THE JOURNEY OF A MID-MAJOR STUDENT BASKETBALL MANAGER

The majority of people hear the job title “basketball manager” and instantly think of a water boy who does laundry but, it is way more than that. Student basketball managers are the back bone to any successful program. They are the people who are first in the office and the last to leave. They are the ones who show up to practice a whole hour before anyone else. The people who strive to be a student basketball manager want only one thing… and it is not the glamour but, it is to see the players and the team succeed.

“People look at managers and they think of guys getting balls and water. The reality is that the manager is managing the program. They’re putting in as many hours as anyone else, and they’re as valuable as anyone in the program because they’re the liaison between the student-athlete and the staff.” – Travis DeCuire (Montana Head Coach)

The real MVP’s in student managers come at the mid-major level. The level of college basketball where the talent and expectations are the same as those at the high major level. The manager staffs at the mid-major realms are quite a bit smaller because of school size and budget. The normal manager staffs at the high major level have an average of 8-12 managers and travel somewhere from 5-6 managers. Compared to the mid-major level, have staffs from 1-5 managers and travel 0-2 managers.

For most managers they are on complete staffs. Meaning, they have a coaching staff that completes each role. But for Montana the role of Director of Basketball Operations has fallen on a manager over the past 2 seasons.

For myself being a manager at the University of Montana it has been a HUGE advantage to be at the mid-major level in my college career. Over the past 5 years I have been behind the scenes for the Griz and mastering every trait that has come my way. I have been thrown some ridiculous tasks and tremendous responsibilities.

When I first came in to college basketball, I had to send email after email to the former Director of Basketball Operations for the Griz until I was given an opportunity to prove my worth. I had to tryout at that year’s basketball summer camps as a camp coach. This story has a twist to it that is very common in college athletics, a coaching change. The summer I was auditioning to become a manager for Montana the entire staff left for Oregon State and a new staff came in. With the unknown of whether or not I would still have the same opportunity or not I introduced myself as if I was going to be a part of the team.

Entering season number one and not knowing what to expect from being a student manager and still not knowing what will be expected of me I took all tasks to the best of my ability. Being under a tremendous Head Manager, Kramer Ungaretti, and learning under him and the new staff that was more technology driven than the last. It led me to wanting to pursue a job in basketball front office. I would spend the next 2 years being a student manger and have the tasks of; assisting in creating graphics for recruits, updating recruiting records, setting up practice, assisting in practice, film setup, managing and clipping film, assisting ordering team meals, sending weekly mailouts, and yes, I also was getting water while wiping up sweat from the floor. These tasks helped me form into taking over the head manager position once Ungaretti graduated.

Year three ended up being the year of the most growth. I stepped into the role of Head Manager and brought on more responsibilities. I moved into my own desk into the coach’s offices, where I shared with an assistant coach. I was in the office, FINALLY! In a way for a young professional to be given their own space in a work place that they have always dreamed of working, gave me a peace of mind. I wanted to prove myself and prove that I can fill the shoes of my predecessor and not let the team feel like they took a step backwards. My advice to current and potential managers is to “strive to be the first one in and the last one out” as this has helped me excel in ranks. My family has taught hard work and they believe you have to start from the ground up to really know the industry. The year of being a head manager I was fortunate enough to be able to travel with the team and see what it takes for a mid-major team to travel on a more minimal budget. Traveling with the team has taken me to some remarkable areas. Areas like Costa Rica, the Virgin Islands, the Bahamas, and across the United States. For this year I was still doing all the same tasks as I was before but was granted more advanced tasks. I was in charge of all meals on the road and assisted the Ops with anything else that was needed for travel. I was also the head of Team Communication, was in constant communication with the entire team on upcoming events, travel, academic meetings and community outreach programs. I continued to develop as a video coordinator and started making my own highlight films for the team.

I also spent hours in assisting the coaching staff with scouts and other projects. One skill that a majority of managers overlook is the use of Photoshop. Photoshop is a skill that can put you over the top as a manager. Having the capability of making graphics and other informative tools will separate you and make you more widely used. 

