In the past few weeks, the University of Richmond men's basketball team has received some national spotlight as many major sports media outlets have considered them to be "on the bubble" of receiving an NCAA tournament at-large bid.
This is not the first time this year, or in recent years, that the team has been on this level of recognition. Earlier this season, the Spiders played then-No. 7 University of Dayton, the highest-ranked opponent UR has played at home since No. 6 George Washington University in 2006, and lost in a close game.
The team is also well known across college basketball for reaching the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament in 2011 as a No. 12 seed, and in 1988 as a No. 13 seed. The Spiders are the only Division I basketball program to win NCAA tournament games as a No. 12, 13, 14 and 15 seed.
With all the attention the team receives, everybody who follows UR basketball knows the names Gilyard, Golden and Mooney, but what about the names Roswech, Behbehani and Resnick? Or Douragh, Elnaggar and Harford?
Every year, the men's basketball team hires managers to work for and with the team to do whatever the coaches need, said head manager and sophomore Connor Roswech. Their behind-the-scenes work consists of doing the players’ and coaches’ laundry, setting up for practices, distributing water and towels during the games and traveling with the team to away games.
“We really just want to make sure the guys just focus on playing, the coaches just focus on coaching and we kind of just do everything else,” Roswech said.
Roswech is a former high-school basketball player from Chester, New Jersey. He leads a team of six managers who work closely with the team to achieve the duties listed above.
The managers follow the team’s schedule, which creates an interesting dynamic because they must follow a student-athlete schedule while not being student-athletes, the student managers said.
“It’s crazy,” Roswech said with a chuckle. “It can be really difficult sometimes, missing classes on back-to-back road trips.”
On these road trips, the team travels directly back to campus after the end of the game, which will usually be around 9-10 p.m. on weeknights. The managers will get back to their dorms at the same time as the student-athletes, around 2-3 a.m., and are expected to go to their classes the next day.
Although the managers follow the intense schedule of student-athletes, they do not reap all the same benefits as the players on the team -- namely the athletic scholarships that many student-athletes receive. They do, however, receive benefits of their own, which include getting paid, receiving free gear and being able to build relationships with the players and members of the professional coaching staff.
Junior Tirdod Behbehani is a team manager from Pleasantville, New York. Behbehani is in his first year of working with the team, and was previously a manager for the Spiders football team.
“I really think the relationships that I have been able to build here are really great,” Behbehani said. “It’s almost like a family.”
Other benefits that come with the job include getting to travel to different cities across the country and different college basketball arenas. The managers have been able to travel to cities such as Philadelphia, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and Brooklyn, New York, and arenas such as the Siegel Center, the Ryan Center and Barclays Center.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Behbehani said about being able to observe these college basketball atmospheres from a courtside perspective. “To come to a small school, I never expected to be in this situation.”
Manager Campbell Resnick, a first-year, is from Walpole, Massachusetts.
“When people are [in the Robins Center] and it's loud there is just a different feeling in the building,” Resnick said. “Everyone is just going a little bit harder -- it’s really the best.”
A big difference between basketball managers in their first year of managing and regular basketball managers is that first-year managers do not get paid. They are still required, however, to follow the same schedule that comes with the job.
So why on earth would someone volunteer to get up for an 8 a.m. practice or stay up until 11 p.m. finishing laundry for the team, while also having to face the challenges that come with being a college student?
“I just love being here,” Resnick said. “The environment that is created here ... I don’t feel like I need to get paid.”
This desire and appreciation for the job was seen not just in Resnick, but in all the managers interviewed.
Both Roswech and Behbehani said the work they had done with the team had also influenced their potential career choices. Roswech said he wanted to pursue a career in either coaching or basketball operations, and Behbehani said he intended to pursue a career in either basketball analytics or operations.
As the season winds down with the Spiders holding a record of 23-7, hopeful to be selected for an at-large bid for the NCAA tournament or to make a run at the Atlantic 10 conference championship, the Richmond Spiders fanbase will continue to cheer on the names of Francis, Sherod, Cayo and others. Meanwhile, Roswech, Behbehani, Resnick and the rest of the managers will continue doing their jobs in the background, just to help make it all possible.
The three other managers who work for the team not interviewed for this feature are junior Kieron Douragh, first-year Ahmed Elnaggar and senior Ryan Harford.
Contact sports writer Krystian Hajduczka at firstname.lastname@example.org.