Student managers vital to basketball team’s success


Photo via PittMBBManagers | Twitter

The Pitt mens’ basketball managers are in charge of setting up and making sure everything is ready for practices and games.

By Tessa Sayers, Assistant Sports Editor

Robert Lane cried tears of joy while watching Pitt men’s basketball beat Louisville 89-86 in overtime Jan. 9 at the Petersen Events Center.

“It was kind of like that feeling where you work so hard and you put all of that effort in and everything kind of clicked,” Lane said. “Finally when you go through the worst there is always the best on the other end.”

Lane, a senior communication major, is one of the only people who’s been with Pitt basketball for the past four years — though he’s not a player. As a manager, he’s seen the Panthers through two losing seasons, one of which included no wins in the ACC, and three head coaches.

When he was a junior in high school, Lane realized he would never be a Division I basketball player, but still wanted to be around the sport. Lane planned to attend Pitt, so he emailed Brian Regan, director of basketball operations, to see if they were looking for managers. At the time, Lane didn’t even know what managers did, he just knew the position existed.

After an interview with people from the program, Lane found out he would officially be a basketball manager, joining two other first-year managers, Jesse Hoffman and Carlo Catania.

Like Lane, Hoffman, a psychology and sociology major, and Catania, an actuarial mathematics major, got the job their first year of college after deciding they didn’t want to be away from basketball.

“I’ve always loved the game of basketball,” Catania said. “I knew I would go to every home game when I got on campus, and when I had the opportunity to help the team, it seemed like a no-brainer.”

Four years later, all three are still with the team and now know exactly what it means to be a Pitt basketball manager –– kind of.

“The best way to describe my job and all managers’ jobs is no one knows what it is until you don’t do it,” Hoffman said. “It’s really just all that behind the scenes work.”

The managers are in charge of making sure everything is ready for practices and games.

In preparation for practices, they block out their schedules from 12-4 p.m. every day. They set up everything the coaches need and are in charge of making sure the balls, pads, water, towels, film and the players are in place and ready to go on time.

Game days take a little more preparation. For last Saturday’s game against Syracuse, a 6 p.m. start, Lane got to the Pete at 9:30 a.m.

He had to be there to help the visiting team get anything they might need –– this time it meant helping Syracuse’s video director set up. Then he and the other managers helped the visiting team get ready for their walk-through. When that ended, the managers helped Pitt during its walk-through.

“Five hours before tip-off we have shoot around, and shoot around is basically like a practice,” Lane said. “We set up the same way, and then we have team meal after shoot around and then we are basically just setting up the locker room, setting up the jerseys in their lockers, setting up the coaches room with snacks and drinks.”

The managers also travel with the team. While traveling is one of Catania’s least favorite jobs –– it can be rough unloading everything from the planes and buses –– it also means getting the opportunity to travel the country and see some of the best places in college basketball.

“I would definitely say being able to go and travel to so many of these renowned arenas and environments and see what other facilities are like and just traveling and being a part of the program [is the best],” Hoffman said. “Especially when you are doing well, it’s exciting.”

In addition to traveling, the managers get free gear, like sneakers, shirts, sweat suits and free meals. When they are traveling or at school during winter break, they are given a card with money put on it for meals.

Basketball managers also receive money toward their tuition for their work. According to Lane, the pay for managers increases each year they are with the team, as they pick up more work to do.

“We started out like $500 a semester,” Lane said. “And obviously we don’t do it for the money, it’s not about the money, but I’m really thankful I do get something, my parents are thankful I do get something towards my tuition.”

While being a manager has its perks, it can also get in the way of other responsibilities, like scheduling classes. Because he has four hours in the afternoon blocked off for practice, Lane can only schedule classes in the morning or night.

This semester, he has all night classes. He has missed all Monday and Tuesday classes the past two weeks and will have to continue to miss them for the next three weeks. Even though he has an excuse, some professors are not very forgiving.

“There’s a lot of professors that give you a hard time and don’t understand anything,” Lane said. “That’s definitely the hardest part about being a manager … I’m like, well I have a note from the head of academics, the head coach, the chancellor saying that I have to be doing this school event at this time and they just don’t understand that. And that’s probably the hardest part.”

But dealing with those issues is worth it to Lane, who wants to be a coach someday.

“You are working with Division I athletes and some of the top coaches in the country,” Lane said. “Me wanting to be a coach, the biggest perk is being able to learn from these guys. And be around them 24/7 and being able to just call or text them and the connections they have for me, the connections are the biggest perk.”

Because they are losing five senior managers after this year, the basketball team is looking for new managers to fill the spots. Anyone interested in applying can email Regan at [email protected].

“The best advice I can give you is we are always looking for guys that played basketball in high school, who love the game and are willing to work hard,” Lane said. “That’s the three major things and if you have those three things, you’ll be a great manager.”