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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5 Important Tips for a Team Road Trip

By: W. R. Widmer Jr.

For most of my life now I have played team sports that have required road trips in some shape or form. Since the start my collegiate career way back in 2010 for TCU’s Lacrosse team I’ve learned that long road trips are inevitable. Over the years as a player and now as a coach for Griz Lacrosse, I thought I would share some tips and tricks on how to make a team road trip easier.

Pack The Night Before

Personally, packing is not the most exciting part of a trip. Coaches demand that we be ready to go at a certain time (usually before the sun comes up). I have found that packing the night before prevents me from forgetting anything in those early morning hours when I am not thinking clearly. In addition, line your bags up at the door so you can have a smooth exit out of your apartment or dorm.

Carry Both Card and Cash

To get to a game you will have to travel though the middle of nowhere. And in the middle of nowhere often times you will find technological conveniences are nonexistent. It is crucial to have cash and not just a card on a road trip in case the store where you are trying to buy snacks is still stuck in the ‘50s. Being hungry on the bus is miserable.

Portable Chargers are Worth Their Weight in Gold

Missoula to Portland on a bus is anywhere from 8 to 12 hours depending on external factors. So even if you charge all your electronics the night before, you will run out of battery life on a haul like that. For $25 to $50 you can get a good quality portable charger that will keep your electronics charged and you blissfully entertained while the hours go by.

Bring Food and Drinks on The Bus

One of the reasons I pack and line up all my stuff the night before is to save time in the morning. With that extra time, I always run and grab food and coffee to bring on the bus. Doing this will save you money over the length of the trip, since prices in food vary from location to location. Additionally, you don’t always know when and where the team will stop for food, having your own will prevent any unforeseen problems.

Bring a Pillow is Key

This one is a little self-explanatory. Not all buses or cars have comfortable seats or headrests. In my case, the Griz Lacrosse team bus has some hard armrests. I always bring a pillow on bus trips. It not only makes the ride more comfortable, but I avoid dealing with hotel pillows that I am not used to.

Top 25 NBA Players Under 25

Grady Matter

25-21

25. Jabari Parker (age 23)

24. Trae Young (age 20)

23. Brandon Ingram (age 21)

22. Andrew Wiggins (age 23)

21. Domantas Sabonis (age 22)

Out of the five guys listed here, Trae Young and Domantas Sabonis probably have the highest upside, and have a chance to climb these ranks within the next couple years. Brandon Ingram flashes potential at times, but is wildly inconsistent and hasn’t developed as well as expected for year 3. As for Wiggins, and Parker, both are over-paid volume scorers who shoot poorly from deep and consistently play bad defense.

20-16

20. Julius Randle (age 24)

19. Myles Turner (age 22)

18. Jaylen Brown (age 22)

17. Lauri Markannen (age 21)

16. Kyle Kuzma (age 23)

Kuzma continues to build upon an impressive rookie season upping his ppg to 19.1 as the second option on the Lakers.  Jaylen Brown and Myles Turner both play outstanding defense, but have taken backseat roles on offense within their respective teams. Markannen has been extremely efficient on offense for a Bulls team lacking any scoring while Randle has been a revelation since signing with New Orleans, averaging 20ppg and 9.2rpg for the year.  

15-11

15. Jamal Murray (age 21)

14. DeAndre Ayton (age 20)

13. D’Angelo Russell (age 22)

12. Clint Capela (age 24)

11. Jayson Tatum (age 20)

Tatum is as smooth of a scorer as there is in the NBA and will continue to rise up this list. There probably isn’t another center better suited for the Houston Rockets than Clint Capela, who excels on the boards and finishing lobs. Russell has only gotten better since leaving the Lakers. Ayton has been a bright spot on an awful Suns squad, showcasing versatility on the offensive end. Murray has played a huge role in the success the Nuggets have been having this year.

10. DeAaron Fox (age 21)

Fox has done the impossible by making the Sacramento Kings playoff contenders for the first time in 12 years. Fox has been shooting 46% from the field and 36.4% from deep while averaging 17.2ppg and 7.1apg. Not only has Fox been extremely efficient, he also leads one of the most fun offenses to watch in the league. The progression of Buddy Hield and Fox as a duo is something to keep your eye on going forward. 

9. Donavan Mitchell (age 22)

Mitchell has built on a phenomenal rookie campaign following some early season struggles. He’s a great two-way player with a chance to have a HOF career. These first two years are eerily similar to Dwayne Wade’s early career.

8. Kristaps Porzingis (age 23)

Porzingis (when healthy) is among the most skilled players in the league. At 7’2 he is extremely long but has guard-like skills. His ability to shoot from deep makes him nearly impossible to guard. There still remains a question of durability when it comes to his long-term health.

7. Devin Booker (age 22)

Devin Booker has developed at a much faster rate than most expected. He’s currently averaging 25ppg and 6.7apg. While his scoring has been great, it hasn’t translated into wins for Phoenix. Expect Booker and Ayton to develop into a great duo within the next couple years.

