Paul Vitelli, Chief Operating Officer at Swish House | Hoop Story #089

Paul Vitelli, Chief Operating Officer at Swish House | Hoop Story #089

By: Jaredan Levin

Paul Vitelli grins and stretches out his frame within the folding chair. He is seated underneath a basketball hoop in the astroturf-donned training area of The Post BK. Located on Dobbin Street in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, it serves as the location of most of Swish House’s NYC classes. Happiness exudes from Vitelli as he begins to recount the story of his basketball life and career. It is apparent that the game provides a steadiness and a sense of satisfaction for Vitelli, both within his personal and professional lives.

“I feel like all of my friends–people who I consider family–are usually through some sort of basketball team,” Vitelli said.

Vitelli is the COO of Swish House, a startup that occupies a unique space: aiming to bolster both community and fitness via affordable basketball workout classes.

“Swish House is the world's first basketball fitness class,” its website says. “Our in-person, one-hour group classes are designed by pro hoopers and NBA physiologists to deliver a HIIT-inspired workout using a series of basketball-specific skill drills, strengthening exercises, and shooting games.”

But Swish House is a relatively new venture for Vitelli, who has had a long arc leading up to where he is now.

“Swish House is like my sixth career,” Vitelli said.


Born to a family of Brooklynites in Queens and being raised in Morristown, NJ, Vitelli became a high school basketball star at Delbarton School and then went on to play four years at Yale, graduating in 2004. He played three years of professional basketball in Italy after that.

Upon his return to the U.S. in 2007, he took a job at JPMorgan Chase, where he worked as analyst for three years.

“Going from playing hoops to sitting at a desk all day was a tough, tough transition,” Vitelli said. “And the culture in a bank versus on a basketball team is also a complete 180. So that was tough to get adjusted to.”

He went on to go to business school at Duke and then worked for a firm called Kearney for two years and then onto a startup research firm with a friend from Yale for four years after that until it disbanded in 2019. Ready for his next challenge, Paul hit a wall when the pandemic hit. He did odd jobs to make ends meet but was in a weird place, not knowing what he would do next.

“Out of nowhere, a buddy of mine calls me and says, ‘You should check out what these guys are doing in Chicago,’” Vitelli said. “They've opened this gym in Chicago, people are still going through COVID with their masks on like they're playing even with masks on, you should talk to them. So I did and I absolutely loved the idea. I realized I could take this up right now as part of their team to help either scale it or grow the business and just learn more about it. So [in] November 2021, I became the first employee.”


He began working remotely for Swish House, since their operations were solely in Chicago.

“I was just thinking to myself, if I'm going to do my role, which at that point was director of operations, which didn't really mean much, because we're a startup (everybody does everything), ‘Yeah. I should probably open up a location’,” Vitelli said.

And in April 2022, thanks to Vitelli, the New York operations of Swish House began. They hold 16 hours of classes per week at The Post, along with three additional hours of classes at a prep school in FiDi.

“We're at 100% capacity during the busy season,” Vitelli said. “And so I've been managing this for the last two years, but also working at the HQ and figuring out how we can scale and grow in other cities.”

Bringing this to his home metro is an honor for Vitelli but he takes more pride in the introduction of a new concept and that people have been interested in it as it eases out of the test stages.

“New York is the mecca of basketball,” Vitelli said. “So that's in my blood. It's part of New York culture. I think it's the right time to do it.”


Currently, Swish House New York is still in a developmental stage, as they aim to continue to improve the classes that they offer.

“Every class, I try to do something a little bit different and see what people enjoy doing and what gets them the best workout and how I can make sure that this is still fun without it being too much of a grinding, tedious workout,” Vitelli said. “[The idea is] as much basketball as I can with as much workout as I can with making people tired. So we're experimenting with different types of classes.”

As they go through the process of figuring out how to maximize fun and fitness, Vitelli and his team have partnered with professionals in the basketball skill development space, including Trent Salo, director of performance for the Detroit Pistons, who is also on Swish House’s board and an investor.

“He has a very scientific element to what we do,” Vitelli said. “So when we talk about designing these classes, he has his input and makes sure we're thinking about this the right way. We'll keep experimenting until we get it exactly right. I think we're pretty close.”

As the game of basketball grows globally, Vitelli has ambitious aims for how Swish House can grow with it.

“From here on out, [my goal is] developing the brand and getting into different locations throughout the U.S.” Vitelli said. “And then if that goes well, I would hope that this would be able to spread into different countries as well.”

Vitelli is a huge proponent of Swish House’s model, not only because of his position but also because he finds the classes to be an ideal balance for many players, as well as people looking for an alternative to other classes (e.g. CrossFit, pilates) both in terms of affordability and workout style.

One of the main concepts of the classes is maintaining as much inclusivity as possible for people of all skill levels, according to Vitelli. They are more geared toward fitness than developing specific skillsets although they do offer some skills classes where they cover different things like that.

“You’ll also get serious results — participants typically run 2-3 miles and burn 700-1000 calories in a single class,” the website adds. “No matter your skill or fitness level, we’re a community of lifelong athletes connected by the idea that working out is more fun when it’s basketball.”

Vitelli asserts that community orientation is another key tenet of Swish House’s operations. He acknowledges that he is still in touch with many of his former teammates from Yale and Italy, as someone who has made many of his friends through the world of basketball.

“We're trying to take that toxicity out of basketball so that it's competitive, but in all the best ways,” Vitelli said. “Basketball is a builder of community. [The idea is] getting the right people in the right spot in the right system and having it accessible so everyone feels comfortable around each other. We have people that invite each other to their birthday parties from their Swish House class. We host happy hours. I think sport in general transcends social constructs. And you get to learn more about other people. It's great for meeting friends and it's good for the community. It's good for the game. And our members are some of the best people I've met.”

Photos By: Jaredan Levin / Courtesy of Paul Vitelli

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