was destroying everybody, every single day in practice. And I think my takeaway was.

If he could do it, I can do it. If he could do it, my kid could do it. So when my kid would say, can you, can I be an Anson girl? I said, yes, but now she’s saying, can I be the Ballon d’Or or which is the best player in the world? I say, yes. My other son said, can I go  pro? I say yes. My youngest kid says, can I be a pro?

Can I be the commission of the league, I say 100% yes, because I’ve seen people do it.

Donald Thompson: What I’ll say is we want it now cause there’s nothing left to say after that. So I, Hey, listen, my claim to fame is no when to wind that thing down and just let it be easy is, you know, you guys as a, as a couple and individuals, what a platform and what things you guys are doing that are inspiring people that you don’t even really know and, and those that, that you’re influencing in what you do every day.

And in this kind of crazy world we live. We’re all chasing people we can look up to. And when I see your posts about your kids and your family, it warms my heart because I want my kids to chase their dreams in their lane. And it’s all about giving the foundation so they can do it. We can’t do it for them. We can’t believe more than they, they want to believe. Certainly can make sure that we help every step of the way. And you guys have done that for each other, for kids, and and now a lot of other people. So anyway, guys, thank you so much.

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