Jumping forward to my last two years of being a student basketball manager, I moved into the role of Director of Operations. Not holding the title as the teams Director of Operations but having the majority of the tasks. As the last two seasons I planned all of the team’s travel. Everything from booking flights, hotels, bus transportation, scheduling of away facilities, head coach recruiting travel and team meals. All while keeping track of the team’s budget. I also keep numerous statistics. I keep track of the teams plus/minus, shot charts, teams passing shot percentage, defense and offense efficiency, hustle chart, and the teams different lineups used in a game with how they performed.

For managers it is a very competitive environment and the managers that do not focus on the glam are those who are in it for a career. Managers take this job seriously. You will not find many individuals sprinting to wipe up sweat on the floor or running to give a head coach a board. You always need to be aware of what is going on as a manager and be on edge during every aspect. It is a thankless job. Managers develop skills in all aspects of the basketball world. They become masters at crafts that have nothing to do with basketball. As an Assistant Coach at Montana, Coach Flores, has said to me, “this job is 80% organization/hard work, 15% completing tasks, and 5% basketball”. Summer camps are the bread and butter for managers. They are typically asked to show off their leadership and at some schools run the entire camp. Being a camp counselor all the way to a camp director has taught me the most. The amount of planning and detail you need for a camp is quite extensive. It is a job that takes multiple people and multiple departments throughout the University to make it successful. Not to mention the leadership it takes to speak in front of hundreds of kids and get all their attention and instruct them to do something can be overwhelming for first timers and will take some time to fully develop. As I have mentioned many tasks above, there are so much more that a manager does to help aid the coaching staff and do not forget they are still full time students.

The 4 C’s of Being a Great College Basketball Manager:

Commitment, Communication, Consistency, Common Sense

1. COMMITMENT

*  To the JOB

*  To your TEAM

*  To the SCHEDULE

2. COMMUNICATION   

*  With your BOSSES

*  With your COACHES

*  With your TEAM

*  With your fellow MANAGERS

3. CONSISTENCY  

*  In your ACTIONS

*  In your APPEARANCE

4. COMMON SENSE

*  With the KEYS

*  With the EQUIPMENT

*  When TRAVELING

With being a part of a small staff and having full time responsibilities at such a young age for a program that is on the rise, I have gathered so much information that has set me up for a bright future. With a mid-major staff, the majority of them are guys who are from the DII ranks or high major teams, they offer a verity of connections for you to network with. With the specific staff at the University of Montana and the other coaches that have moved onto other programs their connections and experiences are impressive. There have been peaks and valleys to this whole process and I am eternally grateful for what the University of Montana, the Missoula community, current/past players, coaches, and Coach DeCuire have provided for me.

“It’s not an easy job to be successful with, and that’s why a lot of the better managers move on to high positions. Some of the best coaches were managers, because they realized that X’s and O’s aren’t always the biggest thing when it comes to managing basketball programs.” – Travis DeCuire

So instead of people looking for glamour, schools are looking for students who want to:

• Haul luggage onto buses and hotels in the late hours

• Fill and refill Powerade bottles

• Cut and edit film until their eyes cross

• Chart hustle plays and other obscure stats at games

• Work camps in the summer

• Sacrifice weekends and holiday trips in exchange for practices

• Stand, just so far apart, ball tucked under one arm, other arm on hip, towel over shoulder.

In other words, individuals who are willing to do just about whatever they are asked to do to make life easier for basketball players their own age. At the end of the road you will not want to replace it for anything else in the world. Best college job.

Quotes of Inspiration

“Don’t let the peaks and valleys get to you. Keep rolling.” 
– Chad Buchanan (Indiana Pacers GM)

“Rest at the end and not in the middle”  – Mr. Fisk (Kobe Bryant’s English teacher)

“Inspire the people next to you, that is how you create greatness” – Kobe Bryant

GO GRIZ!

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Everyone and their dog loves March Madness!

It’s March, so that means the sports world is fixated on college basketball. Some make it a priority to get school or work off to catch the games. Most fans fill out brackets. But not many love the game so much that they force it onto the family dog.

jordie2This is Jordie. I always knew she was into basketball as much as the next dog, so I helped her fill out her own bracket. To make the picks a little easier, I put treats next to each team for each match-up this postseason. The treat she ate first would indicate which team she was choosing. That way she could finally communicate to me what jersey she wanted to wear during the Final Four.

Here is her bracket.

jordiesbracket

I entered her into the bracket pool along with all my buddies. If Weber St. can work some magic, Jordie is gonna get a new bone.

Here’s the video of her championship pick