Yu’s path to becoming an IU basketball manager was fairly straightforward. He was a manager for Jack Keefer and Lawrence North in high school, and he earned the same role at IU as a freshman in 2010. Steven Klei, 23, now with the Utah Jazz, also joined The Managers as a freshman in 2011.
For the other three, the path wasn’t quite as clear.
Aaron Weaver, 27, spent much of his high school senior year building a relationship with Kelvin Sampson and his staff in hopes of earning a spot as a manager when he arrived in Bloomington as a freshman.
When Sampson was fired and Crean was hired following the 2007-08 season, Weaver had to start from scratch.
“I reached out to coach Crean’s staff right away and expressed my interest in working camp, or anything else over the summer so I could get noticed and potentially become a manager,” Weaver said. “I don’t remember exactly what the response was, but basically due to NCAA rules, I couldn’t work camps right out of high school. They advised me to apply in the fall, which I did. After going through the interview process – which included an on-court workout – I was not hired.”
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Weaver’s story is remarkably similar to Devan Blair’s story. But unlike Blair, who went to the women’s side, “kicked ass”, and got hired to the men’s side when the women’s season ended in March, Weaver found an even quicker way in.
A week or two after he’d been told he wasn’t hired, Weaver got a call from Brian Barone, Indiana’s Director of Basketball Operations at the time. Barone knew Weaver had been let go, but he was looking for some help in the video room and saw potential in Weaver.
“That same evening, I attended my first IUBB practice at Assembly Hall,” Weaver said. “That was the first of many, many long days, but I was doing exactly what I wanted – working for the Hoosiers.”
|Name||Years as IU Manager||Current NBA Team|
|Aaron Weaver||2008-2013||Indiana Pacers|
|Brendon Yu||2010-2014||Cleveland Cavaliers|
|Tim Dather||2011-2015||Indiana Pacers|
|Steven Klei||2011-2015||Utah Jazz|
|Devan Blair||2012-2014||Houston Rockets|
Unlike the other four, Tim Dather didn’t arrive at IU knowing he wanted to be a basketball manager. Dather, 26, knew he wanted to coach, but wasn’t sure at what level. He also wondered if it was something he could really make a career out of.
“There was part of me that was almost scared to pursue it as a career,” Dather says. “I would make excuses to myself not to chase it.”
Dather, who was coaching a 6th grade team back home in Fishers, Indiana during the summers, finally decided before his junior year at IU that he wanted to try to coach at the collegiate or professional level.
“I knew of the manager job and thought it would be the best way to learn, even though I didn’t have a clue what the actual responsibilities were,” Dather says. “I simply wanted to watch how these coaches worked and taught, and to see if I could pick up techniques or information along the way.”
They all took different paths to get there and brought different skill sets to the table, but all five of The Managers eventually ended up where they wanted to be. Starting with Weaver in 2008, The Managers all found their way to Crean’s program, where all five worked together from 2011-13. Four of the five (excluding Weaver) worked together from 2011-15.
“That’s super rare, especially when you consider we all made it to the NBA,” Blair says. “There are multiple other former IUBB managers in the league, and I’m sure there are some I don’t even know about. But our group is unique because we all worked together at the same time and then made it to the league.”
‘I Had No Idea What Was In Store’
Weaver was the first of The Managers, joining Crean during his first year with the program for the 2008-09 season. Yu came on board for the 2010-11 season, Dather and Klei for the 2011-12 season, and Blair near the end of the 11-12 year.
Weaver served a sort of example for the younger managers that came on board. Just like the players during Crean’s first three seasons, Weaver established a culture of hard work, sacrifice and dedication that others would later follow. Because there was so little turnover among The Managers, each one grew into a model for younger managers to emulate.
“To have daily interactions with the coaches and players as part of your job was truly incredible,” Weaver said. “My journey at IU was unique because I was able to be part of the program’s biggest turnaround ever. From going 6-25 in the first season to my final year as Big Ten champs, there was never a boring day.”