Out of Bounds: The Man Behind the Bench

Who are those guys behind the bench at ASU basketball games? They’re always there hanging in the shadows. They set up chairs in timeouts, keep the team hydrated, rebound under the basket in shoot around, go to practice everyday, do laundry and are always seen on the court in Wells Fargo Arena in their maroon polo shirts and khaki pants on game days. These are the ASU basketball student-managers, and I have done them an injustice in only listing a small amount of jobs this group is responsible for.

Journalism freshman and my friend Antonio Cannavaro  is one of them. Cannavaro hails from Rhode Island and it’s immediately apparent in his thick New England accent. He can always be seen around the downtown campus in his ASU basketball gear as he is usually going to or coming from practice.

Antonio Cannavaro works behind the bench during the Arizona State vs. Arkansas Pine-Bluff game on November 28th, 2012. ASU won 67-54. Photo by Nick Krueger Antonio Cannavaro works behind the bench during the Arizona State vs. Arkansas Pine-Bluff game on November 28th, 2012. ASU won 67-54. Photo by Nick Krueger

“I tried out for my high school (Bishop Hendricken) team freshman year, got cut, I went to try baseball, and didn’t make it there either. So then sophomore year I was like what should I do? And the basketball team was like we need managers we need people to help out,” Connavaro said. This was the beginning of something special for Cannavaro who had his high school coach call Arizona State head coach Herb Sendek. Cannavaro said he is, “lucky to be on the team."

Cannavaro not only manages the ASU basketball team, but has to be a master of time management as well.  On a typical day, he goes to class in the morning before taking the light rail out to Tempe. He takes classes at the ASU downtown campus and lives in the downtown dorms at Taylor Place, the light rail ride is about 30-45 minutes each way.

Once in Tempe he goes to practice in the afternoons before returning later that night. When I asked him whether or not his grades have suffered as a result, “It just goes back to high school, I already did it in high school and my high school was pretty rigorous … so it’s just been a flow,” Cannavaro said. “The worst part is it’s time consuming. I can’t leave (class) at 1:15 and say ok I’m going to have lunch and I’m going to do homework. For me it’s 1:15 and then practice. Maybe I have to eat lunch at 10:00 because that’s the only time that fits in my schedule. Every freshman goes through time management but it’s on another level for me being a manager.”

Another issue many people can relate to in their day-to-day jobs is lack of glorification, but this is especially the case in managing a basketball team. Cannavaro does so much for the team only to see the players get the glory as he sits on the sidelines. But he says doesn’t worry about those things. “You get the gratification from the coaches,” he said.

The managers also have their own little team within the team and help each other out whenever possible with towels, water, rebounding, etc. “Just like the players have their own little group, we are definitely our own little family … we definitely are a close knit group. It has to be, we have to communicate as much as the rest of the team.”

He isn’t just there to help out. He feels he is just as much a part of the team as any other coach, manager, or even player. “The best part definitely goes back to the relationship you know being part of the team. You have to say it’s ‘Arizona State Men’s Basketball’ but I get to say its ‘we’ because I go there everyday.”

I tried to save some breath for both Cannavaro and anyone else he might run into on any given day around campus: Yes he does “know” the players. “I mean yeah they know my name, they know who I am," he said. "I was actually surprised you know, you think division one basketball and they don’t have to talk to you. They have no reason to talk to you I mean Jahii (Carson) doesn’t have to talk to me but if I want to talk to them or we have something to talk about then yeah we talk.”

Don’t think for a second this is just a job during basketball season either. After the season is over, there are recruiting and camp mailings to send out and help with. During the summer, managers help the coaches run their camps for kids and local high school teams.

Can Cannavaro keep up with this torrid pace? He thinks so. “I love my job, even though it’s time consuming I love going out to Tempe everyday experiencing that and learning. I’m in it for the long run.”


If you have any suggestions as to what you would like to see me write about or cover this semester, have a comment about a recent post or simply want to talk sports, contact me at nkruege1@asu.edu or via Twitter @npkrueger

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