Behind the Scenes in Golden Gopher Basketball

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The final buzzer sounds, the score of the game goes final, and the band plays one last fight song as the crowd begins filing out of the arena. Many fans will spend the rest of the night winding down, but for those involved in the basketball program, there is still work left to do. Steps to wrap up this game and get ready for the next one begin immediately after the game clocks hit zero.

After a road game, managers Adam Bates, Tony Clemons, Tony Emanuel, Aaron Katsuma, Eric Lutz, Tom Giesen, and Dan Kurtzweil collect everything they brought with them to the arena--from laundry to dry-erase boards to chairs. They make sure it is all there, pack it up, and load it on the team bus to go to the airport. After loading and unloading the plane and bus and finally returning to Minneapolis, they ensure that everything makes it to its proper place back in Williams Arena.

There are a few different things to take care of after home games, but no packing and unpacking. Managers will likely leave Williams Arena an hour to an hour and a half after the game ends. They must clean up the bench areas, the locker rooms--including the officials' locker room--and the water coolers. And, of course, they must collect the laundry and take down the team's filming equipment.

Even for televised games, the team films each game on its own, too. It is video coordinator Bryan Bender's job to deal with all the footage. Before he gets to the team's version, he first makes DVD copies of the TV version right after the game and distributes them to the opposing team and to the Gopher coaches and players. Then the Gopher staff has a meeting to discuss not only the game that just ended, but also the upcoming schedule of games, practices, and meetings.

Go Gophers! Bender
Go Gophers!
Video coordinator Bryan Bender prepares all the film the Gophers watch.
Go Gophers!
Next, Bender goes back to the team's video. He uploads it onto a server and spends a few hours working on it--still on game day. Using a program called XOS Thunder, he breaks it down by possession and by personnel and cuts out the dead time between plays. The program allows Bender and anyone else watching the film to sort clips by situation, play, and player. For example, Rodney Williams could watch all the plays in which he drove down the baseline and scored.

Bender also obtains film of Minnesota's future opponents. For most Big Ten teams, this is fairly easy because the games are usually televised and Bender can record them. He also uses Synergy Sports Technology's online database of televised games. Like the Gophers' film Bender has broken down, the games in the database can be sorted. This digital filtering technology is a major step up from the VHS tapes the Gophers used when Bender started six years ago.

The most difficult time to find copies of opponents' games is the non-conference season. Some of the smaller schools rarely (if ever) play on TV. Bender may trade for film if other teams agree to it. Early-season tournaments present another challenge. The Gophers do not know who they will play each round, so they have to prepare for all possible teams. This means Bender had to find film of all seven teams in this season's Old Spice Classic, and prepare multiple scout tapes for one day.

During the Big Ten season, the schedule is set and film is easier to find. Even before the Gophers face a conference opponent they have already played during the year, Bender still gives the coaches copies of that team's last few games.

"We kind of know what they're going to do, but it's still good to see new things that they're doing," he said.

The day after, the team usually watches at least portions of last night's game to see what did and did not work. Players can also decide to go in on their own and watch clips of only their playing time. Once they have watched their last game, they move on to their next opponent. Bender makes a scout tape with a summary and highlights of each opposing player, one of the assistant coaches writes a scouting report, and the team does on-floor scouting of what the opponent does and what the Gophers can do to stop it.

"The guys have three ways of learning: It's on paper for them, we watch it on video, and we actually do it on the court," Bender said. "We cover all the different learning styles."

On those practice days, head manager Bates and his fellow managers usually stay at the Barn for five to seven hours. Bates was there for 13 hours two days before the Ohio State game because the team practiced twice that day. During practice, the managers help with the clock and drills and keeping things running smoothly. Afterwards, they put away all the equipment and do more laundry. After a few days of practice, it will be time to set up for the next game.

"Getting ready for a home game isn't really hard because everything's here, and if we don't have anything ready, we can go find it," Bates said. "But for road games, we have to make sure that we have everything. We'll double-check the players' bags and the bags that have all the gear in them. We have a big checklist to go through. We always pack extras of everything just in case someone needs something. That's definitely the most important part."

Soon the next game is over, and they all repeat the cycle again--more meetings, film sessions, clean-ups, and practices. Bender and the managers spend a lot of time and energy doing work that might not be recognized by those outside the program. But they see payoffs in their jobs that make it all worth it.

"Seeing something on film, we implement it on the floor, and you see it happen in the game--that's kind of the most rewarding thing," Bender said. "You can see some applied knowledge from what you do in what they are doing on the floor."

For Bates, the role of manager offers a chance to gain valuable experience and connections that could help him reach his future goal of becoming a high school athletic director. But more simply, it offers an opportunity to be involved in something big.

"Personally, the most rewarding thing is just being a part of the team when you win," he said. "Once you don't play (varsity) sports's cool to still be a part of the team even though we're not out there playing. All of the managers, we take pride in being a part of the team."

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