6. Ben Simmons (age 22)

Ben Simmons recently made his first all star game, and it’s not hard to see why when you look at his averages of 16.7ppg, 8apg, and 9.2rpg. Despite not having a jumpshot, he’s been very effective because he has such a versatile game. I’m not convinced Simmons ever develops a jumpshot and it probably will hinder him in today’s NBA. Regardless, Simmons is a generational talent as a 6’10 point guard with exceptional court vision.

5. Luka Doncic (age 19)

Doncic has been the most impressive rookie since LeBron James. His step-back 3’s in clutch moments are unreal for a guy that’s 19. One of the most exciting players in the league already, expect Doncic to develop into a great. 

4. Karl Anthony Towns (age 23)

Karl Anthony Towns puts up ridiculous stats and is as skilled a post as there is in the league. No one has ever denied how talented Towns is, but it’s fair to wonder if any other star has as empty stats as he does. Going forward, Towns will have to prove he can lead a team to be contenders, otherwise, he’s likely to fall on this list.

3. Nikola Jokic (age 23)

Jokic may end up being the best passing center of all time as he averages 7.7apg. His game is really unconventional with a strange looking jumpshot and below average athleticism, but it sure does work well. Denver currently has the second best record in the West and Jokic is the biggest reason why.

2. Joel Embiid (age 24)

Embiid doesn’t have any weaknesses in his game. He’s very skilled and physically dominant in the post. Yet, he can also run the floor like a deer. Not to mention, he’s a pretty good defensive center. It’s not hard to envision Embiid having a hall of fame career, with a chance at being one of the great centers to have played.

1. Giannis Antetokounmpo (age 24)

The Greek Freak is most likely to be the face of the NBA after LeBron’s run is over. He’s electrifying in every sense of the word and continues to get better. The Milwaukee Bucks have become title contenders through the dominance of Giannis and there’s no reason they can’t sustain it for the next 10 years.

Top 5 Philadelphia Eagles of 2018

Calvin Koerber

5. Nick Foles

Super Bowl 52 MVP. That one sentence speaks volumes for what Nick Foles did for the Eagles just one year ago. Fast forward to 2018 and Foles still helped the team out tremendously over the course of the season. In the first 2 games of the season, Foles started for an injured Wentz and helped the team to a decent start at 1-1 including a Thursday night thriller in week 1 against the Atlanta Falcons. Fast forward to week 15. The Eagles are in rough shape with a ton of injuries and doubts against them. Carson Wentz was again ruled out with a back injury. Who saves the Eagles? Foles. The Eagles played the Los Angeles Rams in L.A. that week and Foles guided this team to a huge road win. The spark began and the Eagles went 3-0 in the last three games, which punched them a ticket to the playoffs including a playoff win against the Chicago Bears.

4. Michael Bennett

Is Michael Bennett wearing pads? Still unsure, but what is certain is that Bennett had a crazy good year in Seattle before joining the Eagle this season. He played lights out recording 9 sacks, 25 solo tackles, and a big voice in the locker room this season. This gave the Eagles a very deep front 7 to deal damage to offensive lines. The Eagles defensive front in 2017 was already one of the best in the league. This past offseason adding Bennett was a huge move and it payed off tremendously. Derek Barnett was a strong force on the Eagles defensive front at the beginning of the season, but because of injury he was sidelined which gave Bennett a huge opportunity which he fully took advantage of.

3. Brandon Brooks

The offensive line for the Birds is one of the most talented lines in the entire NFL. Brandon Brooks is one of the best offensive guards in the league and his performance this season proved that. Brooks started all 16 games this season. Brooks has also only given up 1 sack since 2016. He also held one of the longest game streaks without giving up a sack with 46 games. Brooks was also named to the 2018 Pro Bowl as only 3 Eagles were elected to go this season.

2. Fletcher Cox

Fletcher Cox played in all 16 games this year and was the staple of the Eagles defense. Most teams had to double team him in order to get any positive yards but even then that wouldn’t fully stop this beast. Not only did Cox have a tremendous season, he also opened up a lot of opportunities for everyone on the defense because of how much focus was on him every snap. Cox recorded 10.5 sacks, 33 solo tackles, and had 46 combined tackles. Cox earned a spot on the First Team All Pro list as well as a 2018 ProBowl nomination.

1. Zach Ertz

Zach Ertz was absolutely phenomenal this season. He was Carson Wentz’s go to on what seemed like every play when Wentz started. Ertz recorded 116 catches for 1,163 yards and 8 touchdowns. He broke several records including Jason Witten’s record for most catches for a tight end in a single season. Not only did Ertz break that record, but he also finished with the most receptions on the Eagles and finished 2nd in overall receptions in the entire league including Wide Receivers. Ertz had his best season yet in terms of numbers and finished with a 2018 ProBowl selection.

