Working for Crean, The Managers agree, taught them how to succeed in life – not just a career in basketball.
“I think that being a manager has shaped the way I think and work, and not just on the court or about basketball,” Dather says. “The main thing that separated Indiana managers under coach Crean for future jobs was demand. A lot was demanded, and because of that responsibility, we learned many things that could help us obtain jobs.”
Landing In The League
As Crean’s tenure at Indiana progressed, he established something of a path for his best managers to follow. Just as his best players aspired to make it in the NBA, so too did his managers.
Most of The Managers stayed on for an extra year or two to serve in a Graduate-level position within the program. From there, Crean did what he could to help those that wanted to work in the NBA with setting up interviews, getting a foot in the door, etc.
Usually, The Managers started their search by networking during the two NBA Summer League sessions in Orlando and Las Vegas.
“You kind of figure out which teams have openings and who to send a resume to from there,” Yu says.
Yu almost immediately landed an internship in the Cavaliers’ Front Office, and he has
been with Cleveland ever since. For some of the others, it wasn’t quite that simple.
Klei, for example, went months without a single NBA offer. He interviewed with countless NBA video coordinators about video intern positions, but didn’t get one.
“That was extremely difficult to deal with, but it gave me an appreciation for how hard it is to break into the NBA,” Klei says.
In late August or early September, Klei got a call from Yu about a basketball operations position with the Cavaliers’ DLeague team, the Canton Charge. Yu was tasked with helping to fill the vacant position, and recommended Klei for the job.
He got it.
“I spent my first season out of college working for the Charge, and gained extremely valuable knowledge and experience over the course of that season,” Klei says.
Klei interviewed for a video position with the Jazz during the Las Vegas Summer League following that season, and he started working for the Jazz full-time just two weeks later.
It’s those kinds of anecdotes that make The Managers’ story so special. Even now that they’re IU days are over, they still look out for one another whenever they can. When Blair started to explore NBA openings, he reached out to Weaver for advice. Weaver suggested Blair go after a scouting internship with the Pacers, and Weaver helped make that happen.
The Managers forged an unbreakable bond during their time together at IU, a bond that each of them still talks glowingly about to this day.
“We were there more than anyone – more than the players, more than the coaches,” Blair says of The Managers’ time at IU. “We were there more than anyone, and without any of the glamour or reward.”
Added Klei: “I am not going to lie – there were days it was tough. But I like to think of the whole ‘boiling water hardens an egg and softens a potato’ line when I think about my time at IU. If you make it through four years as a student manager, it says something about you. It means you can handle yourself in high pressure and stressful situations. It means that you are able to adjust and adapt without a problem. It means that you have a great work ethic, especially when you factor in that we were all full-time students on top of our manager responsibilities. It means that you can put your head down and work for hours upon hours, even though you know what you do will come with little recognition. And it means you love basketball more than just about anything. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Tom Crean, the assistant coaches, my fellow managers, and the Indiana University men’s basketball program.”