8 Ways being a Student-Athlete has changed my life

Hey y’all! My name is Hayley Bingham, I grew up in the suburbs of Dallas, Texas in a little town called Rockwall.  I started playing golf when I was 13 years old and realized right away it was going to take me far.  I played competitively and found myself in the position to play college golf so I started the process the summer after my junior year.  I went on countless visits and met with players and coaches all trying to get me to their school.  My last recruitment visit was to the University of Montana about three weeks before early signing.  It was my last chance to really find what I was looking for and I did.  Three weeks later I signed my National Letter of Intent and started calling myself a grizzly.

Throughout my four years of being a Griz, I found that being involved in a sport and trying to play at the next level takes courage and discipline. I had to make sacrifices when it came to friends, family, school and a social life. I found myself using my sport as an excuse to get out of going out with friends or taking 8AM classes, but I also realized that it was the reason I had missed out on a lot of things. This was only the beginning, my four years at UM taught me a lot of things about the kind of person I wanted to be, the kinds of people I wanted to surround myself with, and what hard work and dedication really got me.

So here are the 8 ways being a student-athlete has changed my life:

  1. They tell you that you are a “student-athlete” but often you will feel being an athlete comes before being a student.

On my visit and all throughout my collegiate career, all of my advisors and coaches stressed that I was a student before I was an athlete.  But there were times when I found myself having to pick one or the other just like everything else. At the end of the day, my time and energy went into my sport and everything that comes with being a student-athlete. This is just the way it goes, I had to find a way to balance school and golf.  I can remember always having to do homework after 36 hole days and wondering how any of the information stayed in my head.  To this day, I am still convinced that it didn’t!

  1. Sports in college is one of the hardest things you will ever do!

Becoming a college athlete was one of this best moments of my life but nothing had prepared me for the road I was starting down. 6 AM workouts, 4:30 AM wake up calls to make it to the airport, traveling all day long, waking up to compete and then waking up to compete again.  Doing all of these things while trying to stay up on school work and have a social life eventually starts to wear on your mindset and your body.  I remember thinking nothing could get worse than high school athletics but I was wrong.  It was a whole other ball game in college.

  1. Wanting to move on can be normal

A couple times during my four years I thought about quitting or transferring. Things do get hard and sometimes when it seems like nothing is going your way this can seem like the easy way out.  I had a coaching change after my freshman year and I thought about transferring but I was glad I stayed.  My sophomore year I got injured in the second tournament of the season, ultimately stepping in a hole breaking my foot.  I had a long recovery and got depressed and felt like I battled through it all on my own.  There were times during my injury that I thought about quitting but I was really glad I didn’t! After my junior year I had another coaching change and wondered what else could happen?  I was glad that I stayed for my senior year at UM because it was probably one of the best experiences of my life. So, I argue that anyone who is looking to step away or transfer should remember that they picked this university for a reason.  Yes, things do get hard and everyone goes through slumps during their time as a college athlete but preserver through and it will be worth it.

  1. You never take off that Uniform, everyone knows who you are

I believe that no matter where you go to school, if you are an athlete you are known.  I found this out very quickly once I got to UM.  I would go get dinner with some of my teammates and people would point at our poster and then point back at us.  It was so awkward but people knew who we were.  Even if they didn’t know us by name they recognized us and that made me think about the way that I carried myself.

 

  1. Professors will think you have dropped their class, you missed that much school

For me, I can think of many times where I would miss up to two weeks of classes at a time.  I can remember a specific time where I was in class one day and the professor didn’t call my name on the roll.  I remember thinking it was bizarre but just waited until after class to bring it up.  Once class was over, I went down to the professor and told her that she skipped me on the roll.  Her response to me was that she just assumed that I had dropped the class because I hadn’t been there in almost two weeks.  Everything got cleared up but it was one of the weirdest things that has ever happened to me.

  1. Your team is your family, so embrace it!

No matter what, my team will always be a part of me and I consider them to be family.  We went through so much together: wins, losses, losing and gaining teammates, losing and gaining coaches… the list goes on and on.  No matter what we were there for each other and because of that we have a bond that can never be broken.

 

  1. You will build some of the best relationships of your life

I have made some of the best friends from college golf.  We get to go to so many places and meet so many different people that I have met people from all over the world.  I am beyond thankful that college golf is the reason these people were brought into my life.  If I could give anyone advice, it would be to cherish these relationships and make the best of this experience.

  1. Once it’s over, it is over… there is no going back

College golf is over in the blink of an eye, it doesn’t always seem like it but it is.  If there is one thing I have realized, it is that you have to give it your all, all of the time.  Once you make that last putt on the last day of that tournament your collegiate career is over!  I didn’t completely realize this until after the conference tournament was over and I was on the plane back to Missoula, Montana for the last time.

At the end of the day, college golf is probably one of the hardest things I have ever done, but if I had to go back and change it I would do it all the same.  The experience was unlike anything I have ever been a part of and I will always cherish the memories I have made here.  Thank you UM and thank you to all of my family, friends, coaches and teammates who put up with my crazy self along the way.

 

~Hayley Bingham

Fun loving, golf playing, sweet tea drinking southern girl